It’s often difficult to talk about issues surrounding mental health, making it all too easy to avoid bringing the topic up in conversation. However, as more and more teenagers and young adults struggle with mental health issues, it’s no longer an option to refrain from discussing them. Some reports estimate that 1 in 5 teens struggle with some kind of mental health concerns, which means that it is likely your child either struggles or knows someone who does. Depression and anxiety are among the most common disorders that they struggle with.
While you may feel uncomfortable at first, it’s natural to talk to your children about their mental health, and once you get the conversation started, you may be surprised by how well it goes.
Use the Correct Terminology
It’s important to use the correct terminology when talking to your kids about mental health and wellness. Psychology and psychiatry have improved their terms used to describe mental health conditions, and it’s a good idea to follow their lead.
For instance, instead of telling your child that he or she has “the blues,” which is an outdated, imprecise term, use the term “depression.” Try to avoid unhelpful language like, “hysterical”, “crazy”, or other terms that make people feel bad or worse. Using this terminology can be awkward, at first, but embracing the awkward can go a long way towards making the mental health conversation lighter-hearted and easier to discuss.
Using the correct terms also gives your children the right language to ask for help. If they just think they are “sad” or “nervous” all the time, it could prevent them from reaching out.
Normalize Mental Health Language
You wouldn’t tell a child with the flu to get over it, so don’t tell a child struggling with a mental health issue to get over it. Normalizing mental health language will help you avoid making teenagers or young adults with mental health issues feel like it’s their fault that they’re struggling or that something is wrong with them. It also helps them feel less embarrassed when they struggle. If you aren’t willing to talk about it with them they won’t be able to talk to others in their life or they may feel shamed when mental health is brought up. Even if your child doesn’t currently struggle with mental health, it is important to make sure they aren’t scared of it.
This Is an Ongoing Conversation
Make talking about mental health a part of everyday conversation for your family. It’s hard to talk to your children about their mental health, but don’t avoid the topic, even if you feel awkward. Mental health changes and develops, making it necessary to have regular conservations. If this becomes a consistent part of your language with your teen, it won’t feel as uncomfortable. If you struggle with mental health, that is also something you can communicate to them, where appropriate.
Get Help Where Needed
Even if you follow all the guidelines above, your child may still need professional help to achieve total wellness. Don’t be embarrassed or afraid to seek help outside of what you can personally provide. Whether it’s group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, or something else, there are a variety of ways to successfully treat depression. Therapy is often stigmatized, but this stigma does far more harm than good.
Many schools have counselors that are specially trained to help children struggling with mental health. This is also something to bring up with your child’s doctor or other trained professionals. They can help you and your child determine the right kind treatment. If they recommend medication, you can help your child understand that it isn’t a bad thing to need some medicinal help and they aren’t weak or less for taking medicine. They may also recommend specialized types of therapy, depending on the issues your child faces. For instance, equine therapy is helpful in allowing children to grow in self-confidence, while learning to build healthy relationships and set boundaries.
Know the Signs
Your child may not recognize their problems as struggling with mental health. They may think that they are just overwhelmed, shy, sad, or they may write off their struggles. As their parent, it is part of your job to keep an eye on them and help them where needed. That being said, not every period of discouragement means that your child has depression. But a prolonged pattern is worth talking about.
Mental health isn’t an easy topic to discuss with your kids, but it’s a significant one. When having these conversations, it’s important to use the correct terminology, talk often and get help when needed. The hardest part is getting started. Once you have that first conversation, it’ll get easier. You’ll be surprised how much your children actually want to talk to you about their struggles. It is up to you to get it started.
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