Although conversations surrounding mental health may be tough and uncomfortable, we also know how important they are. Opening the conversation surrounding mental health can help a child feel supported, heard, and comfortable if they have questions, concerns, or just genuine curiosity. Even if mental illness has not affected your child or family personally, having the discussion about the importance of mental health and what to do if things become overwhelming can be a contributing factor in raising a mentally healthy and empathetic child.
The best way to start these types of conversations is to start simply. This may look like introducing books, movies, or shows that discuss mental health, how to take care of oneself, or how to be a good friend. Some helpful resources in assisting in talking with your child about mental health can include: the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Child Welfare Information Gateway websites, the books “I’m Sick” by Taylor Nicole, “Wishing Wellness” by Lisa Anne Clarke, or “Mama’s Waves” or “Daddy’s Waves” by Chandra Ghose Ippen. Websites and books are a great way to introduce mental awareness to children in a safe and monitored environment.
Furthermore, remembering that one conversation does not usually cover the topic of mental health to its fullest extent. Making sure to maintain an open and continuing conversation with your children is key in fostering a supportive and healthy environment surrounding mental health.