17 October 2018

How to Talk to Your Kids About Mental Illness and Everyday Anxiety

Mental illness and anxiety can show up at any time, any age, and almost all families are, or will someday, be affected by some kind of mental issue. It could even be your own children that have to learn to cope with the effects of an unhealthy chemical imbalance.

That said, mental illness and anxiety are every day, all around you, occurrences. This means your children are likely to notice, so be honest with them in response to their curiosities and questions. Read on for tips to talking with your kids about mental illness and everyday anxiety.

Explain the Basics of What Mental Illness and Anxiety Are, by Definition

Sometimes it helps to break mental illnesses and anxieties into their basic forms. This means beginning with a definition of what a mental illness or an anxiety is.

For instance, a mental illness is a brain disorder that affects moods, behavior patterns, and ways someone thinks. Whereas, anxiety is a mental health problem that leads to emotions of worry, doubt, and general upset and concern during everyday activities.

Both of these definitions convey the general meanings but keep the intensity at bay.

Make Your Home a Safe Space Where You and Your Loved Ones Can Freely, Openly Discuss Your Feelings

Create a safe space in your home, where you and your kids can speak freely and openly about your worries, concerns, and general feelings for everyday things.

Always discourage uses of derogatory terms, such as “crazy” or “lunatic,” as these terms can lead to feelings of inadequacy and closed-off attitudes.

Side note: You should also encourage your children to step a little outside of their comfort zone, like going to an international summer camp, or riding a roller coaster for the first time.

Be Honest About Tragedies, but Give Kids the Tools to Cope and Work Through Sadness Early On

Suicide and self-harm are two of the biggest tragedies caused by mental illness and anxiety. Ergo, it is highly likely that your child might one day know someone that falls victim to negative feelings.

Death is a part of life, and your children should know that, but give them the tools to cope with the sadness and downs that will inevitably come their way throughout their lives. Speak of death as natural and encourage your children to mourn, grieve, and convey their sadness however they feel appropriate.