A report by children’s charity organization Barnardo’s found that around 50% of children aged 12-16 felt anxious once in seven days. This figure went up to an astounding 70% for 16-year-olds. A full 20% of children reported feeling anxious at least once daily, while 80% were worried about their future.
It is safe to say that the mental health of our children is deeply affected. This crisis has only grown worse since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Acknowledging and accepting this crisis can be a great opportunity to start honest and real conversations around these issues between parents and their kids.
Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week is marked every year from May 6-12. It aims to raise awareness around the children’s mental health crisis prevalent globally. Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week is a global initiative that strives to provide adequate support and safety to children and families affected by mental health issues.
Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week also provides parents, caregivers, and elders the perfect opportunity to talk to their children about mental health. These conversations can help children understand the various aspects of mental health, feel more confident about talking about complex topics, and become more informed and empathetic adults in the future.
Now even though we have more awareness and understanding about mental health issues than our predecessors, it is not magically easier to have such tough conversations with children.
They are still tough, uncomfortable, and challenging. To help you get started this Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, here are some tips on how to talk to your children about mental health. Let’s get started.
Tips On How To Talk To Children About Mental Health
1. Begin by doing an activity together.
Pick up an activity that you and your child enjoy doing together. It can be baking, pottery, or a game of cricket. The purpose of the activity is to find a relatively stress-free environment to have a conversation about mental health. Doing a common activity gives you the time to relax, enjoy, and have fruitful discussions at the same time.
Read more: Five Mindfulness Activities For Kids
2. Start talking!
It doesn’t get easier and more direct than this. See, being hesitant about discussing mental health with your child is okay. And this is why the best thing to do is to get the conversations started. You don’t have to jump right on the topic at the very first go. It is okay to build a base that allows your child to understand and comprehend things at a natural pace rather than bombarding them with too much information at once.
3. Try to make the conversation age-appropriate for your child.
While having a conversation about mental health with your child, it is important to mold the conversation in a way that they will be able to understand and relate to it. For instance, you can begin a conversation by saying, “Remember the last time you fell down, and we had to go to the doctor to get you checked? In the same way, we get unwell or injured from within, and we have all sorts of doctors available for these issues as well.”
4. Help your child learn about emotions by learning how to name what they are feeling.
Developing emotional understanding among children from a younger age is important. This way, children begin learning about empathy and catering to other people’s needs at an early age. To instill emotional understanding among children, begin by helping them name their feelings.
Children go through multiple emotions during the course of their day. But they lack the language skills to name each one of them. You can practice emotion naming exercises with your child. You can share your personal experiences, like “When I have an important meeting at the office, I feel anxious. Similarly, when you have a test in school, you feel anxious too.”
Breaking down and helping seemingly overwhelming emotions into names can help children understand their feelings better.
Read more: Best Online Therapy Platforms
5. Use resources for help.
If you want help in starting a conversation about mental health with your child, multiple resources are available for you. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a great place, to begin with for age-appropriate resources. Along with this, the Child Welfare Information Gateway also contains resources suitable for certain situations.
Apart from this, there are several books that can help parents support the mental health of their children. We have compiled a list of the best mental health books for parents here.
Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week is the perfect opportunity to raise awareness about kids’ mental health issues and provide them with a safe and empathetic environment. It is also a good time for parents to help their children understand the various aspects of mental health. We hope this post will help start certain important conversations in your household.
Always remember that mental health and well-being is a vast topic and cannot be discussed in a day. However, continuing such open conversations as your child grows allows them to understand various facets of mental health. This way, they can help themselves and those around them in the future.
Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week is also a time to reflect on the impact of everyday stressors on the kids’ mental health. Read to know more about the most common kid’s mental health red flags here.
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