Children’s mental health is one of the biggest worries for parents. While the vast majority talk to their children about their emotional health and wellbeing more than their own parents did, they need support, as a third of parents say they struggle to find the right words.
Five top tips
As parents know, each child is different. There isn’t a one-size fits all approach to having an open conversation about mental health but these top five tips may help:
1. It may be tempting to tell your child that you’re worried about them, but that may put them on edge and make them clam up or rebuff your questions – simply asking your child how they are is more likely to lead to a more positive conversation
2. Explain that mental health is about our range of emotions and how we cope with our lives and that mental health can fluctuate daily – just like our physical health
3. Using phrases such as “there’s no need to worry about that” can undermine their feelings and doesn’t offer them a solution. When they share how they feel, acknowledge it
4. As upsetting as it may be to hear that your child is struggling with their mental health, try to remain calm. If they sense that you’re agitated it may cause them to become nervous and stop them feeling comfortable enough to open up. Explain that you’re there for them – and listen without judging
5. Try to dispel any myths they might have about mental illness. Explain that it is just like other medical illnesses, in that help is available.
If you think your child may be showing signs that they are struggling with their mental health it’s important to seek medical support as soon as possible, in most cases this should be your local GP. They may suggest a ‘wait and see’ approach, but the key thing is that it’s now been logged with your GP.
For more information take a look at Bupa’s guide for parents on children’s mental health – available here.