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Michigan mom and mental health expert Erica Carulli shares four simple but profound prompts that make talking about mental health with your children easier and more impactful.

MICHIGAN–Caregivers want our children to thrive. 

Caregivers want what’s best for our children. 

Caregivers want to make sure our children are happy, healthy, and supported. 

Accessing mental health services for children during COVID-19 has been a challenge. Mental health professionals and facilities have long waiting lists, similar to other professional services right now. 

So, how can we, as caregivers, support their mental health right now, you may be asking yourself? As a licensed professional counselor and a mom, let me offer you four prompts to help you engage with your children and check in with them about their mental health. These prompts are designed to be open-ended, meaning, they are not “yes” or “no” questions, allowing for more processing and feedback from the child. 

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  1. Do you want to talk about it? How are you feeling?
    This prompt allows the child space to provide their own interpretation of what’s happening in their world. Feelings are important and caregivers can use this as a place to validate a child’s experience. 
  2. I see that you are struggling. Can I sit with you?
    This prompt allows the caregiver to offer emotional support while giving the child the autonomy to decide if they would like to discuss what they’re feeling. This can be really helpful when a child seems to be distressed. It lets the child know they are seen and have support.
  3. I’m noticing that you are experiencing a lot of stomach aches. Is everything okay?
    This prompt allows the caregiver to connect the dots for the child. Sometimes, children who are experiencing anxiety or depression will have those illnesses manifest as physical pain. This shows that you are paying attention to their complaints, believing them and want to help. 
  4. Would you like to spend time together?
    This prompt allows the caregiver to provide the child with an option of personal connection with a safe loved one. During these interactions, children may be more relaxed and likely to open up.

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Caregivers are some of the most influential adults in a child’s life. You could be the difference in how they react to the world around them. You are so important.

If you feel like your child may be in need of immediate psychiatric attention, please go to your nearest emergency department or call 9-1-1.

Resources: 4 Tools for Michigan Moms Talking Mental Health With Kids 

MDHHS – Free or low cost mental health care

SAMHSA – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration – Treatment referral and information service hotline – 800-662-HELP

National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 800-273-TALK

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network

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