Mental Health Conversations I'll Have with My Young Daughter
Mental health conversations are important at every age and stage of development. As a parent, there’s a lot I want to tell my young daughter about mental health, so hopefully one day she will be a confident woman with a healthy life. She will grow up with me speaking openly about my mental illness as I always have. I hope in return she will feel comfortable talking about mental health as well. I plan on having mental health conversations early and keep the discussion going throughout her childhood. Here are three points I really want to get across.
3 Mental Health Conversation Points to Young Children
Positive mental health means you’re not always going to be happy, and that’s okay.
As your parent, I hope there will be lots of fun and happy times while you’re growing up, but sometimes you will feel sad, disappointed, angry, embarrassed, and lots of other emotions. There are lots of awkward moments in childhood, and that’s just part of learning and growing. You will not be happy all the time. It’s okay to not be okay.
Others are not always going to be happy, either, so be kind.
If someone is feeling sad or angry, remember you’ve felt that way before, too. Practice empathy. Be kind and patient. Also, if you see another kid at school having a hard time, be inclusive. Everyone deserves a friend and to feel understood.
It’s okay to ask for help with your mental health.
If you are having mental illness symptoms that interfere with your functioning, please ask for help. An example of this could be you’ve felt sad for the past couple weeks and have a hard time getting out of bed. You’ve avoided leaving the house. Maybe you’ve lost interest and haven’t participated in the things you love for a while. These could be possible signs of mental health issues. If you think you need help, don’t wait.
There have been times when I’ve had mental health symptoms and I hesitated to ask for help. I always regretted it because I suffered longer than I needed to. If you ever feel suicidal, ask for help right away (Risk Factors for Child and Teen Suicide). Remember, mental illnesses are treatable, and symptoms and feelings are almost always temporary. No one deserves to suffer.
Mental Health Conversations in the Future
As a mom, there’s so much I want to tell my daughter, and hopefully, over the years there will be lots of time for mental health conversations. I am a first-time parent and would love to learn from others. My daughter is 21 months old, so we have lots of time ahead of us for mental health conversations.
Parents, what have you taught your children about mental health? Please tell your stories in the comments.
Rahm, M. (2018, February 7). Mental Health Conversations I'll Have with My Young Daughter, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, July 3 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2018/02/parenting-and-mental-health-what-i-want-to-tell-my-daughter
Author: Megan Rahm
Those are great points to bring up with a young child. You've clearly thought a lot about this and you know what kind of picture you want to paint about mental illness for your daughter. I have a little niece, and I would like to ask your opinion on what I should say to her. She's just 2 and a half this month, so very young to be understanding any of this so far.
I used to self-injure. For a very long time. And, as much as I hate to admit it, there have been relapses, but for the most part it's a thing of the past.
Last summer, she pointed to a scar on my arm and said "ouchie". My sister saw it and within minutes was asking me to please wear long sleeves around her daughter. Which I did for awhile, but I'm just not willing to sweat out the rest of my life in hiding, especially when I'm around family.
My fear is that this year, as we get into the warmer weather, she'll be noticing things again, and she's that little bit older so that she'll understand just a little bit more. I've thought and thought about what I should say to her, but every single time I come up with something, there's a little nagging voice telling me that I should just keep it hidden and let her mom explain it to her when she's older.
What are your thoughts on this?
Hi KTB, thank you so much for your kind comment and for sharing your story. I think a lot of people are in your position, wondering what the "right" thing to do is.
I'm not sure there's one right answer for all of us, but it seems to me that you want to create a healthy narrative of honesty around mental health, even the parts that can be scary, and I think that's commendable.
Personally, I think it's possible to explain your scars to your niece in a meaningful but not-too-intense way. I think the key is to keep it short and stay on-message, which is "This is a part of me, it was scary, but it's nothing to be ashamed of." Maybe tell her you used to give yourself ouchies because your brain was sick, but now you're trying to be much nicer to yourself.
I can't tell you exactly what to say, but I think it is possible to be open and honest with your niece, and I think that will be helpful for her in the long-run, to see that her aunt struggled with mental health but is still a wonderful person. If she ends up struggling with her own mental health, she will have an example in her mind that proves it's possible that she will be okay.
Have you googled how to explain self-harm scars to children? I'm sure there are others who have gone through this experience who have written about it.
Good luck KTB, this is a tough situation, but I think you can get through it. Sending warm vibes your way.