It’s been a strange year for everyone, including your kids. There’s no explanation needed. The entire world has been struck by the fierce lightning from this pandemic, from governments and businesses to schools and households.
Yet the bizarre season of extended time at home shouldn’t discourage you from checking in on your kid’s mental health. In fact, you should be talking to your kids more now than ever before.
If you were to plot a few major issues that adolescents face (anxiety, depression, bullying, suicide, self-harm, etc.) on a giant graph, you would see a sharp uptake in each area over the past decade. (Thankfully drug use and teen pregnancy are at record lows).
Take in these recent statistics about adolescent’s mental health in the United States:
- Of kids ages 3-17, 7.1% have been diagnosed with anxiety. That’s approximately 4.4 million youth (2019).
- 9.4% of adolescents ages 12 to 17 experienced major depressive symptoms (2017).
- More than 50% of teens believe bullying is a major problem among their peers (2019).
- Suicide was the second leading cause of death 10-34 year olds (2018).
- Rates of non-suicidal self-harm vary from 6-30% depending on gender and what state you live in (2018).
For all of these facts, the numbers have reportedly increased since Spring 2020 (when the pandemic hit the United States.) We won’t know the 2020 statistics until later in 2021, but case studies are already indicating that a graph of those numbers will see a steep rise.
The awkward silence, sharp glares from cut eyes, and distractions of technology can make conversations with your kids awkward. But slice through the uncomfortable and pave the way for honesty, authenticity, and care.
Your kids are struggling. And if your child is graciously doing okay, then they know at least one friend who isn’t doing well.
Find a time in the evening to have a conversation. Plop down on their bed or the couch (where younger siblings won’t be a distraction). A snack can help break the ice too.
Or talk during a car ride. You have a limited amount of time and can avoid long moments of eye contact, which might set your teen at ease.
However you choose to engage, we just challenge you to start the conversation.
20 Mental health check-in questions
Ready to start asking? Here’s a list of things to ask your kids.
(Hint: don’t try to ask every single question on this list in one setting. Select just a few for your first conversation.)
- Do you feel like your friends/family are supporting you recently? Why or why not?
- What’s been stressing you out lately?
- The pandemic has impacted a lot. What do you feel like you will miss because of it?
- How has the pandemic impacted your faith?
- What’s something exciting that you’re looking forward to?
- Do you feel like you have too much to handle, or do you think you are managing your time well?
- Who do you miss the most right now?
- Do you ever feel like you need someone to talk to, but don’t know who to talk to?
- What does your ideal day look like?
- Are you eating, exercising, and sleeping well? How can I help you eat, exercise, or sleep better?
- Do you feel like you have a positive or negative view of life right now?
- What’s your favorite way to relax or de-stress?
- Tell me something that you are dreading.
- Have you ever felt so sad or lonely that you wanted to hurt yourself?
- What do you need right now that you don’t have?
- How are things going with your friends? Do you still get to talk/see them?
- Do you feel anxious? If so, what triggers that, and what does anxiety feel like to you?
- What’s the biggest problem that you’re facing right now?
- If you could do anything right now, what would you do?
- I love you and care about you. What’s the best way we can regularly connect about these things? Or how can I help/encourage you going forward?
Hopefully your child sees your tender love and compassion during your conversation. Take note of the things your child misses, what stresses them out or helps them relax. Try to read between the lines.
When in doubt, just speak back to your child what they said to you.
“Wow, that must be really hard to feel like you don’t have anything in common with your friends anymore.”
“I know how disappointing it is to have so many things canceled, especially prom.”
“It makes sense why you feel that way.”
Celebrate their victories, mourn their losses, and remind them that you are their number one cheerleader, biggest fan, strongest advocate, and someone who will always love them.
What if your child says, “I think I’m depressed.” Or “I hate my life.” Or something about loneliness, anxiety, or broken relationships.
The same suggestions apply. Repeat back what they say, emotionally support them, and then seek out help.
Our blog has a tremendous amount of resources to guide you through this season. But even more, our staff team is dedicated to counseling you and/or your child. Call us today and let’s start a conversation toward a hopeful future for your whole family.
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Do conversations with your teens include awkward moments of silence, sharp glares from cut eyes, and distractions from technology? #metoo
Slice through the uncomfortable and pave the way for conversations to check in on your kid’s #mentalhealth
Here are 20 questions to help you get started!
Teen Social Anxiety