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Five tips on how to talk to your kids about mental health struggles

The chief marketing officer of parenting app Bark Technologies shares five tips to stay in tune with the mental well-being of your children.

MINNEAPOLIS — In April, a federal panel of experts recommended for the first time ever that doctors who treat our children start screening them, beginning at age 8, for anxiety.

Titania Jordan, a parent who also serves as the chief parenting officer (functionally, a chief marketing officer) of Bark Technologies, says kids are faced with stressors at a younger age than ever.

"Our children are highly compared to each other than in generations past," Jordan said. "Their self worth, their self confidence, their sense of belonging is now tied to their Snap streaks, their followers, their likes, their comment count--who lets them in a group chat or a private story. This is unprecedented."

Bark Technologies is an internet safety app for parents to keep tabs on any harmful activity on their children's social media without invading privacy. Jordan has five tips parents can use to stay on top of the conversation about mental health.

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 ideation.

"You’re not going to introduce a concept  that's new to them," she said. "If anything, you’ll help them see that you are an open, safe space to discuss these real and important issues."

2. Actively listen

If your kid seems like they're struggling with mental health issues, Jordan says don't be quick to dismiss issues as simply hormones or typical teenage ups-and-downs.

"You can learn more by listening than talking in this instance," Jordan said.

3. Use their preferred method of communication

Jordan says meet your kids where they are.

"If your child wants to text with you instead of talk face to face, embrace it."

In fact, she recommends downloading apps like Snapchat and Tiktok to understand the landscape of where your kids are hanging out.

RELATED: From Yik Yak to Discord: Here are 12 apps experts say parents should learn more about

4. Develop shared ways of talking about depression 

If you're not a licensed clinical therapist, Jordan acknowledges that it can be hard to approach these topics, but it's important to know there's no right answer.

"Depression is so nuanced," she said. "Everybody can experience it In different ways."

She says it's important to find common ground if you can, and reach out to your child's pediatrician.

5. Provide healthy outlets for conversation

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

"It’s so important to talk with them and monitor what they’re doing online," she said. 

RELATED: Anxiety isn't always easy to spot; expert panel recommends screening kids young

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