As parents, we tend to want to build walls around our kids, to encase them in bubble wrap, and to protect them at all costs. However, we’ve learned that kids must learn from their mistakes and so we need to allow them to make some – to give them some space to explore. Similarly, many kids suffering from mental health concerns such as heightened stress, anxiety or depression don’t want to be smothered or “fixed.” Often – at least at first – they just want to be heard.
If you or your kids are in immediate danger, please call 911.
- Listen without judgement. Just be there; be a shoulder to lean on and not a jury that’s going to pass judgement on their feelings or decisions.
- Listen without interrupting. Parents have a tendency to jump in with solutions, stories, or other advice before allowing their kids to be completely open and honest about their views or feelings.
- Don’t criticize how they’re feeling. Feelings are not right or wrong – they just are. Acknowledge their feelings as real. Thank them for being honest and re-assure them they are not alone in feeling this way.
- Don’t tell them “everything will be alright.” While it may be, most kids won’t immediately believe that they will as in their point of view or experience – it won’t or can’t. Failure to acknowledge this will further alienate them as they won’t believe you understand what they’re experiencing. Allow them to feel what their feeling and express themselves. That will lead to a conversation that may open the door for the possibility of getting help and truly believing that they can and will get better.
- Avoid immediately moving to solutions. If you believe the child is in imminent danger, call 911 immediately, If not, take the time to listen first. Often kids just want to be heard, not spoken to or lectured
What other tips or strategies would you add to this list? Check back next Monday for another #MentalHealthMonday tip.