Breaking The Stigma: How to talk to your children about Mental Health

How to talk to your children about Mental Health

Talking about mental health can be uncomfortable & strange for both of you. As a parent, you might not know where to start or what to say. It’s okay. This article can help you with some tips.

Create a Safe Place:

First, create a positive safe place over time. Plan activities that your children enjoy. In a relaxed atmosphere, ask about your child’s school, friends, teachers, current events, interest areas how they feel about them.

Conversation Starters:

Open the door for sharing. Start with the questions which will encourage them to talk about themselves.

  • What makes you happy/sad/angry/frustrated/worried/scared?
  • And what do you do to make yourself feel better?
  • If you had a magic stick, what would your life look like?
  • Tell me about your favourite book/show/movie and why do you like it.
  • If you were the boss of your house, what rules you would make?
  • Name 3 things you were grateful for.
  • Any 3 words that can describe you well?
  • What is the best thing about school?
  • What makes you feel supported?
  • What do you like most about yourself?
  • What is something you want to get better at?
  • What are you worrying about?

Look for alternative people:

If your child doesn’t open with you, it’s okay. Sometimes kids find it easier to talk to someone other than a parent. Another adult- a mentor, coach, relative or religious leader will also serve the purpose. The important thing is that the child has someone to share their feelings.

Warning Signs:

  • Changes in school performance or poor grades despite strong efforts
  • Any substance uses
  • Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
  • Inability to deal with problems and daily activities
  • Increased worry or anxiety (e.g., refusing to go to bed or school)
  • Excessive complaints of physical ailments
  • Hyperactivity
  • Changes in ability to deal with responsibilities – at home and/or at school
  • Persistent nightmares
  • Withdrawal from activities they once loved
  • Persistent disobedience or aggression
  • Persistent sadness and/or hopelessness
  • Frequent temper tantrums or outbursts of anger
  • Defiance of authority
  • Risky sexual activity
  • Intense fear
  • Truancy, theft and/or vandalism

If you’re not sure whether your child’s behaviour is a warning sign, talk to a professional – a pediatrician, teacher, school counsellor , or someone – who has mental health experience.

Reach out to the best mental health care services in India and avail the best mental health care in India.

Be Direct but Kind:

If you notice any of the above signs, your child may need additional mental or emotional support from a professional . It’s best to initiate a direct conversation. At this point, don’t make judgemental statements or accusations. Don’t assume the cause of your child’s health concern.

Let them understand you are here to help them. Let your child tell you what they need from you.

Don’ts Do’s
“You’ll be fine. Just get over it.” “Wow, that sounds difficult. I’m sorry you’re going through that. I’m here for you.”
“Just try to be more positive.” I’m sorry you’re feeling down right now. I’m here to listen.”
“Why are you crabby all the time?” “I noticed you don’t seem like yourself lately. Is everything okay? I’m here for you.”
“Just look on the bright side.” Sometimes it must seem like things are stacked against you. We’ll get through this together.”
“You need to calm down.” “I see that you’re upset. Can you tell me more about what’s going on?”
You just need to take some deep breaths. “What can I do to help you get through that situation if it comes up again?”

Getting Support:

Stay connected with people in your child’s life who have experience in dealing with mental health concerns- Paediatrician, School Counsellor, teacher. Because these people know you and your child as well. You won’t have to support your child alone.

If Your Child Has Suicidal Thoughts:

If your child tells you they’ve had thoughts about suicide, remain calm and listen non-judgmentally. Your priority is to keep your child safe; If your child is in immediate danger, go to an emergency room or mental health crisismental health crisis centre. The professionals there are trained to help with the immediate danger of suicide and to help you and your child make a plan to get continuing support.

The most important thing is to remind them that you're on their team no matter what. Together, we can break the stigma around mental health.

It starts with one moment, one conversation, one question.

Just remember mental disorders in children are treatable. Early identification, diagnosis, and treatment help children reach their full potential and improve the family dynamic.


Talking about mental health with your children may feel uncomfortable, but creating a safe and open environment is crucial. Start with casual conversations about their interests and feelings. If they don't open up to you, encourage them to confide in another trusted adult. Look out for warning signs like changes in behavior and seek professional help if needed. Be direct but kind when addressing concerns, avoiding judgmental statements. Stay connected with people in your child's life who have experience with mental health issues, and don't hesitate to seek support from professionals if required. In cases of suicidal thoughts, remain calm, listen non-judgmentally, and prioritize your child's safety. Breaking the stigma begins with one conversation—one moment at a time. Remember, mental disorders in children are treatable, and early intervention can significantly improve their well-being and family dynamics.

image credit : freepik