In today's episode of The Psychology World Podcast, we're going to be talking about the abnormal and clinical psychology topic of How to Talk to Children About Mental Health Conditions?
So I wanted to talk about this clinical psychology topic because the Pandemic is putting a lot of strain on mental health. Especially for children, as they haven't been able to go to school and see their friends for a long time.
Therefore, a child might come to you and speak about what they're worried they might have a specific mental condition, or they're worried they might have something but don't know what.
Also, it's important to note that it has probably taken the child a lot of courage to tell an adult this. Therefore, it's important to be supportive and actively listen.
In the rest of this clinical psychology podcast episode, I want to explain some things you shouldn't say to children.
I should add I have personal experience with a lot in today's episode, but because it's personal, I won't give specific examples.
What Not to Say to Children When Talking Their Mental Health
"We all feel or do that sometimes,"
Personally, I understand why a parent might want to say this because they want to be supportive and they want to relax their child. So they don't think anything is wrong with them.
However, this can be quite damaging since this is being dismissive towards the child and it probably makes them feel stupid or bad for coming to see you. Meaning if they do have a mental health condition and it gets more severe, they probably won't come forward. Leading them to suffer in silence.
In addition, by saying this, the adult is shutting down important conversations before the child has fully explained themselves.
"You'll grow out of it,"
This is another initially logically thing to say to children because you want to reassure them that they would always feel like this. However, considering in my Abnormal Psychology book I explain a few mental conditions that get worse over time. This is reasonably danger advice.
Since yes the child might grow out of this phase of the mental condition only to move into more severe phrases. All of which could have been avoided if a conversation was had earlier.
Also, even if this doesn't happen, this is still invalidating their current problems. I know this from personal experience and sadly children are quite often left to suffer in silence until they grow out of it.
"You don’t have anything to be sad about,"
At first, this may sound like a good point because people in the west tend to have plenty of food, fresh drinking water at a moment's notice and plenty of money. So, I think it's understandable to say this to a child.
Equally, this can be a way for an adult to say focus on the positives to a child.
However, this can still be very damaging to children because if an adult says this to someone then this plays into the guilt the child is already experiencing. Since they feel bad for struggling because they believe they shouldn't be 'messed up' or suffering.
So, it's important not to say this to children and try and be more supportive instead.
"Don't tell others about this,"
Again, this is logical, but this can come from a caring place. As a parent might not want their child to be bullied for suffering a mental health condition or being excluded.
Yet this can come from a bad place to as the adult or parents might not want their child to tell others because they feel ashamed their child is suffering. And it makes them bad parents.
However, this reinforces the child's idea that they're messed up, it's their fault and something is wrong with them. Over time this makes their concerns worse and it doesn't improve their mental health.
Lastly, this reinforces the idea that mental health difficulties are a taboo subject that must not be spoken about. This stigma must go so people might get the help they need and improve their lives.
What Should You Say to a Child?
Throughout this entire clinical psychology episode, I've been telling you what you should say so the key in these types of conversations is to listen carefully and have a supportive conversation. And you could say the following:
"How does the stuff we've just spoken about make you feel?"
“I’m glad you felt able to talk to me about this.”
"Do you have any ideas about what you’d like us to do next? (It’s ok if you don’t.)”
Again, the key is to be supportive and listen.
I hope you found this abnormal and clinical psychology episode useful. If you know to learn more, please check out the links below.
Have a great day, everyone!
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