Talking to children about their mental health


Ariana Hoet, Ph.D.

Q: How can I talk to my children about their mental health?

A: Mental health encompasses many different areas of our lives: mood and emotions, development and behavior. As a result, you might find conversations about mental health difficult, uncomfortable, or even overwhelming. However, talking to our children about their thoughts, feelings and experiences is necessary to support their mental well-being and development. When you and your child talk openly and honestly about their mental health, you can be aware of their concerns, help them solve their problems, help build their confidence, and give them the tools they need to achieve their goals. future goals.

These conversations should continue as your child develops and grows, as their needs and experiences change. Getting into the habit of checking in with your kids on how they are feeling, what they are thinking, and their life experiences can ensure you stay on the same page and know what is going on in their lives. By making these conversations part of your family routine, your child will know that you are part of their team and that their mental well-being is important to you. Therefore, when problems arise, your child will be more likely to come to you and ask for your support.

To start the conversation, ask open-ended questions, such as “What was your favorite part of your day?” or “Tell me about something difficult that’s been on your mind lately.” Be sure to provide a judgment-free zone. It means you try to put your emotions and goals aside and just listen. As they share, validate their emotions and experiences, making statements such as “I understand why that would make you sad…” or “I felt nervous in situations like that too…” . Remember that they will be more likely to come see you in the future if they find the experience rewarding and enjoyable. Save your thoughts, questions, and suggestions until the end of the conversation after they’ve had a chance to share their thoughts.

If through these conversations you begin to have significant concerns about his or her mental health, consult your child’s pediatrician.

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Ariana Hoet, Ph.D., is a pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Clinical Director of On Our Sleeves.

Ariana Hoet, Ph.D.

Foster communication on mental health

Help your child talk about their mental health by doing the following:

  • Create a safe space. Pick a private, distraction-free place where you and your child can talk comfortably. Go for a walk, cook lunch together, or draw at the kitchen table. Be sure to use eye contact, friendly nods, and acceptable language.
  • Model vulnerability. Tell a personal story about a time when you had trouble talking about your feelings. Talk to your child about how you overcame this and how it helped you gain the confidence to speak openly about your mental health.
  • Find helpful resources. If you live in Franklin County and your child is in crisis and you want to speak to a mental health provider, call Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Franklin County Youth Psychiatric Crisis Line at 614-722-1800 .

If you don’t know your county’s crisis line and you or your child need immediate help with suicidal thoughts, go to your local emergency room, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273 -TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Pediatric HealthSource is a recurring source Columbus Parent column.


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