Do you have some concerns about your child’s mental health? Have they become more isolated than usual or their grades are slipping at school?
You’re understandably worried and want to help your child. As a parent you feel responsible for your child’s happiness and well-being.
But, how do you get your child to open up to you about their problems?
Here are 7 ways to get your child to talk about their mental health:
1. Just talk to them
This may sound too obvious, but talking to your child about how they feel is really important. If your child feels they can’t talk to you about any potential problems they have, they’ll be unlikely to reach out to you about their own mental health. So instigate the conversation, don’t pressure them into talking to you as that may drive them away, just let them know that if they need to talk about their problems and mental health, you’re there.
2. Encourage them to leave their bedroom
Children have a tendency to sit up in their bedrooms and keep to themselves. Encouraging them to come into the living room and spend time with the family will open up opportunities for them to talk about any problems they may have, or make them feel happier in general.
They may be reluctant to spend all their time with you, so don’t MAKE them, but insist it would be fun and maybe get them to suggest some fun things to do. If they get to choose the activity, they’re more likely to join in.
3. Sit and eat meals together
To ensure you have opportunities to talk to your child, have the family sit with each other at meal times if you can (work commitments may get in the way here, but don’t worry about it). It can be easy for your child to grab the plate and run up the stairs, but that allows them to stay cooped up in their bedroom and not talk to you.
Having structured meal times won’t just help your child’s mental health, but help them physically too. Having a cooked, healthy, and well-balanced meal can make them feel happier overall, and may be the boost they need to improve their mental health.
4. Learn about their interests
Do you really know what your child enjoys these days? What’s their favourite band? What’s their favourite game to play on their xbox? What’s their passion? Don’t know? Well find out!
Children love to talk about their interests, especially if they know you won’t judge them for it, so take interest in your child’s life and they’ll be more likely to get chatting to you about their mental health and what’s going on in their world right now.
5. Ask them about their day, everyday.
Sometimes as people we can forget to ask people how they are and really mean it. When your child get’s home from school, ask how their day went. What subjects did they learn about today? Ask them about their after school club. It will be a great opportunity for your child to talk about how their day really went, instead of just “it was fine”.
6. Help them with their homework
They may be struggling academically and that’s what is bothering them. Is there a subject you were particularly good at school that you know you could help your child with? If not, ask them what they’re learning about right now and do some research so you can help them next time. This will give your child the opportunity to speak up if they are struggling at school.
7. Think about how old they are
If they’re quite young, think about some problems they MAY be facing that could affect their mental health. Are they being pressured into doing a hobby they don’t like? Are they struggling at school academically or falling out with friends?
If they’re a teenager, think about all the issues they COULD be dealing with. Are they struggling with their body image? Have they fallen out with their friends or first crush? Maybe they’re struggling with their sexuality? These are some issues that could be affecting your child’s mental health.
Of course, don’t jump to conclusions and assume there is something seriously wrong with your child’s mental health. But, be mindful of things your child could be dealing with and don’t pressure them into doing something or telling you things REALLY don’t want to. This is counterproductive. They’ll come to you in their own time, it’s about building trust and it won’t happen over night.
The most important thing is to let your child know you will never judge them and that they can talk to you about anything. Remember, there are some issues you simply cannot solve for your child, but you can definitely support them through difficult times, and get talking to them about their mental health.