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Talking to your children about mental health struggles

The number of kids with mental concerns has been growing in the last few years, and the signs of mental health issues are showing up sooner.

HARTFORD, Conn. — While the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the underlying epidemic of mental health struggles in Connecticut children is also still present and growing.

"There is a wide variety of kids that have mental health concerns and I've seen some kids that are as young as 6 or 7 that are voicing to their families that they're sad. Or they sometimes say, 'I don't want to be alive,' that kind of a thing,’” said Dr. Kim Palmieri, a Pediatrician with ProHealth Physicians in Groton.

RELATED: 'Let's Face It': Connecticut campaign to break the mental health stigma

Dr. Palmieri said she sees children with mental health concerns on a daily basis. That number has been growing within the last few years, and the signs of mental health issues are showing up sooner.

But, in a child as young as 6, how do you recognize mental health struggles and how do you talk to your children about them?

Dr. Palmieri said it's all about open and honest conversations.

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"Open up the dialogue, of ‘How are you doing?’ or, ‘How was your day?’ or, ‘What was the best part about your day?’ Open-ended questions are great just to number one, have your kids feel comfortable talking with you. But also, just to open up a dialogue so that they feel they can come to you in a time of need,” Palmieri said.

Dr. Palmieri said there are plenty of resources for parents to access online when it comes to conversation starters, including a digital flashcard with specific questions to ask.

Click here to download the digital conversation starter document.

RELATED: Mental health help could soon be on the way for Connecticut children

Julia LeBlanc is a reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at jleblanc@fox61.com Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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