It’s nearly impossible to turn on the TV or scroll through our news feeds, without the mention of mental health. To that, I say “good.” Because some things aren’t better left unsaid.
As a parent, you want to keep your child safe. You shuttle them to soccer practice and swim lessons, but how do you “check-in” with them? How do you know how school, homework, and life’s pressures are affecting them?
You simply ask.
Hold the space for an honest conversation. And manage your own reactions to what is said so that you’re encouraging your child to say more, rather than to say what they think you want to hear. It may not be a full-blown, heart-to-heart talk (especially with your teen), but it will open the door. A gentle knock is a subtle gesture that can mean the difference between suffering silently and flourishing.
What is Mental Health? It’s More Than a Buzzword.
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.
Half of all mental health disorders show first signs before a person turns 14 years old. And, less than 20 percent of children and adolescents with diagnosable mental health issues receive the proper treatment.
What Are The Possible Warning Signs?
Youth can be at risk of developing a mental disorder due to factors found in their biology or genetics. In addition, past trauma as well as, family and school dynamics, directly contribute to their levels of anxiety and depression, according to the American Psychological Association.
Here are signs and patterns to look for:
- Mood changes or mood swings
- Intense worry, fear, and helplessness
- Difficulty concentrating and low energy
- Loss of appetite and feeling numb (like nothing matters)
- Physical ailments such as frequent headaches or stomachaches
- Self-injury and/or suicidal thoughts
For more information about pinpointing probable symptoms as a parent, visit the Mayo Clinic.
The New Wave of Parenting is Positive.
Strengths-based parenting, also known as attachment parenting, has been shown to bring stability to a child’s life. A consistent and strong parent-child bond is so effective, in fact, it instills kids with healthy coping mechanisms, such as the capacity to confront transitions like poverty or divorce.
“They’re watching you… listening to how you talk to them about it,” says Dr. Keith Crnic, a family relationship expert at Arizona State University. “Parents need to be good self-regulators. You’re not only trying to regulate your own emotions in the moment but help your child learn to manage their behavior.”
Here are tips on how to connect with your child effectively:
- Offer positive reinforcement for desired behaviors, and redirecting feedback when child’s behavior is ‘off course’
- Use kind words and gestures proportionately more than correction
- Give them your full attention (no cellphone in hand)
- Brainstorm solutions to challenges at home or school every week
- Use specific feedback about what you DO want- outcomes and behaviors – instead of adjectives which describe the child and not the desired action (“You are so rude”- what does that really mean?)
- Listen openly and don’t interrupt – connection before correction
- Pay close attention to their body language and reactions -being quiet doesn’t mean nothing is up
- Stay aware of your emotions and respond sensitively (even when you disagree)
When you want to have the serious talk, MentalHealth.gov offers these openers:
- Can you tell me more about what is happening? How you are feeling?
- Have you had feelings like this in the past?
- I’m here to listen. How can I help you feel better? And then really LISTEN even if you are panicking inside
- I care about you and your safety. Can you tell me if you have thoughts of harming yourself or others?
Tough conversations crack open the shell and get right to the heart of the matter. So can the smallest of moments.
At Hello, we know the importance of family dinners. We know a phone call is sometimes better than getting a text message. And, we know your family’s wellbeing means everything.
With today’s 24/7 demands, it’s hard for parents to put down devices and be present in conversations without feeling stressed. If you can relate, inquire about our Family Chatters program for breakthrough tips, tools, and coaching services.
Please note: Hello and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease or disorder. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, behavioral challenges, or other life-changing, health-related events. Hello, and its web properties (www.SayHellotoHello.com), are provided for educational purposes only.
If you need assistance get help immediately. You can call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you are an adolescent or teen seeking an anonymous and confidential helpline, please reach out to 888-222-2228 or visit www.2ndfloor.org to speak with a qualified counselor.