At Natterhub, we want parents and carers to feel comfortable talking to their children about mental health. Being online is a huge part of our daily lives, and we should be aware of the issues that can come from spending time in a virtual space.
Mental health issues can occur for a number of reasons:
- Lack of sleep
- Lack of physical activity
- Poor self-image or self-esteem
It is crucial that, as trusted adults, we know how to help.
Symptoms to watch out for
Sometimes it can be hard to figure out what’s going on in a child’s head. If you’re unsure whether or not there’s something wrong, ask yourself these questions:
- Has there been any change in your child’s personality?
- Has your child shown any uncharacteristic anger, moodiness or anxiety?
- Are they less interested in social activities than usual? Are they using devices more?
- Is there a lack of self-care?
- Does your child seem overwhelmed or lethargic?
What to do if your child comes to you with a problem
If your child does come to you one day and say they want to talk about something, just take a deep breath and follow these simple steps:
1. Listen (and look)!
You might be scared or shocked to realise that something’s wrong with your child, but try to react calmly. If you’re there for your child when they come to you with ‘small problems’, it’ll be easier for them to bring up the big ones in the future. Watch their body language for any other indicator of what might be wrong.
2. Make your child feel safe
The best thing you can do for your child is to be empathetic. Reassure them that, together, you can figure out a way to make things better. Even if they’ve done something wrong, threatening to remove devices isn’t a good idea - it can create anxiety and shut down any further communication.
3. Try a ‘sideways’ conversation
It might feel like the best way to show you’re paying attention is to look your child in the eyes as they talk, but this might make them feel less comfortable. ‘Sideways’ conversations - while you’re taking a walk or driving in the car, for example - might make things easier.
4. Normalise language about mental health
Talking about your feelings with your child will make them more likely to open up to you! Ask lots of open questions, but also be mindful of the language you use surrounding mental health. Derogatory terms like ‘mental’ and ‘crazy’ won’t encourage a child to speak openly.
5. Know when to seek outside help
If you aren’t sure exactly how to help your child, don’t worry! There’s no shame in not having all the answers right away. Just be honest with your child and talk about how you are going to find a solution by asking for help.
Places to Go for Help
If you’re worried about your child’s mental health, you can speak to your GP. There are also lots of organisations dedicated to improving children’s mental wellbeing, and we’ve listed some of them below: