Talking about our mental health is challenging, regardless of age, but it is especially difficult for children and young people.

However, just as it is a challenge to talk about our own mental health, it can also be difficult approaching the subject of your child’s mental health difficulties. Ensuring you go about it in a healthy and effective manner can have huge consequences on how helpful your input is.

Below are some of key tips, based on our model of care, for discussing and understanding a young person’s mental health:

  1. Perhaps, one of the most important points is to try to understand and respect what they are feeling.
  2. Have no expectations and make no assumptions, we are all feel things differently, and thus our reactions can vary.
  3. Make sure you are sat with them at the same level, or lower if need be, as towering above someone can be intimidating.
  4. Listen carefully, exercise patience and give your full attention, as this will aid a child in feeling comfortable to open up.
  5. Encourage them to think critically and work through their challenges with your assistance.
  6. Steer away from confrontational questions, such as ‘did you harm yourself?’ and instead focus on how they are feeling.
  7. As well as considering what you’re saying, it is also important to focus on positive body language.
  8. Make sure you validate their feelings, for example, if talking about their gender identity issues, you may say; “I understand that this must be really difficult for you.”
  9. Don’t react to angry outbursts*; for young people who are still learning to regulate their emotions, sadness or frustration may come out as anger (*within reason).
  10. Lastly, practice what you preach and take the time to be honest about your own feelings (at appropriate times).
Taking the time to talk to a child or young person about how they are feeling using our tips will allow them to feel validated and understood, having a positive impact on their journey to recovery.