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A Parent's Guide to Kid's Mental Health


Article by Hayley Hyer

Photography by Stock Images

It's natural to worry and wonder how your kids are doing—whether you're in a global pandemic or not. Here are some useful tools for talking to your kids about how they feel, addressing COVID-19 with them, introducing meditation and so much more.

How to Talk to Kids About COVID-19

We're a little ways into the COVID-19 pandemic, and the end is not exactly clear yet. At this point, you have probably already received quite a few questions from your kids, and you've done your best to answer them honestly without invoking unnecessary fear. It's hard to know the best way to talk about adult situations with the little ones we want to protect. Deborah Farmer Kris wrote the guide How to Talk to Your Kids About Coronavirus to give parents a resource so you aren't all alone in this conversation. Even if you've already been discussing it with your children, it may still help to give this a read.

How to Check on Your Kid's Mental Health

As a parent, it's natural to be constantly worried about your children. It means you understand the responsibility of raising a little human in this world and being the one to answer most of their questions and teach them how to treat others and themselves respect.

But there are also so many factors that you cannot control in your child's life, and while you are doing everything you can to protect them and raise them in a loving home, they will go through tough times, and they may experience things that have a lasting effect on them.

If you are worried about your child's mental health, there are now so many resources for children that psychologists and therapists didn't always have in years past. You can start with this Child Mental Health Checklist by Beyond Blue to look for any signs of mental health struggles your child may be experiencing.

Just know that if you do see some of these symptoms in your child's behavior, it does not mean you are a bad parent or that you have failed. In fact, you are doing a wonderful job by checking in and looking into the resources that could help while your child is still young, growing and learning.

DIY Mental Health Check-In for Your Kids

Before the times of quarantine, Good Morning America reported a heartwarming and encouraging story, This Teacher Created a Mental Health Check-In Chart for Her Students, that tells of a high school teacher who made this mental health chart for her students. If you are homeschooling your kids right now or just want a creative way to see how they are feeling each day, you can DIY your own version of this chart and even get your kids involved in the decoration process. Just grab some poster board, stickers, glitter pens, post-it notes and whatever else you want to use.

Each morning, you kids can pick a post-it note to put next to how they are feeling, and you can give them the freedom to move their post-it note throughout the day to easily communicate with you any shifts in their moods. This will hopefully lead to more communication and openness among siblings and everyone else in the family!

How to Introduce Meditation to Your Kids

Kids are incredible. Their little brains soak up information so quickly, and their curiosity allows them to be more open and accepting to new ideas and concepts.

If you have been getting into meditation or considering trying it for yourself, you can also share the practice with your children. It's a wonderful way to teach them patience and also to give them a tool to release stress. As with anything, the younger you start, the easier it is later on.

Check out some of theses resources for guided meditations for kids.

How to Boost Your Child's Mental Health

When it comes down to it, raising a little human is scary. You want the absolute best for them, and then you have to watch life happen and accept the things that are outside of your control. Luckily, there's a lot you can do to encourage the growth of your child's mental health, which will help them handle life's ups and downs a little smoother and come out a little stronger. Angela Pruess, a licensed child therapist and mom of three children, wrote 100 Everyday Ways to Strengthen Your Child’s Mental Health on Parents with Confidence to help you out.

Talking to Your Kids About Mental Health

Even when you have a close, trusting relationship with your children, it can be hard to bring up certain serious topics. Mental health is one that still has a heavy stigma, so it can be daunting to try to talk about in a positive way. What words should you use? Which phrases should you avoid? Even though it's tough, it's important to communicate to your kids that you are someone they can go to for those difficult topics. You want them to know you are a resource for them and that they will never be in trouble or shamed for how they are feeling. Parent Toolkit provides some great advice in Tough Talks: How to Talk to Your Child About Mental Health.

45 Questions Your Kids Want to Answer

I don't have my own kids, but I was a nanny for several years, and even I am familiar with the awkwardly silent car rides when kids don't feel like talking. As a nanny, it's not a huge problem. My job was to keep them safe and also provide some fun, so I'd give them time to wind down from school during the car ride and then start the games and fun when we got home.

But for parents, you want to connect with your kids on a deeper level. You want to know what they are thinking about, what fears they have and how you can help with anything they are struggling with. And even if you are home with them all day, it can still feel hard to communicate at times.

Imperfect Families is a great parenting resource, and they put together a list of 45 questions that will get your kids talking, plus some communication tips, in How to Ask Simple Open-Ended Questions Kids Really Want to Answer.

Follow Hayley Hyer @hayhyer