If your child is exhibiting any warning signs (that are not medical emergencies; if they are, get them to the ER), or if you just want more in-depth mental health check-ins, consider these questions to ask, courtesy of Dr. Eli Lebowitz, Ph.D., director of the Program for Anxiety Disorders at the Yale Child Study Center.
For concerns over possible anxiety ask them:
- Is anything worrying you?
- What are you doing during recess? Who are you spending time with?
- How is your body feeling? Are you having stomach or headaches?
- Is it easy for you to fall asleep?
- Is something making you scared?
- Do you have any problem paying attention?
For depression (which can go hand in hand with anxiety, and vice versa), ask your child these questions:
- Do you feel sad?
- Have you been feeling cranky?
- Do you know what’s bothering you?
- Who are your friends now? What do you do with them?
- Do you sometimes wish you weren’t alive at all?
For possible bullying, ask:
- Does bullying happen in your school? Have you seen anyone being bullied?
- Does anyone bother you at school? Has anyone hit you?
- Has anything really frightening happened to you?
“Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions,” says Lebowitz. “Asking about thoughts of death, for example, shows it’s okay for your child to share with you; never asking shows them that it’s not. [Also,] ask yourself how your behavior is changing because of your child’s difficulties.”
For more information, read this guide on how to talk to your kids about their mental health.
If you're concerned about your child being in danger of self-harm, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. It's free, open 24/7 and confidential.