MIAMI (CBSMiami) –  Mental Health Awareness Month kicked off this weekend, and between the pandemic and the challenges of school and life, there is a mental health crisis among children in the U.S.

Doctors said it is something parents need to discuss with their kids.

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A survey from Nationwide Children’s On Our Sleeves program shows most parents (93%) know it’s important to talk to children about mental health.

But more than half (59%) need help knowing how to start the conversation.

Pediatric psychologist Dr. Ariana Hoet directs On Our Sleeves.

Its mission is to break the stigma and provide resources for families.

This month, they’re launching Operation: Conversation.

“It’s all about teaching adults how to have conversations with children, conversations in general, building the habit, but also conversations that are difficult. So, how to talk about their mental health if you’re worried about them, how to talk about current events,” Dr. Hoet said.

On Our Sleeves has tips to start the conversation and keep it going, and for problem-solving and giving advice to kids.

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“Every day, a time when there are no distractions, maybe dinner time, in the car ride, at bedtime – asking open-ended questions about a child’s day. What was the best part of your day? Is there something bothering you right now?” Dr. Hoet said.

Zenniere Bowry-Thomas makes it a priority to talk with her children about their thoughts and feelings.

She asks them to say a highlight and lowlight of their day.

“I started having those conversations at night with both my son and daughter and I found that asking those specific questions got a little bit more out of them versus, ‘Yes, Mom, it was a fine day,'” Bowry-Thomas said.

Bowry-Thomas says her family has had to tackle difficult conversations from the pandemic to racism.

“When you are trying to stay healthy, you have to take care of your heart and you also have to take care of your brain and your mental health,” she said.

Bowry-Thomas also models for her children that it’s OK to express emotions.

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You can find more information about Operation: Conversation here. 

CBSMiami.com Team