Mental Health

Talking to Children About Mental Health

Older children may want more specifics, such as if a friend or family member is experiencing emotional or behavioral problems. These children may also be worried about their own safety and that of others. When talking to them about mental health, answer their questions directly and reassure them. Older children may ask about behavior problems of family members, friends, or even themselves. It is important to listen carefully and make sure you understand what they are saying and why.


When talking to children about mental health, it can be helpful to compare it to physical illnesses. While many of us suffer from the flu or cold, only a few people suffer from pneumonia. Unlike a physical illness, which can keep us from doing normal activities, mental illness often requires medicine and sometimes hospitalization. However, we all have experienced sadness, anxiety, worry, and sleep problems. These emotions and their causes can be just as real.

One of the best-known metaphors for comparing mental health and eating disorders is that of a ceiling resting on pillars. The pillars represent external reality, such as family, work, and social relationships, and mental health services. Like a ceiling, the strength and width of the pillars determine its stability. The metaphors for talking to children about mental health can be customized to fit the needs of each child.

Using a metaphor of child abuse or neglect can help people understand the social determinants of child maltreatment and the solutions to these problems. Using a metaphor helps people understand the social causes of child maltreatment and help build support for preventative public health measures. However, there are some potential downsides to using a metaphor. For example, a metaphor can make the subject matter seem less scary.

Owning it as a family issue

When talking to children about mental health, parents need to be aware of their own attitudes. Their own attitudes may influence their kids, causing confusion, fear, and anxiety. Parents should be honest and nonjudgmental when talking to children about mental health. Parents can discuss the importance of talking to children about mental health with their children. They should not be surprised if their child shares his or her feelings.

Talking to children about mental illness can help them cope with the symptoms of their disorder. It’s important not to make mental illness a secret, as it can cause them to feel shame. However, it’s also important for parents to keep in mind that mental illnesses are complex, interacting with a lot of different factors. It’s important to understand how to talk to children about mental health and teach them how to take care of themselves.

Whether or not your child is showing signs of a mental health condition, you can start a conversation by explaining what depression is to them in age-appropriate language. Boudreau, a professor of psychology and director of the CHILD lab at Ryerson University, suggests starting conversations by finding a frame of reference and weaving the narrative into something. For instance, you can explain what depression is by telling your child that your child has a feeling of sadness, and that the feelings aren’t good or bad, but they feel sad.

Not making assumptions

If you have a child with a mental illness, you should not make assumptions about their mental health. This is important because a child with a mental illness is likely to ask many questions about their symptoms and treatment options. You should discuss all of these topics with your child, including any medications or therapy. Meet with your child’s mental health clinician and discuss the child’s questions with them. Try to find an answer that will satisfy both you and your child.

Moreover, remember that children often experience emotional problems that are related to their brains. In other words, your child may be experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other conditions but not be telling you about them. Instead of making assumptions, talk about your concerns in a non-judgmental and open manner. This will help your child feel more comfortable about sharing his or her fears and worries. Once you understand the specific symptoms of your child’s mental health, you can find ways to help your child overcome these concerns.


Many people tend to make assumptions without questioning their opinions or experiences. The reason we make assumptions is that we are not very good at questioning our assumptions. Assumptions are built into our brains. They’re designed to find patterns and mental models that make them more effective. By letting assumptions go, we can become more informed and able to help our children deal with the problems that affect their minds.