10 Tips for Talking to Children About Mental Health

With Children’s Mental Health Week 2023 on the horizon, we thought we’d give you some tips for talking to your children about mental health. You may be concerned that you don’t know enough or may say the wrong thing – but be rest assured that talking about our emotions is better than not talking about them at all!
Here, we’ll give you some tips to start exploring mental health conversations at home and introduce the importance of taking care of our mental wellbeing.
 
1. Use our Free Guides
Our free guides can help you to introduce the topic of mental health to young children and will help explain how our brains work. Our free mental health guides for children also help children understand certain topics and disorders, this can be especially helpful if they are experiencing things like panic attacks, loss or separation anxiety. All our guides are regualrly approved and recommended by our Clinical Psychologist.
 
2. Do something creative – but make sure you’re both feeling relaxed
For some children sitting still can be a difficult task! Break out some mindful colouring or get out a drawing pad and do some doodling together. Whilst you are drawing, ask questions such as how they’re feeling, if they’re feeling calm and how their day has been. Another good time to connect with your child is just before bed, when they are calm and relaxed you can ask a few reflective questions about their day, for example, ‘what was the best part of your day?’ and ‘what can you do differently tomorrow?’
 
3. Offer a bit of your day first
When sharing conversations about emotions start by offering information on your day and how you feel first. This reaffirms that talking about our mental health is normal and acceptable and helps your child feel they are able to open up. Make time regularly to do this and build an environment that is supportive and open – this will mean that your child is more likely to come to you when they feel upset, worried or overwhelmed.
 
4. Ask open ended questions
Instead of asking ‘are you feeling ok?’ ask open questions about how they are feeling. If you find that asking something like ‘how are you feeling today,’ doesn’t prompt an open response, try rephrasing the question – for example, ‘what is one thing that is worrying you right now?’ or ‘what was the worst part of your day and why?’ Talking about our feelings doesn’t have to be purely investigative, it can lead to fun conversations too – if you need some inspiration, you can download our Mental Health Conversation Cards for free here.
 
5. Become more inquisitive throughout the day
Children express themselves routinely through play and drawing. Regularly ask your children questions about what they’re doing and why – you may be surprised at some of the answers! For example, ‘what are you drawing?’ ‘why are you using that colour?’ or if they are playing with dolls or toys you can ask how their teddies are feeling ‘what do you think bear is feeling right now?’ or ‘what would he say if he could talk?’
 
7. Keep conversations regular – but don’t force it
If your child doesn’t want to open up, don’t force them or keep asking questions. Leave it and try another time but don’t give up.
 
8. Turn off their screens
Make sure there are no distractions – and that includes your phone and devices too! The most important thing is that you give your child your undivided attention. For example you can let them know that you are opening up the channels of communication by saying, ‘I’m going to switch my phone off for the next hour so we can do something together, is there anything you’d like to talk about?”
 
9. Remember, talking about mental health is better than not talking about mental health
A lot of us avoid talking about mental health because we don’t understand it ourselves or don’t know what to say. Talking about mental health won’t give your child ideas – for example, talking about anxiety won’t make your child anxious. Instead, it will give your child the knowledge to understand their thoughts and normalise that we all have mental health.
 
10. Sign up to the Be Happy Hub!
We have over 500 resources to help you explore emotions, thoughts, worries and coping tools with your children. You can sign up from just £1.99 a month here.

Get 50% off this toolkit now!

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