How to Start a Mental Health Conversation with Your Child

Be kind, lend an ear: Here’s how to start a conversation about mental health with children

Whether it's adjusting to a new school, a misunderstanding with friends or dealing with the demands of a rigorous curriculum, children face pressures that often impact their mental health.

“A child’s mental health is just as important as their physical health and deserves the same quality of support,” stated British royalty Kate Middleton once. Indeed, children are sensitive and emotional beings who often experience challenges and pains that can go unnoticed.

Whether it’s adjusting to a new school, misunderstandings with friends and classmates or dealing with the demands of a rigorous curriculum, children face pressures that often impact their mental health. As parents and caregivers, it is extremely important for us to create an open and supportive environment in which children can talk freely about their mental health and wellbeing.

Start the Conversation Day is celebrated on July 3rd and is dedicated to encouraging open dialogue about mental health with your loved ones. It aims to highlight the importance of discussions about emotional wellbeing between people. This day especially encourages families and communities to come together and express their feelings openly.

So, join us as we explore effective ways to initiate conversations with your child about mental health.

Choosing a good time

Before you start conversing about mental health with your children, it is important to find the right time to do so. It’s best to wait for a relaxed time when the child feels more comfortable, such as during a walk in the park or while driving together to the market. These casual moments can help create a relaxed atmosphere where the child may feel more comfortable sharing what’s on their mind. Ensuring the time is relaxed sans any urgent commitments will allow them to listen and have a meaningful conversation about their emotions with you, while building trust too.

Listening without judgement

Many of us are absorbed in our own lives, juggling daily chores. Our work often takes up most of our day and time. But in these long hours, there might be moments when our children might be trying to express their feelings. They might be sharing their joys or their fears in subtle ways that can go unnoticed if we don’t pay closer attention.

So, no matter how important your work at hand is, take a few minutes off and give your child your full attention if they come to you. Observe their body language, acknowledge their emotions and create a comforting environment where children feel understood. And if you get to know of something vital, first listen and then think how you want to deal with it, along with the consent of your child.

Understanding emotions

Conversation day

Dealing with emotions can be quite challenging, even for adults. But for children, this can be especially difficult. Children experience a wide array of feelings, from the joy of discovering new things to the apprehension and fear of the unknown, sometimes all in one day. Helping them recognise and express these emotions is vital.

As a parent, you can encourage them to find words for what they are feeling. This will lead them to understand their feelings better and not just see them as vague concepts. Further, by acknowledging their emotions in this way, you can help them feel heard and cared for. Indeed, teaching children to manage their emotions is crucial for their overall mental wellbeing.

Respecting boundaries

It’s important to understand that all children are different. Some might be shy or introverted and this makes it harder for them to express their emotions. In such cases, it’s important to respect their boundaries and allow them the space and time to feel comfortable before sharing. You can gently let them know you are there for them and will wait happily till the time they are comfortable. Doing so will help them feel safe and allow them to express their feelings freely when they’re ready.

Sharing similar emotions

Maybe you’re going through a rough patch in your relationship or have experienced a health scare—chatting with a friend who’s been through something similar can be more helpful than discussing it with someone who hasn’t experienced anything like that. Sharing your own emotional experiences with your child can make a difference too. Firstly, it will show your child that everyone goes through ups and downs. Secondly, when you talk about the times you’ve felt sad or overwhelmed, you’re letting them know it’s okay to feel these things. This not only brings you closer but also helps your child see that you are being open about your emotions, and that they can do the same.

Being reassuring

Many of us tend to blame ourselves when things go wrong. Children watch and learn from us and they may also start doing the same. It becomes crucial then, to let your kids  know that it’s not their fault when they’re going through tough times. For instance, they may blame themselves for friendships going sour or when their parents argue. By reassuring them that these feelings are normal and that they’re not responsible for everything that happens around them, you can make them relax and be at ease.

Seeking help

When it comes to supporting children’s emotional wellbeing, seeking help from a therapist can be incredibly beneficial. Therapists can help children express their challenges freely. So, if you notice signs of distress or any behaviour that concerns you, reach out to a therapist who can provide professional guidance and support.

Starting conversations about mental health with your child is a journey that requires understanding and support at every step. By actively listening, respecting boundaries, sharing personal experiences and seeking help from a therapist when needed, you can help them express feelings openly and enhance their wellbeing.


How do I know if my child is struggling with their mental health?

Watch for changes in behaviour and mood swings. Observe any withdrawal from activities that they usually enjoy. See if they are having difficulty in sleeping or eating or if they show sudden changes in academic performance.

What if my child doesn't want to talk about their feelings?

You can begin by asking questions about their feelings or mentioning your own experiences to create a safe space for them to share.

What if my child doesn't want to talk about their feelings?

Respect their boundaries and let them know it’s okay to share when they’re ready.

Is it okay to share my own struggles with mental health with my child?

Sharing your experiences can help normalise intense emotions for them. It also shows that everyone faces challenges like these.




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