Talking about mental health at home: What do you wish your parents knew?
Some ideas for parents so that their children can better share what's on their mind
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Being able to communicate what’s on your mind with your loved ones is the first step to looking after your mental health. But sometimes, talking to your parents about your feelings and needs can feel difficult.
As part of our Youth Mediathon, a group of young people worked with UNICEF and pediatrician Hina Talib to create this guide for parents and young people, aiming to facilitate intergenerational conversations about mental health.
Scroll down to read more and meet the young creatives behind this project.
TIPS FOR PARENTS
Some ideas for parents so that we can better share what's on our mind:
1. Check on us
Parents should let us know that they care about our mental health. Most of the time young people hide their true feelings from their parents, but it’s important to check on them. That doesn’t mean parents need to know each and every detail of our life. Give us privacy. But they must know whether their child is alright.
2. Help us build a healthy parent-children relationship
Be someone we can trust. Be a good listener. Become a safe space so that your child can rely on you. Try to understand them and their way of thinking. Be friendly with them so that they can open up and share their problems with you.
Notice us. Try to understand if we are going through any mental health problems. If you suspect so, ask us about it in a gentle and caring way. Check if we need help.
Ask us how we are doing and make sure we realize you really mean it. Such as, "How are you today? Is everything alright?”
3. Listen and make an effort to understand
Parents should know that we have our own point of view and our own personality. Sometimes parents don’t take the problems of teenagers seriously, but they should try to be empathetic.
Listen to the whole story without interrupting, and try to listen from our point of view. Try to understand what we are going through. From their perspective, many things may not seem painful, but problems that seem normal to you can be strange and new for us.
And be aware that we are not always expecting you to give us advice. Sometimes we just want you to be a listener while we rant about things that are troubling us.
Sometimes you might not be hearing the right thing:
Have you ever felt this way?
"I feel like they will judge me if I talk about my mental health"
Everyone, parents included, can relate to this feeling of not wanting to open up or share thoughts, opinions, or experiences with someone else. Parents should be mindful of how they react to things their teenagers say or do. They should also try to create an open and safe environment free from any prejudice.
"They wouldn’t listen or try to understand. Their attitude towards me would change"
Teenagers go through a lot: physical changes, school workload, the increasing pressure to be socially acceptable. All these are quite a lot for a growing mind and body. They have questions and opinions. They want to say the big things and the little things. And they need ears that listen like it all matters. It does to them. While the times have changed, we were all once teenagers. If you are a parent, ask yourself: “How would you have wanted to be heard and understood then?”
"They will keep probing further or blow things out of proportion"
“Why are you making a mountain out of a molehill?” We have either asked, thought of asking, or been asked this question in the course of our existence on this planet. Parents, consider taking a deep breath before you ask that question next time. You might just end up hitting some delicate nerves that could prevent your child from opening up to you in the future.
"I genuinely do not know how to express myself at times"
Sometimes it just isn’t you, but us teenagers. There is a lot of self-discovery going on. There is also the question of how to pass the message we want to pass across and when? How do I communicate effectively? How best will I be heard? These, among many other things, constantly float around a teenager’s mind. And this is perfectly normal. To make things easier for us, parents can try to create a safe and open environment where we can freely express ourselves when we finally find how and are ready to.
TIPS FOR TEENS
There are ways through which opening up to parents can feel less arduous and less daunting a task for teenagers.
1. Take some time to think about what you want to tell them: Put your thoughts together. If you feel overwhelmed, you don’t have to go through it all at once. Just sharing some of what you’ve been feeling is a great first step, and you can continue to talk over the next few days or weeks as you open up more.
2. Choose the right time and the right mode of communication. Choose a time when your parents are free to talk or start off by telling them that you want to talk to them about something important.
3. Be honest and open: If you have decided to speak, speak with your heart. You may hesitate about bringing emotional or mental health issues to parents, worrying that they won’t take you seriously or that the conversation could feel embarrassing. It’s understandable, but remember most times parents just want the best for their children.
4. Be patient and don’t be discouraged. Your parents might have lots of questions for you. They might want to know how long things have been like this, or what they can do to help. Be prepared for this, and let them know if you’re feeling overwhelmed and need to take a break. Don’t be afraid to seek counselling. Ask your parents to help you book an appointment with a doctor. You might also ask your parents to accompany you to see a therapist.