Parenting Tips to Talk to Your Kids about Mental Health & Self-care
Talking with your child about topics such as mental health can feel challenging, given the stigma and lack of information surrounding it. However, just like other topics such as puberty or menstruation, this is an important conversation to have with your child. In fact, being open with this topic is a wonderful way to overlook the stigma and encourage self-care.
How parents can start a conversation around mental health
- Check for internalized bias/stigma
As keen as we may be to teach our kids about the positives of mental health and wellness, it’s important to self-introspect about whether we ourselves have any biases against certain mental health-related topics. Doing so requires us to ask ourselves questions like-
- Do I have any prejudices against certain mental health conditions?
- What is my opinion on my own mental health?
- Have I ever looked for professional help concerning my mental state? If so, what was that like for me?
- Am I afraid of anything related to mental health? If so, where do I believe those fears come from?
These questions will help you gain a better understanding of yourself. The more open you are to talking about mental health, the easier it will be to discuss it with your children.
- Let your kids see your vulnerable side
Your child can learn how to deal with intense emotions by watching you. It’s okay to tell your child that you’re unhappy about a bad day or sad about something that happened at work. You can establish firm boundaries while doing this by always sharing how you’re managing your emotions. Explain that you might go to therapy, engage in your favorite activities, or talk to a friend to make yourself feel better. By sharing this information, you’re setting a good example for your child and helping them feel comfortable discussing their emotions.
- Listen to & validate their feelings
Although mental health conditions are oftentimes stigmatized, children shouldn’t feel ashamed to talk about their concerns, obsessions, or other behavioral problems. Talk to them about their experiences. Listen and empathize with them. It might be helpful to tell your child about other people who go through similar problems. If you or someone else your child trusts have a mental health condition, talk about it the way you would talk about any other health condition. If you or family members have a conversation with your child about their own mental health, it can be very pacifying.
- Connect with them where they’re comfortable
Social media plays a big role in the lives of children today. While it’s easy to see the adverse effects of social media on teens, it’s important to remember that we need to meet our children where they’re at. You can learn a lot about your children’s mental wellness by making conversation with them about whom they follow on social media (celebrities, influencers, etc), what kind of content they enjoy, and what they feel they get out of using social media. Whatever you discover, you can use it as a starting point to continue the conversation on mental wellness. Research suggests that collaborating with your children on healthy social media consumption is a great way to promote mental health while staying current with the times. Taking an interest in the things your child loves, even if they seem outside of your comfort zone, can help to build trust and closeness.
- Normalize self-care
Make self-care a family affair by turning it into a lifestyle. Normalize meditation, take walks together, and cultivate an environment where it is safe to name challenging feelings that come up. Consider creating self-care rituals with each of your children. Maybe you go to the salon and give them your undivided attention as you check in on their feelings. Perhaps you connect on recent happenings during evening walks. Making it feel as normal as possible will ensure that self-care and mental health conversations become a regular occurrence.
If you stay open and keep talking as your child grows, you can help them see that mental health conditions are nothing to be ashamed of. You can also help them understand that help is always available.
Learn more about this topic with parenting education programs at Kosh Wellness! Avail of a 1:1 Personalized Counseling Session with our expert parenting consultants today!