The Importance Of Mental Health Check-Ins With Children

Building My Islands of Competence(1)

Children are often left out of serious conversations about mental health because many fear they are too young to understand the complexity of what mental health is. However, it is essential to speak with children in a way that isn’t condescending or “dumbed down.”

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Children Run The World

No seriously, children are at the center of our world. Not only do we have to cater to their needs to ensure that they are growing as happily and healthily as they can, but we also have to provide support where those needs cannot be met. Children are the people who push this world forward; they are the epicenter of vulnerability, change, education, and understanding. With all of that on their small plates, it’s no guess that children fall under the same stress and hardships that adults face every day. They feel anger, sadness, and judgment just as adults do, but many children lack the language or authority to speak about their problems. This is exactly why mental health check-ins with children are crucial to building a better and brighter world for future generations.

Mental Health & Children

When we think of mental health, we likely picture an adult that is routinely checking in with themselves to make sure that their mental, physical, and spiritual bodies are all balanced. Are we extending that same thought to children? Conversations surrounding mental health often leave children out of the picture due to the presumed belief that children’s lives are easier and simpler than their adult counterparts. While it may be true that children and adults don’t face the same tasks like taxes or bills, the underlying emotions that fuel these stressors can be found in anyone at any age. Just because a child’s source of stress may seem trivial to an adult doesn’t mean that they are less deserving of the care and empathy that comes with mental health check-ins. As adults and parents, we have to ensure that our children feel safe enough to open up about their experiences so that they can have the resources and tools they may need to see their hardships through. 

(And, on a side note, our children face very different stressors that lead to far more anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation than any other generation before them. Indeed, they have immediate access to information about our crisis-saturated world, which creates a lot of stress and anxiety.)

The Importance Of Check-Ins

Mental health check-ins can be thought of as progress reports: when your child presents to you something that is unsatisfactory or makes them vulnerable, then you know exactly where they may require additional support in the future. These check-ins can be as simple as asking about their day and being open about the conversation that they bring to you, no matter what is said.

Another way you can check in is by asking specific questions about things you may suspect they struggle with. If your child has a hard time opening up and being vulnerable then providing these check-ins may demonstrate to them that you will always be there for them, waiting with patient ears to hear about what stresses them. When children are given the proper care and guidance in their mental health journey they can put their healing journey first and be the light that guides others to do the same.  

With my teenage daughter, we have a journal we pass back and forth. I can ask questions and she can share personal information she finds hard to talk about verbally. (What goes in the journal stays in the journal – no pressure to talk about it later on.) We also have a date night once a month with both of our girls. And we all know that we parents get to ask them any three questions and they get to ask us any three questions. Definitely lots of in-depth conversations that happen!

Help Your Child Today

Whether your child is going through a rough time at school, is struggling with friends, or is having difficulties at home, there is always time and space for listening to their grievances and understanding their perspective. Giving your child the same attention you would an adult in their time of need will drastically affect the way they see themselves and their problems. They will become more assertive in asking for what they deserve, will be able to communicate what they are feeling more accurately, and will be more open to vulnerable experiences in the future.

Every child deserves their voice to be heard; as a parent, you can be the first example for your child of what it looks like to take care of your mental health before it is too late. If you feel like your child may require external guidance on how to navigate their big feelings, please do not hesitate to reach out to one of our therapists.  We will help your child through whatever obstacles may be standing in the way of their healing journey.