Talking to Children About Mental Health
The prospect of talking to your children about mental health can feel intimidating at first. But some talks, even those that seem uneasy to make, have to be undertaken for the greater good of your children.
I believe anything that’s learned and emphasized in childhood stays with children for the rest of their lives. If you want to inculcate any good habit or you want your children to excel in sports, music, writing or any other pursuit, creative or non-creative, for that matter, start it early from your childhood.
In a similar vein, if we want to change the perspective around mental health we will have to start earnestly talking to our kids from a young age.
How to start a conversation with your children
First of all, tell them of the similar nature of physical and mental illness. Tell them just like the other body parts like eyes, legs, heart, etc., the brain is one of their body parts that can sometimes not perform to its optimum level resulting in a mental illness.
Give them the corollary that just like due to the deficiency of calcium, your bones could get weakened and undergo damage or you will face difficulty in moving your legs due to that, similarly, deficiency or imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain could cause the mind to function strangely and result in a mental illness if not taken care of.
We have to make sure that while talking to them we keep the following things in mind:
Don't underestimate children
It is true that they don’t have the vocabulary regarding mental health but they very well understand it and perceive what is happening around them.
Encourage your children to talk
Mostly it is the pent-up feelings and repressed emotions that wreak havoc in our mental lives. Don’t let your child suffer in silence. Encourage him/her to talk about his/her feelings.
Help children recognize emotions
The first step towards managing your emotions well is to name them as they arise. It’s easy to sometimes confuse frustration with anger. Assist your children in naming the different emotions that we encounter in our daily lives.
Research shows that the children, whose parents are supportive and sensitive to their feelings and emotions, tend to develop better social skills and have higher emotional intelligence.
Conversate at their level
Parents have to make sure that they are having the conversation with the children’s perspective in mind and use words that are easily understandable.
Make them comfortable
Children should be made to feel at home, in a relaxed state and you should act as their friend and not someone who is giving a parenting lecture.
Children imitate, mimic, ask a lot of questions. It is the responsibility of a parent to be an ideal role model, satiate their curiosity, inform them, and make them aware of the issues that they might face in the future just so that they are ready for not only the exams in the school but the existential and practical questions that life asks of us.
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