Talking about mental illness with your kids can be difficult if you don’t feel that you’re armed with the right knowledge or the best approach to the conversation. Being prepared to have this discussion, however, can make for an overall positive and educational experience that can help your child to have a better understanding of mental health.
1. Have the Discussion in a Safe, Comfortable Environment
Before you delve into specifics, make sure your child feels safe, comfortable and ready to have this discussion. Should the topic come up in a stressful or otherwise difficult environment, wait until you have a chance to be one-on-one with him or her at home or in a calm, relaxed place.
2. Use Language Appropriate to Your Child’s Age
Depending on your child’s age, you may have to tailor your language and the amount of detail you divulge to match his or her level of comprehension.
Very young children, for example, may simply notice that someone is perhaps behaving strangely or is visibly upset, sad or angry, and their questions will likely be centered on these noticeable symptoms. Teenagers, on the other hand, can typically handle more detailed and specific information concerning mental illnesses like depression and anxiety.
3. Be Straightforward
While it can be tempting to take an indirect approach to this type of conversation, being straightforward and direct will often result in a much more effective discussion. If you notice that your child is confused or upset, back up or slow down so that he or she can gain a better understanding of mental health without feeling that it’s a taboo topic to discuss or have questions about.