How to talk to kids about mental health – and supportive therapy

May 31, 2017

At The Wise Family, we spend a lot of time talking about talking. We use a specialized approach to our work, and the teaching that we do around communication called – W.I.S.E. Words. We’re going to write more next week about the W.I.S.E. approach, and for now we want to share our TEAM insights and strategies (hint hint – that’s the “I” and “S” in W.I.S.E.) into how to talk to kids and teens about mental health, and about the importance of talking with someone else when you need support! Here’s what our super-wise clinicians have to say –

Dr. Lynlee Tanner Stapleton – Evaluator for The Wise Family:

“Mental health” sounds like such an adult topic, but it actually starts in infancy! No, a 3-month-old can’t verbalize that they often feel sad or scared, or that they feel so frustrated about not reaching that shiny toy that they just want to scream. But from the earliest of ages, we all experience emotions, and we learn how to manage them from cues that other people we know and trust give us. Giving voice to those feelings by calmly labeling what you see shows kids that you understand what they’re going through, that you’re there for them even when they feel bad, and that using language can actually make difficult emotions easier to manage. Making feelings just one more thing that you can talk about in your family (even before they can actually talk!) sets the stage for a healthier and more resilient future.

Kasey Cain – Therapist for The Wise Family:

In my work with schools, children, and families, I have come across a common misconception that talking about mental health challenges makes them worse.  This is actually the opposite of what happens.  The more we can talk about topics that appear “taboo” and make them non-threatening, the more confidently we will be able to address these challenges.  Mental health challenges are not something to be ashamed of.  Instead, they can be acknowledged, explored, and supported in a pro-active manner.

Amanda Beyland – Therapist for The Wise Family:

There is such a stigma attached with mental health that it’s often difficult to talk about and when there are children involved it seems to get even harder. Many parents are apprehensive talking about their child’s mental health because they may be concerned they are admitting that something is wrong. There is also the fear they have made a mistake somewhere along the road or that it reflects on their parenting. These common misinterpretations often steer parents away from seeking support for their children. Talking about your child’s mental health is a good thing and a starting place to allow the child to learn about and feel comfortable with the challenges they may be having.

Dr. Dominique Adkins – Therapist for The Wise Family:

In my work with families, adolescents, and young adults there is an inherent stigma and fear associated with mental illness.  Adolescents and young adults often have a self-image that they have to maintain.  Through continued media exposure and education, adolescents and young adults find the courage and strength to share about their experience with mental illness.  The individuals that open up to others have found the experience to be healing and empowering.   My clients have shared they feel closer with those they shared with and learned that mental illness often has touched those close to them which normalizes their experiences and allows for unexpected support.


Until next week, Be Wise!