Time to Talk Day - Tips for Parents and Teachers
Today is Time to Talk Day, a day that provides an opportunity to open up conversations about mental health and break the stigma around opening up. As it’s also Children’s Mental Health Week, we thought we would take this opportunity today to support parents and teachers in encouraging their children to talk about their feelings and to open up about anything that may be worrying them. It can feel difficult to approach a conversation with children about mental health but hopefully, these steps will make it easier.
Why do I need to talk to my children about mental health?
1 in 8 children and young people suffer from a diagnosable mental health condition. According to a 2017 report published for the Research and Information Service of the NI Assembly, it is estimated that around 45,000 of children and young people in NI have a mental health need at any one time and more than 20% of young people are suffering “significant mental health problems” by the time they reach 18.
At AWARE, we believe that looking after our mental health is just as important as looking after our physical health. If we care about the physical health of our children and young people, then we should be looking after their mental health too. It is important that we start to teach children how to be aware of their emotions, feelings, thoughts, and behaviours from a young age. Through this, hopefully, we can promote positive mental health and wellbeing in later years.
We’re encouraging parents and teachers to open up conversations with their kids in their homes and classrooms about the importance of mental health and how we can all equip ourselves to look after it. It is important to make children feel comfortable to share their feelings and know that if something is worrying them, that they have someone to turn to.
How do I start a conversation with my children about mental health?
- Try to make mental health a common conversation topic in your house or classroom. If we try our best to normalise these conversations for our children; they will seem less scary or strange
- Look for signs of stress or worry in children and check in with them. For more information on what these signs might look like, visit: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/anxiety-in-children
- Find an appropriate time and place to have these conversations – somewhere where they feel relaxed is ideal. The more at ease children feel, the more they tend to open up.
- Sit on a low chair or kneel down so that you are at eye-level with the child – this will remove any sense that they are being reprimanded and make them feel more relaxed.
- Ask open-ended questions that encourage them to open up and listen carefully to their responses. See below for some ideas for questions to ask.
- Remain calm and non-judgmental and try not to show any distress if the child offers troubling responses – You can decide on how best to deal with these after the conversation.
What are some examples of questions I should ask?
You don’t seem your usual self today. Would you like to talk about anything?
You look sad/worried today. Do you want to have a chat about it? Is there anything I can do to help?
You said something interesting in circle time about how you felt when… How do you feel about it now?
These are just some tips that you can use to help you open up dialogue about mental health with your children. If you would like any more information in how to support mental health in children and young people, please visit the resources below:
You should seek professional help if your child or pupil seems very distressed or anxious, and it is affecting their daily life. The first stop should be a visit to your GP.Tags: Children | Children's Mental Health | Depression | Mental Health | Young People