Tips for talking with your child
Tips for talking to your child about their Mental Health
1. Make conversations about mental health a normal part of life: Anywhere is a good place to talk; in the car, walking the dog or cooking together. Model everyday talk about feelings such as by talking about a TV character’s feelings.
2. Give your full attention: We all know it’s horrible to be half-listened to. Keep eye contact, focus on the child and ignore distractions.
3. Check your body language: Try to keep it open and relaxed and make sure you come down to the child’s level.
4. Take it seriously: Don’t downplay what the child is saying or tell them they’re “just being silly”. Resist the urge to reassure them that everything is fine.
5. Ask open questions: Such as “How did your day go today?” This will help to extend the conversation.
6. Calmly stay with the feelings that arise: It can be our automatic reaction to steer away from difficult emotions.
7. Offer empathy rather than solutions: Show that you accept what they are telling you but don’t try to solve the problem.
8. Remember we are all different: Respect and value the child’s feelings, even though they may be different to yours.
9. Look for clues about feelings: Listen to the child’s words, tone of voice, and body language.
10. Some ways to start a conversation about feelings might be: “How are you feeling at the moment?” “You don’t seem your usual self. Do you want to talk about it?” “Do you fancy a chat?” “I’m happy to listen if you need a chat.
Carrying a positive sense of calm in the palm of your hand
1. First ask your child to trace their hand on a sheet of paper.
2. The child then thinks of a positive memory that would help them feel safe and calm to remember even in the midst of stressful and triggering situations.
3. Write each of the five senses (seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling) on each of the five fingers.
4. The child (or adult can write it down for the child) will draw and / or write about the memory in the palm of the hand.
5. Encourage your child to identify how the memory is experienced using each of the five senses on each finger and write or draw a picture for each.
6. Last but not least, talk about how thinking of this memory can help your child feel a sense of safety and inner calmness despite outer life circumstances.
This website from the NHS offers expert advice and practical tips to help you look after your child’s mental health and wellbeing as well as the rest of the family. https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/