We understand that when you think your child may be experiencing some issues, or is worrying about something, it can be difficult to broach the subject. You want your child to always be happy, so believing they are struggling with their mental health can be difficult for any parent.
Talking can be extremely helpful for your child and you. Here’s our advice on how to start the conversation.
How is your child behaving?
You probably know your child better than anyone, so you are best placed to notice if they are quieter than normal, or if they are spending more time alone and less time socialising with their friends. Start by observing what is different.
Find some time
Active listening is when you are not thinking about anything apart from what is being said to you. Set aside some time when it is just you and your child so you can talk without any distractions. It can be beneficial to take the conversation out of the house – perhaps go for a walk together, a drive or out for lunch.
Use open-ended questions
It may be difficult to get the conversation going, but try using open-ended questions. Saying “Tell me how you are feeling” instead of “How are you feeling?” may encourage your child to open up and not just give one-word answers.
Listen and avoid judgement
You may not agree with everything your child says, but to encourage an open conversation and ensure they continue to come to you when they want to talk, try to understand their feelings. Not rebutting their points can really help to build trust and shows they can share their feelings without fear of being judged. If they have concerns about how they handled something, instead of criticising them, focus on what they can do differently if they are in the same situation again.
Include some positivity
During your conversation try to include something positive and not dwell on mistakes or failures. This could be praising them for doing something good recently, letting them know you received an email from one of their teachers saying they have been working hard, or simply suggesting that the two of you regularly spend more time together, or you are going to help them find someone more professional for support.
It may be easier for a child to speak with someone who isn’t their parent or a family member. Anyone at the school will always listen, so you can encourage them to speak to us if they are having worries.
Find another way to communicate
There may be occasions when your child will find it difficult to talk to you face-to-face. They may open up more if you have a text conversation about how they are feeling or give them a pen and a piece of paper and ask them to write it down in their own time. Simply knowing that you care and want to help them feel better will encourage your child to open up.
Well Aware is our mental health support programme. We have mental health first aiders on site and provide a variety of services to support students who are experiencing mental ill health, as well as working closely with external support groups. The programme is not just for our students as we also offer parent support groups and advice.