As kids grow up, they often face stressors. Stress can come from school (grades, classmates), home (family disagreements) or other life events (COVID-19, moving, etc.). Stress that builds up over time can start to get in the way of how your child is doing day-to-day. This can start to hurt their mental health and they may start to experience sadness, irritability, worry, inattention, behavior problems or more. As a parent, you can check in with your children to see how they are doing and to provide support.

Tips for talking with children

  • Allow a judgement-free space for your child to talk about how they feel and what is on their mind.
  • Model the normal experience of stress and emotions by calmly talking about your own feelings with your children.
  • Avoid statements like “Don’t worry” or “Everything will be fine” that may make your child feel unheard or bad for having an emotional experience.
  • Do validate your child with statements like:
    • “That must be so hard.”
    • “What can I do to help you?”
    • “It makes a lot of sense that you are feeling so stressed/scared during this time.”
    • “It sounds like it is so frustrating to not be able to go hang out with your friends like you usually do.”
  • Check in with your child and ask how they been feeling in the last week or two and notice changes in mood, energy, sleep or appetite.
  • If you have safety concerns, be direct with your child and ask, “Have you been thinking of taking your own life?”
  • Do not hesitate to reach out and establish care with a mental health provider to give your child additional support.


Lilia Mucka Andrew Lilia Mucka Andrew, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and director of Research in Anxiety Disorders Program at Children’s National Hospital.
Erin Sadler Erin M. Sadler, PsyD, is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Division of Psychology and Behavioral Health at Children's National.

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