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The importance of discussing mental health with your child

While mental health used to be something of a taboo subject, awareness of the matter is increasing in mainstream culture, with a growing number of campaigns and movements aimed towards cultivating a new attitude towards mental health. Not only do adults suffer from or feel the effects of poor mental wellbeing, but it something that concerns children too, either through living with a friend or family member suffering from mental health concerns, or by experiencing and not understanding symptoms of it in themselves. Without awareness of mental health, both of these scenarios can be confusing and damaging to a child when left without being properly addressed.

To combat this, a scheme is being put in place at Goldsmith Primary School in Peckham, southeast London, encouraging children to talk about mental health by using fun games and activities. As well as initiating the conversation, it also aims to help teach children coping techniques for when they are feeling low, as well as how to recognise the signs of when themselves or those around them are experiencing difficulties to do with mental health.

Last year, a study by the Department of Health and Time to Change found that 55% of parents had not discussed mental health with their children, yet Young Minds estimates that 1 in 10 children aged 5 – 16 suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. Even if your family is not personally affected by mental health concerns, it is important to raise the issue within your household from a young age in order to educate your children for the future, and to safeguard their wellbeing.

By openly discussing mental health and making it an approachable subject to talk about, your child will feel comfortable if they ever experience any behaviour that could be a sign of mental illness – taking steps to seek help and protect their health.

Simple steps such as asking your children to identify emotions such as anger, worry, sad and excitement can help kids to be aware of their feelings – a great first step for opening up conversations about more complex emotions in the future. After identifying how your children are feeling, talk them through how they are currently coping with difficult situations, offering advice if they seem stuck.

Do you openly talk about mental health at home? Do your children associate ‘mental health’ with negative connotations, or are they happy to talk about their feelings?

Share how you think it is best to approach this subject with children in our online forum today.

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