Informal support

If your son or daughter is going through a tough time and they come to talk to you, you have a great opportunity to be able to provide that extra bit of support that can help them through.

Be respectful and listen

Youth Mental Health Informal SupportIt takes courage to open up, so be respectful and listen. Your initial reactions will influence whether they continue talking.

So, as difficult as it might be, try not to look shocked or horrified, whatever the news is.

Make it easier

It’s much easier to keep talking to someone who has a calm expression, so whatever you’re feeling inside try not to let it show for now.

It’s perfectly OK to tell your son or daughter if you’re unsure about what to say or
do. They might just want to get something off their chest and all you have to do is
listen.

It’s not always your job to “fix” the situation, even though as a parent you
might want to. The most important thing is to keep the channel of communication open.

Things parents can do:

  • Listen
  • Communicate concern and ask for clarification if you need to but don’t take over the conversation
  • Offer support – “I’m here if you ever want to talk”
  • Offer help with making decisions and looking for a solution if they want
  • Offer to take them to a health professional like a GP if that’s necessary
  • Mind yourself; if you’re feeling overwhelmed by it take some timeout and make sure you get some support for yourself
  • Follow up and see if they’re OK.

Some common mistakes:

  • Assuming you understand how they feel
  • Giving advice or rushing in to share your story, or a what you heard about someone else
  • Belittling what they’re going through; their emotions are real. Don’t tell them they are overreacting or try to make the situation sound better than they’re perceiving it
  • Saying things like “pull yourself together,” “snap out of it,” “cheer up”
  • Trying to make them see that others are worse off. It can be very tempting to say things along the lines of “think of how lucky you are; there are kids in Africa who are starving!”

When you feel your son or daughter needs more support

Your son or daughter might find it helpful to talk with someone like a counsellor, psychologist or doctor.

You can help them find someone to talk to. Look up www.icgp.ie for GPs look up www.counsellingdirectory.ie for details of counselling services in your area. The Golden Pages and online directory www.goldenpages.ie should also have details of local health professionals.

You could offer to make the appointment or make the phone call for them or you could offer to go to with them to the appointment if they don’t want to go alone.

Take time out

There are a number of pressures on parents as it is, and sometimes hearing your son or daughter is going through a tough time can be very hard to listen to. Remember that you need support too, and remember to look after your own mental health.

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