Getting your tween to open up about mental health is not always an easy thing to do. They can often feel nervous and sometimes embarrassed to talk about mental health as unfortunately, there has been a stigma attached to the topic for too long. Tweens can often feel worried about telling their parents about any struggles they may be having mentally for fear of their reaction. This is why we need to create a safe space for them to express their feelings openly, remove the stigma and get people talking about their mental health.
As it can be such a sensitive topic at all ages, younger people in particular, we’ve come up with a list of ways you can encourage your tween to open up about any mental health issues so they can be given the support they need. Have a look at our list below and start an important conversation in your family.
Watch movies & shows together
Seeing people on-screen being open and honest about their own mental health battles can help to encourage the younger generation to open up about their own struggles. If your tween can see someone they can relate to, this can be helpful for them to understand that it’s okay to talk about it, and is a great opportunity for you to ask questions, as you can use the character for reference. Good examples are Perks of Being a Wallflower, Inside Out, and It’s Kind of a Funny Story.
The last thing a nervous tween wants their parent to do when they open up about something personal is for them to explode with anger. Even if you don’t understand why they feel a certain way or don’t like that they’ve not told you how they feel before, keep a level head and this can help to make them want to share their feelings more in the future.
Let them take control
If your tween doesn’t want to talk about mental health or mental illness the moment you bring it up to them, that’s okay. Let them know you are always there for them. Or, if they are trying to tell you something but they are struggling, give them time. Don’t be impatient and force it out of them because even knowing they can talk to you about any issues they may be having with their mental health, is great.
Just because you can’t see why what your tween says is bothering them is making them feel that way, that doesn’t mean you can invalidate their feelings. Judging them is going to make them feel misunderstood, unheard and will discourage them from talking about their mental health in the future.
Normalise their feelings
Most people have had feelings of being in a low-point in their life, experienced feelings of depression or felt like they are lonely. Let your child know that they are not alone with these feelings and that things will get better. If they need professional help, make sure they get it, and remind them that these services are there for a reason, and that it’s okay that they use them.
Take time out of your day to focus on mindfulness because this will not only benefit your tween, but also you! Even if it’s 10 minutes meditation, 15 minutes of an uplifting podcast, or a quick diary entry about how they feel today, incorporating mindfulness into everyday life will encourage your child to continue this practice and be aware of their mental health.
Do fun things together
There is often so much negativity associated with mental health illness, so in order to make the topic fun for a child, add some positivity to it. Make up a game to play where you can talk about different emotions or write a letter to each other expressing any mental health concerns or questions. Adding positivity to the subject can help your tween to understand that they don’t need to be scared or embarrassed to talk about it.
Organise daily or weekly check-ins with no distractions where you and your tween can discuss the topic of mental health or mental health illnesses. Make it a routine and both of you will look forward to talking about it, rather than worrying about when the conversation will happen.