Mental health has taken a front seat in today’s fast moving world. It has became more of a chronic disease. With this new world of COVID-19 mental health has become visible in people’s daily lives and conversations. With this in mind I wanted to find a way to speak with my almost four (4) year old son about this sensitive and very much beyond his understanding topic. I couldn’t find ways to bring this up to him in a better way than to talk at his level of understanding. After much thought here is how I put together and initiated the conversation with him and helped him understand the concept of “Mental Health”, “Importance of Talking” and “Letting it Out”. Shared below are tips and topics to get the conversation starting. Be sure to download these documents that can help your child(ren) self analyze and get help when needed.
Defining and Understanding Mental Health – Ask below questions to your child(ren) and hear what their responses are:
- Do you know the word “Mental Health”?
- How do you feel when you are happy?
- How do you feel when you are sad?
- What do you want to do when you are upset or angry? (I am not keen on using the term angry but might want to put it out there)
- When mama or papa refuses to buy you a toy that you like, or tell you to do something you do not like, how do you react or feel?
- Are there times when you feel you want to talk? Do you tell mama, papa, grand pa, grand ma, or your teacher, and friends about how you feel? Does sharing with someone make you feel better?
Tips on staying Mentally Healthy – These are coping techniques to try with your child(ren) in different situations discussed above to help them become more aware and confident in conversations:
- If you do not know why something happens in a certain way, ask. For example, you do not know why mama and papa has to work, ask them. To understand why working is important. And also tell them if you are worried about anything when mama and papa work such as you cannot play with them or talk to them, etc.
- Share your feelings every time with everyone around you.
- If you are happy – say and express it. Laugh, dance, sing!
- If you are sad – tell why you are sad. And do things that make you feel better. Think of things that made you sad and try to not do it again or find another way.
- If you are upset – share why? Are you anxious or scared and it is making you upset. You are worried of doing something you do not like and so you are upset. Share your fears to get help.
- If you are angry – do not speak right away. Take a deep breath and calm down before talking to someone. Be sure to talk after you feel comfortable
- Meditate when you can to relax your mind and body (for young kids it is a fun thing to do, just sit on the floor, take a deep breath, and chant “OM”!
- Do fun things such as art and craft activities to express your emotions, feelings, and thoughts.
- Always, always, always talk to someone you are comfortable talking with!
I am and understand that this is a very sensitive and complicated conversation for kids to understand. But introducing the basics at an early age can go a long way. Also encourage your child(ren) to talk about their experiences outside home i.e. at school or day care centre, and share if they are being bullied, or name-called, or facing any sort of differentiation (discrimination is too hard on their minds for now). The one and only solution to addressing mental health is creating an awareness and educating them at the young age to get the conversation going.