Talking to Your Kids About Mental Health After School Shootings
Blog Introduction: In the wake of recent school shootings, it’s natural to feel scared and overwhelmed. As parents, how do we talk to our children about mental health in a way that is both informative and reassuring? It can be difficult to find the right words to discuss such a serious topic, but it is essential that we use this opportunity to educate our kids on mental health, in order for them to understand why these events occur and how they can better care for themselves and others.
The Basics of Mental Health
When talking with your kids about mental health, it’s important to start by explaining what mental health is. Mental health refers to our emotional wellbeing and overall state of mind. It’s normal for everyone to experience ups and downs in their mental health throughout life, but when someone experiences prolonged periods of distress or difficulty managing emotions, this could be an indication of a more serious issue.
It’s important for your children to understand that there are many types of mental illness and many different ways that people cope with them. Mental illnesses include depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders, personality disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), substance abuse disorders, and more. Each person will experience their own unique symptoms which may need professional help or medication in order to manage them effectively.
Having Conversations About Mental Illness
It is essential that your conversations around mental health are honest yet sensitive. Explain that it is normal for everyone—including people they know—to experience various levels of distress from time to time. It is also important for your children to understand that having a mental illness does not make someone ‘dangerous’ or ‘evil’; rather it means they may need extra support in order for them to live happy and productive lives. Above all else, remind your children that if anyone ever has any questions or concerns about their own or someone else’s mental wellbeing then you are always available as a source of support.
Though it can be daunting talking about school shootings with our kids—especially given the sensitivity of the topic—it's important that we use this opportunity as an educational moment on mental health. By starting honest yet sensitive conversations around the subject we can begin helping our kids develop empathy towards those struggling with their own mental wellbeing while educating them on how best to take care of themselves and those around them during times like these.