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Talking to your child about mental health

We all need to take care of our mental health. And one of the ways we can help stay in good mental health is to be aware of how we feel and talk about it to someone we trust. This goes for all for us – parents as well as kids!

We don’t all feel comfortable talking about our feelings. Some people are embarrassed to express how they feel, while others believe feelings should be kept private. But the more we talk about how we feel, the easier it becomes, and the less likely we are to bottle things up and let problems get us down.

If your child is used to talking to you about how they feel, it’ll make it easier for them to come to you if they feel upset, down or anxious – and it’ll help them become more understanding and accepting of other people’s feelings too, making it easier for you to talk to them about your own mental health.

Here we look at how you can talk to your child about their mental health, and about your own mental health as well.

The tips here are aimed at parents of younger children – check out our section on teen mental health for tips for supporting older children.

Tips for talking to your child about their mental health

What should I do if I’m worried about my child’s mental health?

Even if your child’s insisting that everything is ‘fine’ you may see signs that they’re struggling. Here are some things to look out for:

  • They’re more irritable than usual or get angry easily.
  • They’re more withdrawn than usual.
  • They’re having problem sleeping or are reverting to younger night time behaviours like wetting the bed.
  • They seem anxious and cling to you more than usual.
  • They have frequent stomach aches or digestive problems.
  • They become aggressive and lash out at you.

Of course these signs are just a guide. But as a parent you know your child best, so trust your instincts if you feel something may be wrong.

If you’re concerned, try talking to their teacher and making an appointment with your GP. You can see more tips for supporting your child’s mental health here, and more advice on  getting help for your child’s mental health on the YoungMinds website.

Looking after yourself

Photo of mum with cup of tea

Photo of mum with cup of tea

It’s just as important to look after our mental health as it is to take care of our physical health. But as a parent, maintaining your own wellbeing sometimes gets put at the bottom of the to do list. Our section on wellbeing for parents has lots of advice to help you look after yourself, and information on what to do if you’re struggling. Remember, there’s absolutely no shame in asking for support or help.

Parenting if you have mental health issues

If you are experiencing problems with your mental health, it can be hard for you and for your child. In some cases they may have to take on caring responsibilities, or spend time with other family members or carers while you get better. They may find the situation unsettling or scary, especially if their routines are disrupted, or you get upset or shout at them.

Again, there’s lots of help out there for you. You can find good advice on how to cope with mental health issues as a parent on the Mental Health Foundation and YoungMinds websites.

Tips for talking to your child about your mental health

If you’re struggling with your mental health, you may try to hide this from your child. But depending on their age, they may well pick up that something isn’t quite right and start worrying, so it’s best to be upfront about it. Here are some tips for talking to them about your mental health.

Further information

There are lots of organisations out there that can help you support your child’s mental health and your own, including: