How do you talk to children about depression, anxiety and suicide?

The chief marketing officer of parenting app Bark Technologies shares five tips for staying on top of your kids’ mental wellbeing.

MINNEAPOLIS — In April, for the first time ever, a federal panel of experts recommended that doctors who treat our children begin screening them for anxiety as young as 8 years old.

Titania Jordan, a parent who is also Bark Technologies’ Chief Parenting Officer, says children are facing stressors at a younger age than ever.

“Our children are highly compared to each other than in previous generations,” Jordan said. “Their self-esteem, their confidence, their sense of belonging is now linked to their Snap stripes, their followers, their likes, their comments – who will allow them in a group chat or a private story. This is unprecedented.”

Bark Technologies is an internet safety app that allows parents to monitor malicious activity on their children’s social media without violating privacy. Jordan has five tips parents can use to stay on top of the mental health conversation.

1. Address the subject directly and compassionately

Jordan says parents shouldn’t shy away from talking about mental health, whether it’s depression and anxiety or suicidal thoughts.

“You’re not going to introduce a concept that’s new to them,” she said. “If anything, you’re helping them see that you’re an open, safe space to discuss these real and important issues.”

If your child seems to be struggling with mental health issues, Jordan says, don’t be quick to dismiss problems as just hormones or typical teenage ups-and-downs.

“In this case, you can learn more by listening than by talking,” Jordan said.

3. Use their favorite communication method

Jordan says you should meet your kids where they are.

“If your child wants to text you instead of talking face to face, embrace it.”

She even recommends downloading apps like Snapchat and Tiktok to understand the landscape of where your kids hang out.

RELATED: From Yik Yak to Discord: Here Are 12 Apps That Experts Say Parents Should Learn About

4. Develop Shared Ways to Talk About Depression

If you are not a licensed clinical therapist, Jordan recognizes that it can be difficult to approach these topics, but it is important to know that there is no right answer.

“Depression is so nuanced,” she said. “Everyone can experience it in different ways.”

She says it’s important to find common ground if you can, and get in touch with your child’s pediatrician.

5. Provide healthy opportunities for conversation

Jordan says it’s important to keep the conversation going.

“It’s so important to talk to them and follow what they’re doing online,” she said.

RELATED: Anxiety Isn’t Always Easy to Spot; panel of experts recommends screening young children

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