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Nationwide encourages parents to discuss mental health with their kids

Special to the Legal News

Published: May 10, 2022

While most parents understand the importance of talking with their children about mental health, many are unsure of where to begin, officials at Nationwide Children’s Hospital noted at an announcement recently of a new campaign to help foster such conversations.
Hospital mental health officials cited a recent Harris Poll that found fewer than half of all respondents said they experienced open conversations about mental health while they were growing up.
“We know that conversation is one of the simplest, most effective ways to make an impact, break stigma and give kids a voice when it comes to their mental health,” said Ariana Hoet, the clinical director of national children’s mental health movement On Our Sleeves and pediatric psychologist at Nationwide. “Our research shows that parents know this, too and they’ve shared that they need additional support in starting and maintaining these important mental health conversations.”
The survey also revealed that a vast majority ––93%––of parents of minors said it is important for them and caregivers to talk to their children about mental health, while more than half of them need direction about how to broach the subject.
The national effort devised a campaign to encourage adults to sit down with their children to start, and continue, the conversation to support mental health.
Allowing children to have a regular, open space to share their thoughts, feelings and emotions should increase the likelihood that parents and caregivers will notice when their children need support with a mental health concern, officials said.
Titled Operation: Conversation, the campaign offers the following tips to parents who wish to begin these important conversations:
• Set the stage. The work begins before you even start the conversation. If your family creates a daily habit of checking in and talking with each other, it will make conversations about their mental health or concerns easier.
• Ask open-ended questions. These conversations can include all kinds of topics, not just emotions or behaviors. Remember, your goal is to create the habit of feeling comfortable sharing with you.
• Find the right time for difficult conversations. Pick a time when everyone is calm and emotions are not high. Ask permission to start the conversation and if your child is not ready, ask them when a good time would be. Make sure you’re in a private area with low interruptions.
“After more than two years living through a global pandemic that has been difficult on children’s mental health, these conversations are more important than ever,” Hoet added. “On Our Sleeves is here to support adults on how to create an environment where children in their lives feel comfortable coming to them and talking about their day to day or any obstacles that come up.”
The program offers conversation starters, tip sheets and educational resources to open the lines of communication between caregivers and children. Additionally, it is intended to show parents how to react to conversations in a positive way that won’t lead children to shut down, feel worse or not be open to talking in the future.
For more information and resources to start conversations with children that promote mental wellbeing, visit OnOurSleeves.org.
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