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Start The Conversation: Tips/Resources

We're over halfway through #mentalhealthawarenessmonth! I'd like to take some time today to post resources for parents who are struggling to figure out ways to start and continue conversations around mental health.

A national survey conducted this month shows that many parents struggle with how to talk to their kids about mental health. Many of those parents expressed a lack of modeling from their own childhood. Many are still holding onto the fear that bringing issues up may create those issues.

We've talked in previous blogs about how important it is talk to your loved ones about their mental health. We've tried to dispel some myths (ie, talking about suicide doesn't make people suicidal). To build on that, today we'll talk strategies and I'll provide links to get those conversations started and continued!

Some of the links are going to be geared to parents and their children, but they can be adapted! You can do this at any age or any stage of development. Make conversations about thoughts, feelings, and emotions a part of your daily habits as a family.

For those of you with very young children, naming feelings for our kids, helping them see that we all have feelings, modeling regulating your own feelings, and reading books about feelings are great ideas. Here's some links to children's books about feelings: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/childrens-books-teach-kids-emotions_l_5f0cd6f3c5b6310dc15751c4

https://imaginationsoup.net/picture-books-kids-feelings-emotional-intelligence-eq/

For older kids, having a daily check in at dinner or before bed can be a helpful first step. Having everyone go through their highs and lows of the day, you can set the stage for meaningful conversations as your children grow. You can also continue reading or watching shows together, and making connections to family members when characters are showing emotions.

Your teenagers might not want to sit and talk about their feelings all the time, so setting aside a particular time during the week where you can check in with them about how things are going. Let them know you're there for them. Ask them how their friends are doing, and whether or not their worried about any of their friends.

There's no wrong time to start asking your kids about their feelings. If you notice something seems off, it's best to ask. They might not answer right away, or ask you to back off. But you've set the stage to allow your kids to feel safe coming to you. The conversations might feel awkward at the start, but you'll get better at is as you practice! Don't be afraid to start a conversation that may save someone's life.

For more, check out these other websites!:

https://www.onoursleeves.org/mental-wellness-tools-guides/conversation-starters

https://www.nami.org/Your-Journey/Kids-Teens-and-Young-Adults/Kids/How-to-Talk-to-Your-Child-About-Their-Mental-Health

https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Talking-To-Kids-About-Mental-Illnesses-084.aspx

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/September-2019/How-to-Ask-Someone-About-Suicide


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