Skip to main content

How to speak with young people about wellbeing

Whether you are a parent, teacher, or a friend, it can be difficult to strike up a conversation with a young person about how they are truly feeling. You might be worried about making things awkward, not having the answers, or simply saying the ‘wrong’ thing. We spoke to young people in schools and youth groups to find out what wellbeing means to them and how adults should approach them about it.


What is wellbeing and why is it important?

girls smiles and looks up at the sky

What is wellbeing?

Wellbeing can mean different things to different people. As far as definitions go, it is how we’re doing – it’s about our emotions, and how we feel about our lives and ourselves. We asked young people to tell us what it means to them. Their responses show how varied and personal the term can be.

Wellbeing is making the most of your life.

talking about wellbeing

It is about your mental state and how healthy you feel.

Understanding young people's wellbeing

Today, particularly with the fast-paced nature of social media, young people can find it even harder to take a breather and reflect on how they are feeling. That is why talking to them about their wellbeing is so important. Sometimes we brush these more difficult conversations to one side. But young people made it clear that they valued being asked about it.  

Knowing about how others are doing is key to helping them.

If you bottle everything up you might explode.

young girl looking direclty at viewer

This Christmas, children can't wait

As the nights draw in, children across the country will be waiting to see their loved ones, waiting for the joy of opening a stocking. But many of those who are suffering with anxiety or depression are simply waiting to be seen and heard. Your support can help provide a lifeline for young people by giving them access to our services and help us campaign.

How to approach talking to young people

How to approach talking to young people

While wellbeing is clearly important to young people, that doesn’t mean it is easy to talk about. It can be awkward, even uncomfortable. And that goes for adults too.  

Knowing how and when to approach the conversation can make all the difference. While every young person is different, there were some common themes that came up.  

Trust goes a long way. If a young person sees an adult as trustworthy, they will feel more comfortable talking about issues going on in their life. 

Dad and son smile while talking

Trust, timing and tone

A good way to ask is seeing if anything is wrong and letting us know we can trust you and talk to you.

Timing of the conversations can be key. A young person might not be ready to talk. We all need time to process our thoughts. Don’t push a young person to speak if they don’t want to. Pressuring them will make them less likely to open up in the future.

I want to bring it up when I want and when I am ready.

Finally, the tone we take can have a big impact on a young person. Getting it right can be the difference between them opening up or shutting down. Striking a good tone will mean they are more likely to feel comfortable discussing their worries or concerns. 

Be friendly, approachable, open, respectful.

There when it counts 

Speaking to young people about their wellbeing can be daunting. But it is important they know someone is here for them. Sometimes you won’t have all the answers. And that is okay. But just being there for them can be enough. 

Every young person deserves to have the support they need in order to enjoy a safe, happy childhood. More often than not, that support begins with a conversation. 

You can read more on how to support young people with their wellbeing in our guide for adults. And, you can find more information on the current state of children’s happiness in our Good Childhood Report 2022

Author: Edward Herbert