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Today is World Mental Health Day, an annual awareness and education initiative spearheaded by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH). This year’s campaign highlights the importance of increased mental health awareness, services, and care for young people in a changing world.

Many parents might think mental health isn’t something they need to worry about, but in fact:

  • Half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14, but most cases go undetected and untreated.
  • In terms of the burden of the disease among adolescents, depression is the third leading cause.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds.

The truth is, supporting our children’s emotions when they are young is a significant protective factor for mental health issues in adolescents and later in life.

How to Support Your Child’s Mental Health:

  • Bring concerns up with a therapist who specializes in parenting
  • For teenagers, finding a therapist that specializes in teens and offers Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is a great start
  • Get your own support for your own mental health issues—a parent who is drained, overwhelmed, or experiencing depression or anxiety needs their own support so they have the bandwidth to support their child.

As parents, it is our job to teach our children about emotions:

    • how to recognize and label their emotions;
    • how to deal with their own tough emotions (emotional resilience);
    • how to separate themselves from someone else’s tough emotions (knowing that if Mom or Dad or Teacher is experiencing sadness, anger, etc., that it isn’t their fault);
    • how to show empathy to others (this capability begins around age 5);
    • how to ask for what they need when they are having a tough time (ex: “I feel sad, I need a hug.”)
    • and the important reminder that:
      • tough emotions are normal
      • they don’t last forever
      • they are loved no matter how they feel

Supporting our kids as they learn these lessons may very well be our most important jobs as parents, as it normalizes that everyone struggles and it’s okay to ask for help. 

There are several ways to support these lessons.  One of my favorites for young kids is reading books about emotions.

Books to Read With Your Children:

  • “How are you Peeling” by by Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers
  • “My Mouth is a Volcano” by by Julia Cook and Carrie Hartman
  • “When Sophie Gets Angry” by by Molly Bang
  • “The Way I Feel” by by Janan Cain
  • “Today I Feel Silly” by by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell
  • “Mama Llama Mad at Mama” by by Anna Dewdney
  • “In My Heart: A Book of Feelings” by by Jo Witek and Christine Roussey

For many parents, they struggle to intentionally teach their children about their emotions because they aren’t comfortable with their own emotions.  If this is the case, therapy can be a great way to process what is coming up for you.  There are some great parenting books to support this as well:

Books for Parents:

  • “Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child The Heart of Parenting” by Ph.D. John Gottman and Joan Declaire
  • “The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind” by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
  • “Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive” by Daniel J. Siegel and Mary Hartzell
  • “Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm, and Connected” by Susan Stiffelman

If you need support, reach out for help.  It might be one of the most important parenting decision you make.