Children’s Mental Health

Children’s Mental Health

Did you know that over half of mental illnesses start before the age of 14? As children, our first experiences of the world shape us the most. That means it’s never too soon to start a conversation about mental health with our kids. Doing so early can set them up for success as they grow.

Heavy topics are hard to discuss and navigate with our kids. As parents, we might even strive to keep our children safe from emotionally weighted topics in an attempt to preserve their youthful innocence. While our intentions are pure, this avoidant path does a great disservice when it comes to mental health.

Unsure where to start? Below are a few pointers on how to approach the topic of mental health with your children. If you think your child might be struggling with their mental health, therapy is strongly recommended.

If you’re in search of mental health services for your child, our counselors specialize in working with children through emotional and behavioral problems, life transitions, and helping them gain tools that will give them confidence as they grow.

 

Keep It Simple

Discussing mental health with our kids doesn’t need to be approached in a complicated, serious manner. Instead, make it a part of everyday conversation. Sharing how you feel is a great start. Mental health struggles are common. Starting casual conversations early on decreases the stigma around it and makes it easier for our kids to open up later on.

Give them an opportunity to share each day. This could be a conversation around the dinner table about “Highlights and Lowlights” that happened that day. This allows the opportunity to voice any struggles and creates an inviting, open environment for topics that might feel vulnerable.

 

Be a Role Model

A common struggle for parents is trying to keep it all together in front of our children. Yet, kids benefit a great deal when we open up to them and show that we’re only human and we have big emotions, too.

The next time you’re feeling sad, angry, or frustrated, make it a point to express those feelings to your children. Doing this early instead of shielding them from uncomfortable emotions helps develop empathy and compassion. If you yourself struggle with anxiety or depression, don’t be afraid to tell them this is something you experience. If you see a therapist, don’t hide this from your children. You wouldn’t hide if you had diabetes or needed to see the doctor for a checkup. Instead, explain you have a “feelings doctor” who helps you when you’re struggling.

 

Keep a Neutral Tone

Kids are very receptive, and even babies can tell the difference between a positive and negative tone. Keeping our voices calm and neutral allows our children to feel safe saying hard things. It sends the message that we aren’t assuming how they feel and what’s going on.

 

Listen and Validate

Listening to our kids, free of judgement or the intent to “fix”, is a game changer in so many ways. If we want our children to come to us when they have a problem, we must be willing to listen.

Sometimes, when our child is misbehaving or expressing big emotions, as parents we become too focused on the behavior and struggle to recognize the intent behind the behavior. An attempt to feel heard. It’s not our job to tell our kids how they feel, but to let them tell us.

Our kids just want to feel heard and understood. Listen and give your undivided attention. If they’re struggling, let them know they’re not alone and their feelings are valid, no matter how hard it may be for us to understand.

 

Maintain Your Own Mental Wellbeing

As a parent, you are the mirror your child looks through when they view the world. As much as we want our children mentally and emotionally happy, we must first find that within ourselves.

Anxiety and depression can be passed down to our kids, but resilience works the same way, too. Communicating our own negative emotions and taking responsibility for ourselves models healthy behavior in our children. The voice in your head becomes the voice in theirs. Make sure it’s a positive, nurturing one.

 

Educate Yourself

Unfortunately, mental health is not part of school curricular. As parents, we must educate ourselves about mental health if we want to pass down that knowledge to our kids.

The more we make an attempt to understand the struggles of mental health, the more equipped our kids will be to handle challenges in the future. It can even be something you learn about together. Do not dismiss their struggles, as this can deepen the effects of mental health issues. Instead, attending a therapy session together can be a great way to gather tools for coping and moving forward.

 

Getting Help

Parenting is not for the fainthearted. It can be mentally and physically exhausting. If your kid is battling mental health issues, it’s especially disheartening. Having a trained therapist by your side can give you the reassurance that your child is getting the help they need.

If you or your child are struggling with mental health, please reach out for extra support. Our counselors and psychologists in Flower Mound and Southlake, TX provide compassionate, thorough care. We have treatment options suitable for children and adults alike.

Here at Dr. Messina and Associates, our compassionate team of professionals are qualified to help you at our Flower Mound, Texas, and Southlake, Texas, offices. Our Psychologists, Psychiatrists, and Counselors specialize in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychological testing, and medication management for a variety of emotional and behavioral health needs. All services are available in-person and online (telehealth). If you or a loved one are seeking help with mental health, we are here to help.

 

Author
Dr. Michael Messina

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