How to talk to your child about mental health
Stresses caused by the pandemic can take their toll on all of us — and kids can be just as vulnerable. It’s possible your child may experience feelings of isolation after being away from their classmates for so long, as well as anxiety around returning to a school environment.
Kids should know that it's OK not to feel OK all the time: Talk to your child about mental health. Now more than ever, children should receive age-appropriate information and support, psychologists say. It is critical for a parent to validate his/her child’s negative feelings and become the go-to person whenever the child is feeling a little down. When children lack sufficient information, they tend to create their own realities and resort to other resources that might do more harm than good.
But there could be a point when behavioral issues go beyond normal, even under the entirely abnormal conditions of social distancing. This should serve as an alarm bell for parents to take action. Experts say that if your child exhibits abnormal behavior for their age or personality, you mustn’t ignore it. Failing to acknowledge your child’s mental illness is the first step in the wrong direction. On the other hand, don’t blow things out of proportion: Very often changes in behaviour and mood can be a reaction to a circumstantial issue and can be improved by addressing the root cause. Most importantly, do not make your kids feel as though something is wrong with them.
If you think something is up, consult the professionals: Although you need to do your research, you should also consult a child therapist or a pediatrician instead of diagnosing your child based on an educated guess. While you’re at it, you might as well ask the experts how to approach the subject matter with your child; how you should set up an environment where your child feels safe to vent while simultaneously giving him/her the right piece of advice.
No judgements here: Be empathetic; adults should always reassure their kids about their mental wellbeing. Children need to have quality time with their parents, where they should be encouraged to talk about their stressors while not feeling judged. Enforce the notion that it’s OK to feel overwhelmed. So resist the urge to “fix” things. “Studies show that even one safe, stable and nurturing relationship can be a major protective factor in the face of traumatic events,” a mental health expert tells NBC.
How do you talk to your kid about stress and anxiety if you have anxiety yourself? Instead of letting this shake your confidence, let it be your strong suit. According to child trauma experts, young people are natural observers and notice immediately if their parents are stressed out. So the best way to tackle this is to be open with your child about it and encourage a two-way dialogue, where you both feel safe to share what’s keeping you down. As a matter of fact, children can become resilient to adversity when they feel more socially connected, experts say. But remember, children whose parents struggle with mental illness are more likely to have emotional disturbances, so make sure to set boundaries for yourself, and don’t overburden your child with your problems.
Remind your children about the positives: As they’re returning back to school, constantly remind them they’re going to see their friends and teachers once more. Point out their strengths and let them know that it’s natural to feel anxious to go back to school, especially due to covid. Stay positive and celebrate even the tiniest milestones, and always point out that the future is brighter.