How to Do Mental Health Check-Ins with Kids

  • Ask specific questions about an activity or thing you know that happened in their day. Ex: Who did you sit next to at lunch? How was your math test? What activity did you do in girl scouts?
  • Then ask specific follow-up questions to show that you were paying attention and you are there to help if they need it. Ex: What did you like best? What could you have done differently?
  • Ask even when you don't want to know the answer, especially with teens. We need to know if they're thinking about suicide engaging in sex or using drugs. Asking about suicide isn't going to make them suicidal. In fact, teens with suicidal thoughts are often relieved when they're asked.
  • Determine the right cadence. Some kids like frequent check-ins, and others don't. Ask them about it and work through the right cadence with them.
  • Use technology where appropriate. There are mood tracking apps out there that can be helpful for some families. Kids can record how they're feeling each day. Daylio is an example of one.
  • Stay calm. Sometimes kids have big things to tell their parents and they delay telling them because they're worried about how they will react. We need to stay calm, at least on the outside, and create a space for them to be heard.

Warning Signs of Suicide

  • Visiting, calling or texting people to say goodbye.
  • Looking for ways to die, such as researching methods on the internet or gathering guns, ropes, pills or knives.
  • Making direct or indirect statements about death, suicide or suicide ideation/plan.
  • Preoccupation with death or dying,
  • Sudden and extreme changes in mood or behaviors (e.g. changes in routine, behavior, appearance or grooming habits).
  • Increased substance abuse.
  • Reckless, self-destructive and/or high-risk behaviors.
  • Giving away prized possessions.
  • Not tolerating praise or rewards.
  • Frequent complaints about physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomachaches, fatigue.
  • Signs of sever depression, including persistent sad, anxious or "empty" mood, loss of interest in hobbies or activities, rage or uncontrolled anger.
  • Expression of any of these thoughts or feelings:
    • Trapped or desperate to escape an intolerable situation.
    • Humiliation.
    • Being a burden to others.
    • Worthlessness.
    • Hopelessness.
    • Purposelessness or having no reason to live.

Remember You're Not Alone

Everyone struggles with stress, but they don't always talk about it. If you are feeling overwhelmed, reach out to someone you trust and talk about what's causing you stress. Chances are they've walked in your shoes before and can help you find ways to cope.

Take Care of Your Body

Too much stress can sometimes affect our bodies, so it's important to eat right and stay active. And get plenty of sleep, it can help refresh both your mind and body.

Make Time for Fun

Be sure to build time into your day for events you enjoy. Try listening to music, spending time with a pet, working on an art project, writing in a journal, reading a good book or enjoying nature.

Take Deep Breaths

Breathing exercises are a great way to quickly relieve stress, and you can do them anywhere. Try inhaling slowly counting to five, then exhale slowly counting to five again.

Unplug from Social Media

Try taking a break from social media from time to time and focus on meaningful, face-to-face relationships. Meet up with a friend at a coffee shop or grab a bite to eat with a family member.

Stay Positive

When you're feeling stressed, think about what you're grateful for in life. A positive attitude can help you make the best of stressful situations and allow you to learn from the challenges.

Don't Be Too Hard on Yourself

Whether it's schoolwork or sports, you don't need to expect excellence from yourself and others. While it's important to do your best, remember that no one is perfect.

Know the Signs of Stress

Learn how to recognize signs that you are becoming stressed, such as increased heart rate, butterflies in your stomach or feeling like you want to punch something. It will help you be able to tackle stress early before it becomes overwhelming.

Understand Your Stress Triggers

If you know in advance what people or situations cause stress for you, you'll be able to prepare better and respond.


Plan Ahead

Have a plan for what you can do to relax when the stress is on. Try practicing relaxation exercises and coping skills ahead of time. Then, when the pressure is on, you'll be ready to take on the challenge.

A young woman raises a Pride flag in the air.

In a time when isolation and depression are affecting millions of people, it's more important than ever to support the needs of our LGBTQ+ youth. 

Additional Resources

We're Here to Help

Our expert teams of pediatric psychologists and psychiatrists use evidence-based approaches to treat the full spectrum of child and adolescent mental and behavioral health problems, helping young people manage their conditions so they can live their lives as fully as possible.

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness month. Our national partners offer education and resources to help you and your loved ones.

Special Needs Considerations

Our Ongoing Support Resources offers a variety of resources, specific to mental health needs.