Kids are often curious, and as they continue to learn and grow, the topic of mental health may come up. Explaining mental illness to children can be difficult. If you’re a parent or guardian in this position, you may be hesitant to talk about anything that may be distressing to your children. However, no one is immune to mental illness and talking to kids about mental health can allow them to be open about their own thoughts and emotions.
At our center for mental health care in Florida, we understand that children and mental health can be a tricky combination. However, it’s important to be open with your kids about challenging topics like this. Mental health problems can affect anyone’s life, regardless of their age. Discussing mental illness with kids early on is a great way to discover any existing mental health issues and to show them that they can be open with you about tough topics.
How to Talk to Children About Mental Illness
Misinformation, myths, stigmas, and stereotypes surrounding mental health can prevent someone from opening up about any symptoms they may be experiencing. These could also cause anxiety and lead to further stigma. There are steps you can take while explaining mental illness to children to ensure that the process is smooth and efficient.
Learn About Mental Illness
If you are going to talk to your kids about mental health, the first thing you should do is learn about mental health. There are many online resources and books that can provide you with solid information about mental illness. Don’t risk confusing or isolating your child by offering them the wrong information. Mental illness is a serious topic that you should prepare to talk about beforehand.
Use Examples Easy to Understand
Of course, the examples you use may vary depending on the age of the child, but if you’re explaining mental illness to children who are elementary school age or younger, then you should use examples that they’ll understand. A great way to describe mental illness is by comparing it to a physical ailment. For instance, many people catch colds, but only a few may suffer from a more serious condition like bronchitis or pneumonia. People who develop these conditions may require special treatment or medicine to recover. Similarly, many people will experience negative emotions like anxiety, worry, or sadness, but only some will develop more severe conditions like major depressive disorder.
At Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches, we offer a depression recovery treatment specifically designed to meet the needs of individuals suffering from a major depressive disorder. This form of mental illness can be extremely debilitating and even life-threatening without treatment.
Make Sure Your Kids Feel Comfortable
Although you may be ready to talk about mental health with your kids, they may not be on the same page. Before explaining mental illness to your children, make sure they’re ready to have that discussion. For the conversation to be beneficial for everyone, your kids need to feel comfortable talking about mental health with you. If your kids don’t feel comfortable talking about mental illness with you, try to find other helpful resources appropriate for their age group. For example, there are lots of children’s books about mental health that can help your kids learn more about this topic.
Give Your Kids the Opportunity to Share and Ask Questions
Remember that explaining mental illness to children should be a discussion. Don’t talk at them, but rather allow them to ask any questions they may have about the topic. Any mental health-related questions they ask can open the door to a conversation about their own mental health.
The best thing you can do is to be honest about any of your mental health struggles when talking to children about mental illness. This doesn’t mean you should share any information that may be traumatizing or inappropriate, but you should be honest about times when you’ve felt sad or anxious. You can reassure your kids that people may feel sad, worried, or anxious sometimes, but those feelings may require some help.
At our Florida rehab center, we offer a wide range of mental health treatment programs in Palm Beach that treat different types of mental disorders. Our number one priority is the health of our patients. If you or a loved one is struggling with a mental illness, do not wait to get help. Call us now at 561-220-3981 to learn more about our mental health programs.