Early Learning and Elementary: Mental Health
Email Header
Full Image
April 2022

Having good mental health is a key part of wellbeing for children and adults alike. Some parents find it hard to talk to their children about mental health, because they’re worried the topic might be upsetting, they don’t know how to talk about it or they think it’s something kids don’t need to know about.  
But talking to children about mental health from a young age can help them understand their emotions, become more resilient, reduce stigma about mental illness, and teach them how to look after themselves mentally as well as physically. There are simple ways to make this topic a normal part of everyday conversation with children. Read on for tips on talking about mental health with children.
 mental health and culture
Culture can impact mental health in various ways because culture directly impacts an individual's view on certain ideas or behaviors. It can determine decisions to seek help for mental health issues, whether you believe in certain treatments, and more. Every culture has a different understanding and different feelings about mental health. 
about mental health
Being mentally healthy means you feel like you can do what you need to do every day, are comfortable socially, can control your behavior, and can experience your emotions without overwhelming anxiety. It is important for kids to know that mental wellbeing doesn’t mean being happy all the time – it means knowing that its normal to feel sad, frustrated, and angry, as well. But with strategies children can get through difficult times, connect with others, and ask for help.
There are some basics to mental health: relaxation, physical activity, healthy food, learning new things, connecting with others, being creative, playing and just having fun!

One cannot overemphasize the
importance of sleep for a child’s overall physical and mental health. Parents should do everything they can to make sleep a priority. 
One out of every 5 children and youth in Canada has a diagnosable mental health condition. Examples include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, eating disorders and learning disabilities. Many more children have milder but significant emotional and behavioural challenges.
Unfortunately, too many children and youth don’t get help soon enough. Mental health disorders can prevent children from succeeding in school, making friends, or becoming independent from their parents.
The good news is that mental health disorders are treatable. There are many different approaches to helping children and youth struggling with emotional or mental health problems. Getting help early is important. It can prevent problems from becoming more serious, and can lessen the effect they have on your child’s development.

Mental health issues can affect youth at any age. But certain situations can place some young people at a higher risk, including:
A family history of mental illness
Children and youth who have poorer overall health, live in isolated communities and have scarce educational and work-related opportunities
LGBTQ children and youth who experience bullying and/or rejection from their families
Big life changes such as moving to a new city or new school, caregiver separation or divorce, serious illness or death in a close relative or friend
Facing or witnessing trauma, including abuse
Substance use
talking about mental health
You can help your children be aware of mental health by talking about it as a normal part of life. In the same way you talk to them about eating vegetables to keep their body healthy, share ways they can be mentally healthy. They can practice being mindful to calm their thoughts, go to bed on time so they don’t feel cranky the next day, or talk with trusted adults about how they are feeling on a regular basis.  
Think about the words you use and teach your children to describe someone who might be mentally ill or behaving in an unexpected way. Try to avoid words like crazy or psycho. This kind of language can make mental health problems seem embarrassing or wrong, which could discourage children from asking for help in the future if they need it.
As children begin to learn about their body and physical illnesses, you can explain to them that sometimes people become unwell in a way that effects how they feel emotionally. Let them know that it’s not that uncommon for people to experience depression or anxiety and that doctors can help people feel better.
As your child grows up, encourage them to seek help when they’re not feeling well. This might be telling you or another trusted adult if something is bothering them, identifying when situations don’t make them feel good and finding ways to solve the problem, or doing something that makes them feel calmer when they are upset like being active or doing something creative.
talking about emotions
From a young age you can help children learn about emotions and why they happen by talking to them about how they are feeling.

Throughout the day, a
cknowledge feelings by naming emotions using simple words. For example, “I can see you are feeling angry about it,” or “I am sad because I lost my hat.” Let them know that it is normal to feel different emotions in different situations.
You can also talk to children about how emotions make them feel in their body. Does being sad make them feel tired, or does excitement give them butterflies in their tummy? This can help them begin to see the connection between how they feel in their mind and in their body.
Most importantly, parents teach their kids about emotional wellness by example. Be totally present with your kids during conversations. Go for a hike or walk in the park together. Find your own yoga or exercise routine that shows your kids how you take care of your body and mind. Apologize if you get angry and take out your stress on them, and let them know that you too have frustrating moods.
When kids see the elders in their life slowing down, being thoughtful about their reactions, re-committing to things when they fail, and asking for help, they may be more comfortable sharing their own struggles, and in the long-run, hopefully avoid some of the loneliness and sadness they may feel. 
Full Image
signs of a mental health problem
All children and youth are different. If you’re concerned your child may have a problem, look at whether there are changes in the way they think, feel or act. Mental health problems can also lead to physical changes. Ask yourself how your child is doing at home, at school and with friends.

Changes in thinking
Saying negative things about themselves or blaming themselves for things beyond their control
Trouble concentrating
Frequent negative thoughts
Changes in school performance
Changes in feelings
Reactions or feelings that seem bigger than the situation
Seeming very unhappy, worried, guilty, fearful, irritable, sad, or angry
Feeling helpless, hopeless, lonely or rejected

Changes in behaviour
Crying easily
Wanting to be alone often
Showing less interest in or withdrawing from activities that they normally enjoy
Over-reacting, or sudden outbursts of anger or tears over small incidents
Seeming quieter than usual, less energetic
Trouble relaxing or sleeping
Spending a lot of time daydreaming
Falling back to less mature behaviours
Trouble getting along with friends

If you‘re worried that your child may be mentally unwell speak to a school counsellor, community counsellor or your family doctor to begin to get help. 
We Want to Hear From You!
Do you enjoy the monthly Snapshots? 

Do you have suggestions on how to improve the Snapshots?

Do you have ideas for future topics?

Let us know!
We would love to hear from you!

Sources and Resources

Read Previous Snapshots Here
Full Image