3 Ways to Teach Kids About Mental Health
By Brandi Goodman
Mental health awareness should be brought to the attention of people of all ages. It is not something that only troubles adults, but children as well. Kids too can find themselves feeling sad, having mixed emotions, scrambled thoughts, anxious feelings, and more. Teaching kids about mental health from an early age allows them to understand what they're feeling and to get help sooner.
Have a Conversation
The first step is to simply have a conversation. Tell your kids what mental health is and why it matters. Let them know that there's nothing to be ashamed of if they have a mental illness. If their mind races often or they struggle with anger or feelings of self-harm, they are not weird or strange or alone. Tell them many people feel this way, but that they need to seek help if they do feel this way. Answer any questions they have in a honest, age-appropriate way.
Show a Movie
Visual representation may be needed for some kids to understand. Show a movie or two that talks about feelings and the importance of sharing them. Inside Out is one option. This movie features characters based on one girl's emotions. Anger, Fear, Joy, Sadness, and Disgust each have their own idea of how best to handle a situation. After the movie ask your child about what they saw and what they think about the emotions shown. Tell them each of these emotions is normal to feel, but that you need to share them and not allow only one to take over all of the time.
Many children's books exist on the topic of mental illness. Share these books with your children. Either read the books to them or have them read the books alone and come to you for a discussion afterward. Workbooks also exist for children who have parents that struggle with mental illness. Options like these allow kids to understand what's going on in their lives and the lives of those they're closest to.
It's important to teach children about their mental health so they're aware of the symptoms and signs of an unhealthy mind. Just as you would go to the doctor for another body part not functioning correctly or having something wrong, let your kids know that they also need care for their mind. Prevention is the best method after all. Kids with this knowledge can ask for help when they need it as well as offer support to a friend who may be struggling.
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