How to Talk to Your Child About Mental Health

Just as you discuss physical health with your child - eating nutritious foods, getting enough sleep, brushing teeth - it’s important to talk to them about mental health. By being proactive and creating an open, trusting relationship, you can foster resilience, emotional intelligence, and a sense of security in your child. It can be difficult to know what to say, especially if your own parents didn’t provide much guidance around mental health. With anxiety and depression on the rise among children, having these conversations is now more important than ever.

Fostering an Open and Trusting Relationship

The best way to make sure your child will feel comfortable discussing their mental health with you is to foster an open and trusting relationship with them. Here are some tips to create a safe environment for your child to discuss their feelings:

Create a Safe and Supportive Environment

Children need to feel safe to open up. When your child does open up to you about something, try to listen first. Ask basic questions if needed (“What happened next?” “How did that make you feel?”), but avoid jumping in to pass judgment, give advice, or tell them how they should feel.

Be Available and Present

Make sure your child knows that you are always available when they need to talk. When they do come to you, be present. This means setting aside distractions and focusing entirely on them during conversations. By showing that you are consistently available and supportive, you build a foundation of trust.

Use Active Listening Techniques

When your child speaks, reflect back what they are saying to show you understand their feelings. For example, they say they are sad, you might respond with, "I hear that you're feeling sad. Do you want to talk more about what's making you feel this way?"

Encourage Open Communication

Life gets busy, but make sure to regularly check in with your child about their day and feelings. Normalize conversations about emotions and mental health by discussing them openly and without stigma. Encourage your child to ask questions and express their concerns, reinforcing that no topic is off-limits.

Talking About Mental Health with Your Child

With so much stigma around mental health, it can be hard to know exactly what to say to children about it. Use these strategies to take the fear and stigma out of the topic so that you can discuss it regularly with your child:

Normalize Mental Health as Part of Overall Health

Help your child understand that mental health is just as important as physical health. Discuss common mental health issues in a way that is relatable. For example, explain that feeling sad or worried sometimes is normal, but if these feelings last a long time, it's okay to ask for help.

Be Honest About Your Own Mental Health

Sharing your own experiences with mental health can be a powerful way to normalize these discussions. Be honest, but keep it age-appropriate. Explain how you manage your mental health and emphasize the importance of seeking help when needed. For instance, you might say, "Sometimes I feel anxious, and when I do, I take deep breaths and talk to someone I trust."

Use Age-Appropriate Language

Tailor your explanations to your child's age and developmental level. Use simple and clear language to describe mental health concepts. For younger children, you might explain that mental health is like physical health—sometimes we feel good, and sometimes we need extra care.

Provide Reassurance and Support

Reassure your child that it's okay to have difficult emotions and struggles. Emphasize that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Let them know you are there to support them no matter what.

Identify and Name Emotions

Help your child recognize and label their emotions from a young age. Use examples and stories to illustrate different feelings and experiences. For instance, you might say, "When I feel nervous, my stomach feels tight. Do you ever feel that way?"

Model Healthy Coping Strategies

Demonstrate and discuss healthy ways to cope with stress and emotions. Encourage activities such as mindfulness, exercise, and creative expression. Share your own coping strategies, like noticing and naming your feelings, taking a walk when feeling overwhelmed, or practicing deep breathing.

Start these conversations about mental health early and continue them often! By normalizing the topic of mental health and fostering a trusting relationship with your child, you can create a supportive environment where they know they can come to you with their struggles.

When to Seek Help

Be on the lookout for signs that your child might need professional support, such as prolonged sadness, withdrawal, or changes in behavior. If you decide that it’s time to get them some professional help, try to include them in the process. Explain the role of mental health professionals and how they can help. Let your child know that seeing a therapist is just like seeing a doctor for physical health. Explain what to expect from therapy in a reassuring way. For example, you might say, "A therapist is someone who helps us understand our feelings better and teaches us ways to feel better."

Therapy for Teens at Medens Health

At Medens Health, we offer therapy for adolescents ages 13-17, as well as guidance and support for parents. Our trained mental health professionals can provide a safe and supportive space for your child as they navigate the rapid changes that this period of life brings. By enabling them to express their feelings and learn healthy coping mechanisms, our team will support your child’s social and emotional development, as well as their overall well-being.

To find a therapist for your teen, call or text (833) 624-5400, fill out our contact form, or get started here!


The information provided in this blog is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Reliance on any information this blog provides is solely at your own risk. Always seek the advice of your physician or a qualified mental health provider with any questions regarding your medical or mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who is qualified to give you safe, professional, and ethical advice regarding your mental health.

If you or someone you are responsible for is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should call 9-1-1 and/or take them to the nearest emergency room.