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5 Tips for Discussing Mental Health with your Adult Child

Jul 9, 2019

Talking about mental health with your adult child can be really tricky. It’s hard to know what is your business and what is not, but when it comes to mental health it’s important that you have the right tools to support your child in the ways they need. Here are some strategies that can make the mental health discussion go more smoothly.

Avoid saying things like “I feel that way sometimes too” or “I know how you feel.”

This can often make a child feel as though you are diminishing their situation. For example, it’s possible to feel depressed sometimes, but this isn’t always the same thing as having depression. By saying something that implies that you are dealing with this issue too, you may make your child feel as though you don’t truly understand the gravity of their situation. Something that may be more supportive to say would be, “That must be really hard” or “I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. How can I help?”

Ask your child what you can do to support them.

Every parent-child relationship is different, and your child may want more or less support than you would assume. The easiest way to figure out how to support your child is to ask.

Recognize and be able to accept that you may not be the right person to help them.

As parents, it’s understandable that you feel responsible for fixing your child’s problems. However, there comes a point when you need to take a step back and accept the fact that a medical professional may be a valuable resource to your child. There is no shame in getting your child help from someone else.

Do your best to be accepting of mental health issues.

Mental illness is a tricky subject to talk about. Whether you believe your child has a mental health issue or not, it’s important to make it clear that you are supportive of positive mental health and that you will love your child unconditionally. If your child feels that you will respond well to their mental health concerns, they’ll be more likely to express them.

Set boundaries that make you both feel recognized and supported.

Make time to sit down with your child and discuss what you expect from each other in terms of support. By deciding what the boundaries are together, you can be sure that there is a sense of understanding and trust when it comes to mental health. If you aren’t sure how to set boundaries, here are some guidelines that could be helpful.

Be honest and ask for what you want.

Example: “I would feel better if we communicated more often.”

Be sure that your request is specific.

Example: “I would like to talk to you on the phone daily. What day and time would work best for you?”

Understand that you may need to compromise.

Example: “If talking daily is too much for you, I would be willing to change it to twice a week.”

We hope these tips help you and your child get through whatever mental health obstacles come your way. If you think your adult child would benefit from seeing a therapist, they can go to to find a therapist that not only aligns with their needs, but takes their insurance as well.

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