How to Tell Your Child about their Mental Illness


Talking to your child about delicate topics like their mental illness may be awkward. This might be as a result of the stigma attached to it, ignorance, or even concerns about accountability.

It may seem much easier to talk about other medical conditions like food allergies, asthma, or diabetes. These disorders are seldom thought to be the product of human responsibility, are often well understood, and are simpler to detect with medical testing.

People who are dealing with mental illness concerns are far too frequently accused of not trying hard enough or of doing anything wrong. As a result, we might think that we are solely to blame for our child’s mental health problems or that we are responsible for them.

On the other hand, frank talks with your children are a great way to reduce this stigma. It can be hard to know where to start, so let’s have a look at some positive ways to talk to your children about their mental illness.

Make A Comparison Using A Health Concern

Kids hear about health problems all the time. They know that if they have asthma, dust, pets, cold weather, and exercise can make their lungs and airways tighten. They take medication to treat the symptoms because they are conscious of how unpleasant their wheezing is, and they avoid situations that might trigger an attack.

Similarly, you may tell your child that mental health conditions like anxiety, sadness, OCD, ADHD, and other illnesses are actually physical illnesses that start in the brain. The brain is the body’s “central headquarters,” controlling thoughts, feelings, and behavior. The brain can occasionally get “knocked off balance,” much like other physical problems, but like other disorders, therapy can help patients learn how to deal with this. Medication and behavioral support (stress management, relaxation, psychotherapies, etc.) are available as forms of treatment.

Provide Them With Extensive Arguments

Children can understand mental health issues better when they are given a clear explanation. Here’s one example of how you may rationalize panic attacks:

When a car was about to hit you on the street, you would probably get out of the way, feel scared, notice your heart rate, get dizzy, or hyperventilate (breathe too rapidly). All of this is a classic fight-or-flight response to a real threat of injury. A panic attack might cause similar emotional and physical reactions, but the automobile isn’t going to hit you. There are ways to deal with this, despite the fact that it may seem scary.

Among other non-dangerous situations, driving, riding in a car, using elevators, and going to school are examples of “normal” situations when panic attacks commonly occur. If you had panic disorder, you would definitely associate these places with panic. Stated differently, your brain would respond as if a bad thing was about to happen, maybe even only by conjuring up specific images.

Give them your full attention and validate their experiences.

Kids may be ashamed to talk about their worries, compulsions, impulsivity, obsessions, and other behavioral disorders since mental health concerns are often stigmatized. Discuss their experiences with them in discussion. Pay attention to what they have to say and express sympathy.

It might be helpful to tell your child about other individuals who have similar challenges. Tell your child that mental health disorders are much like physical illnesses; you may have them, or someone they trust can. They may run in the family, and they are not the only ones who feel this way. If you or a family member can have a conversation with your child about their own mental health and coping strategies, it could be incredibly reassuring.

Ensure that they comprehend that it is not their fault

Many children who suffer from mental health disorders may think that their condition is their own fault or that it is an unavoidable part of their personality or identity. Stigma and false information can contribute to the persistence of these feelings. You can help children understand that mental health problems are common and do not always reflect a lack of character. Highlight their positive attributes to keep them from seeing their mental health condition as the most important part of who they are.

Have Conversations Frequently

Many mental health conditions are thought to be intermittent, which means that both the frequency and intensity of an issue can vary depending on factors like age, stress level, and other variables. It’s helpful to discuss your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to your child’s condition with others right away.

In the case of a relapse or the onset of new symptoms, your child will see you as a trustworthy resource as they get older, mature, and gain a better knowledge of their illness. Even if it’s not always easy, maintaining open channels of communication and understanding may be quite important. Talking to your child about what they’ve gone through is the best way to identify any new issues and make sure they get the support and guidance they need.

Permit Them to Ask You Questions

Children will probably have a lot of questions about their symptoms and treatment, so it will be helpful to be honest with them and tell them about the ways that therapy and/or medication may help. Set up a meeting with your child’s mental health doctor to discuss the concerns and answer any questions they may have if you are not completely knowledgeable. When your child asks a question, it’s okay to say you don’t know the answer; then, you may work with them to find one.

Remember the Family

Never hide a mental health issue from others. Your kid may feel more at peace if their grandparents, siblings, or other family members are aware of it, can talk to them about it, and accept it. Ultimately, one would assume that they would embrace diabetes or any other medical condition. This kind of transparency truly helps to prevent feelings of loneliness or guilt.

Discuss self-care and prevention

Mental illness issues arise from the complex interaction of biology, psychology, and environmental factors. Teaching your child self-care skills, including eating a balanced diet, exercising often, meditating, and getting adequate sleep, helps prevent relapses and reduce symptoms.

It’s Always Too Late to Discuss Suicide

Suicidal thoughts and deaths among young people have increased in the past several years. Many people, even parents, are reluctant to learn of a child’s suicidal ideas, plans, or intentions. They might be afraid that starting the conversation will result in suicide thoughts or deeds, even though there is no proof for this theory.

In summary

Talking to your child about their mental health problems is a challenging task. However, you are more than capable of initiating a discussion. You can use TalktoAngel if your child is experiencing any form of mental illness. They offer highly skilled and knowledgeable online counselors that can assist your child in resolving issues and leading a happy, healthy life.


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