How to Best Support Your Child’s Mental Health


We all want our children to thrive, but we may wonder how best to support them in terms of mental health. Here are some suggestions.

good mental health

You can find a setting for natural conversation.

Ever notice your child suddenly becomes very talkative when it’s time to tuck in?

Sometimes, it’s more than that extra cup of water.  Anticipating the next day’s events and separation from you can make them want to talk things through.  A recess retelling can segue into an issue that’s bothering them.

Teens especially can open up later in the evening.  The same kid who wouldn’t look up from their phone for the past three hours suddenly wants to vent and maybe even ask for advice, though they’d never admit it.  Clearing their minds of residual stress and thoughts of the day sets the stage for a good night’s sleep.

Another place where natural conversation occurs is the car.

With no direct eye contact, no one staring them down, and yet a captive audience, kids may be more willing to broach a subject when sitting shoulder to shoulder, facing in the same direction—especially if it’s just the two of you.

Please make sure that every emotion is valid.

Sometimes, emotions are messy.

Please encourage your child to allow all those that present themselves.  Explain that pretending to feel one way when we think the opposite only changes our facial expression or body language; it’s healthier to feel the emotion and decide what’s next.

Of course, this does not mean allowing inappropriate or dangerous actions. No one can tell you how to feel about stress, but the exact behavioral expectations still apply. Please include your child in determining appropriate coping strategies until a strong emotion passes, and they can discuss what’s happening.

Older children can benefit from journaling about how they feel.

At the very least, the process will help expel some excess energy associated with the feeling.  It may even help them identify where the feeling is coming from and to find a way forward.

Please keep any changes in behavior in mind.

Even the most share-averse kid can give hints as to their internal temperature.

This doesn’t mean a depressed child will present as sad; an anxious child will be nervous.

Sudden changes in how your child acts can indicate shifts in their mental state.

Has their temperament moved in the opposite direction?  Do they have new hobbies or pastimes?  Have they lost interest in beloved ones?  Are they hanging out with different friends?  Or have they stopped talking to/seeing friends?

Be a trusted person.

The most important thing you can do for your child’s mental health is lend your support.  Be open and approachable so they feel comfortable talking to you about anything and everything.  They will know they have someone who truly listens, and you will have a better gauge of where they are and what they need.

Also, please remember that you do not have to be an expert.  Knowing your child best and when they might need more help is even more crucial. And that’s when you should call in the professionals!

Sometimes, children need more support than we can offer.  If you feel this is the case, here are some ways you can locate the proper resources:

  • Go to school: school adjustment counselor, guidance counselor, school psychologist, or social worker. They can meet with your child or offer ideas for out-of-school resources.
  • Ask the pediatrician. There may be a counselor the practice is familiar with or has worked with previously.  They can offer insight into the process of next steps.
  • Use the ‘Find a Therapist’ tab on Psychology Today. Search by specialty, city, zip code, etc.  Read provider details, including methods and philosophies, and find contact info.
  • Become certified in Mental Health First Aid. Learn common challenges to youth’s mental health, how to determine whether more help is needed, and how to assist individuals in finding it.

Some local agencies that offer MHFA training:

NAMI Rhode Island

Washington County Coalition for Children

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Jennifer Basile
Born and raised in the wilds of Warwick suburbia, Jennifer now lives in the woods of the southwestern corner of the state. She traded in her seventh grade English Language Arts classroom for the stay-at-home life when daughter number two came along, then came three and four. She recently sent her eldest off to college and still rushes her youngest off to the bus stop. Amidst the many parenting adventures she and her husband have navigated, PMAD was perhaps the most challenging. Jennifer shares her maternal mental health journey and resources on her blog, Chopping Potatoes and Other Metaphors for Motherhood. She also writes memoir and literary fiction about motherhood and mental health. She offers workshops exploring the intersection of mother and self. Having been to a very dark and lonely place, Jennifer strives to create a dialogue of truth, empathy, and support surrounding motherhood. She never met a notebook she didn’t like. She wishes concert tickets still cost as much as they did at The Strand back in the day. She loves to hear her kids laugh – and also the sound of silence.


  1. It’s good to know that as parents, we don’t have to know everything, just how to seek out help for our kids when needed. I also harp on advocating for himself so he doesn’t stay silent when I’m not around to coach him through getting his own needs met.


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