Mental health conversation starters: 6–10 years

Starting school, navigating friendships and building resilience – the focus shifts to the outside world

UNICEF Kazakhstan/2021/Roman Gussak
28 June 2022

As your child starts school, their physical, mental and social skills are developing rapidly. They are learning to describe experiences and talk more about their emotions.

Friendships and peer pressure start becoming more important as they shift their focus from home to the world outside.

By spending more time outside home, your child is gaining a sense of responsibility and learning to be independent.

Some older children will start to go through puberty and will show physical changes, as well as emotional ones.

Time to check in

Starting school brings children face-to-face with the outside world and is a major life event!

It is a critical time for children to develop confidence in all areas of life, such as navigating relationships, learning at school and sports, and managing their emotions. Checking in on how they’re doing and supporting them along the way can help them foster resilience and mental well-being.

How to start the conversation

  • Start by asking how they’re doing. Talk to your child about school, friends, the things they like and dislike doing and what they find difficult.
  • Use everyday events that cause positive and negative emotions – like winning at sports or scoring low grades – to check in on how your child feels and to forge a strong bond with them.
  • As they get older, and if appropriate to your child’s development, talk about the normal physical and emotional changes of puberty and help them to know what to expect. Check in on how they’re feeling, if they have any worries or questions you can talk through together.

Maintain an open, trusting and loving environment

Help your child feel comfortable about opening up to you.

  • Your child wants to be liked and accepted by people around them. Being accepted by you is the first step toward building confidence.
  • Be mindful of the examples you set. Your child looks to you and picks up on your emotions and how you respond to different situations.
  • Recognize their accomplishments and good behaviour. Praise them by focusing on their actions (“you worked hard on this and it really shows!”) rather than them as a person (“Oh, you’re smart!”).

Remember: Your time is a precious gift for your child

  • Saying “I love you” or hugging your child are not the only ways to show affection.
  • Really listen and show a genuine interest in what they have to say.
  • Have fun together with special activities no matter how small.
  • Include them in family decisions like what to eat for dinner.
  • Let them know that you love them no matter what, even when they make mistakes.

See more parenting tips and resources on family well-being>>