Parenting can be really difficult sometimes.
No matter your child’s age, it’s always difficult to communicate with them on their level; especially when they’re going through tough times. A topic that isn’t spoken about too often, but needs more awareness, is how to effectively communicate with a child that is experiencing mental health trauma. Identifying the signs and symptoms of mental health disorders in your child and communicating with them in an open, caring manner that shows that you want to listen is key. Let’s look at the best practices for nurturing your child in a supportive manner that keeps them from experiencing any type of mental health trauma.
Child Mental Health
Current estimations in the U.S. show that 20% of children (1 in 5) experience a mental disorder every year. That comes with a $247 billion price tag every year for treatment and management services. This is not to mention that 1 out of 7 U.S. children aged 2 to 8 years have a diagnosed mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder (MBDD) as of parent-reported information from the 2011-12 National Survey of Children’s Health. Speculation for the cause of development of MBDDs is thought to be related to various family, community, and health-care factors.
Understanding the signs and symptoms of mental health can help you, as a parent, help you child if you notice they are becoming distressed by the current state of their life. MBDDs can cause a child to lose their interest in activities and/or negatively impact their friendships, grades, and mood. Child behaviors such as spending all their time at home in their rooms and/or becoming distant and morose out of nowhere, might signal mental health problems that are deeper than surface level.
Effective Communication Strategies
If you believe that your child is exhibiting these traits or behaviors, talking to them in an open and compassionate way is always the best solution. Being as non-judgmental as possible and taking the time to listen to what your child must say without responding with how you would have handled what they are going through at their age. Try to be as positive as possible when you listen to your child’s experiences and look for ways to validate their emotions and provide them with words of affirmation in response whenever possible. Examples of words of affirmation in this specific scenario would be:
“You are strong and capable.”
“You deserve to be happy.”
“You will come through this challenge with a better understanding of yourself.”
Communicate to your child that the emotions that they are feeling are healthy and normal and offer your support to them if they need it (don’t sweat it if they don’t need it right away). The initial conversation should plant the seed that opens the door to future conversations related to mental health if and when your child is ready to speak to you about it. When your child seeks you out for a conversation on mental health related topics be sure to be available for them and allow them to talk openly. This will allow your child to cope with these new emotions that they are experiencing in a healthy way and learn social communication skills that will help them get ahead in life.
If your child is non-communicative or reluctant to speak about what’s on their mind, you are welcome to download Speakprose for free onto an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, and introduce it to them as a way to start to open up and share what’s on their mind.