Talking with Children about Mental Health

by Church Health Reader Editors
Terri Scott

As a parent or caregiver, you want the best for your children or other dependents. You may be concerned or have questions about certain behaviors they exhibit and how to ensure they get help. But do you need help starting a conversation with your child about mental health?

Try leading with these questions, making sure you actively listen to your child’s response:

  • Can you tell me more about what is happening? How you are feeling?
  • Have you had feelings like this in the past?
  • Sometimes you need to talk to an adult about your feelings. I’m here to listen. How can I help you feel better?
  • Do you feel like you want to talk to someone else about your problem?
  • I’m worried about your safety. Can you tell me if you have thoughts about harming yourself or others?

When talking about mental health problems with your child you should:

  • Communicate in a straightforward manner.
  • Speak at a level that is appropriate to a child or adolescent’s age and development level (preschool children need fewer details than teenagers).
  • Discuss the topic when your child feels safe and comfortable.
  • Watch for reactions during the discussion and slow down or back up if your child becomes confused or looks upset.
  • Listen openly and let your child tell you about his or her feelings and worries.

Click on the flyer under “Downloads” and make plenty of copies for your church.

For more information, visit mentalhealth.gov.

 

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