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BayCare Kids and On Our Sleeves

Because kids don’t always wear their thoughts on their sleeves, it can be difficult to tell when a child is suffering or struggling. The mission of On Our Sleeves is to provide every community in America access to free, evidenced-informed educational resources necessary for breaking stigmas about kids’ mental health by educating families and advocates.

BayCare is a proud member of the On Our Sleeves Alliance, composed of leading corporations, youth-serving and health care organizations, ambassadors, and individuals. Together, we can ensure every family has access to these valuable resources to help their children.

Introducing On Our Sleeves

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Get tips and easy-to-use tools delivered straight to your inbox each month. These resources help start conversations with and boost mental wellness in children of all ages.

Crisis Hotline  

If you or your child need immediate help due to suicidal thoughts:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: call 988.
  • Crisis Text Line: text "START" to 741-741
  • Tampa Bay Cares: call 2-1-1.
  • BayCare Mobile Crisis Response Team (MRT) Pasco: County: call (727) 372-HELP (727-372-4357).
  • BayCare Mobile Crisis Response Team (MRT) Hernando County: call (352) 467-OKAY (352-467-6529).

If there is an immediate safety concern, call 911 or go the nearest emergency room.

Positive Mental Health Starts with Conversation

While it’s hard to tell sometimes, the reality is that a child may appear to be thriving on the outside while secretly struggling on the inside.

Research shows that:

  • One in five children experience a significant mental health disorder; less than half get the treatment they need.
  • 50% of all lifetime mental health disorders start by age 14.
  • 49% of kids in grades 4-12 have been bullied at least once in the last month.

Here are some tips to start a conversation with a child and keep it going.

1 in 5 kids has a mental illness
  • How to develop Healthy Habits in Kids?

    Habits are so important to mental health because they impact how we think, act, feel and behave. And when those habits are disrupted, it can take a toll and lead to mental fatigue, frustration and difficulty focusing.  Whenever possible, help your kids adopt healthy practices and make those behaviors a part of your family's regular routine.

    What is an Example of a Daily Habit?

    • Your morning routine!
      • Bathroom
      • Brush teeth
      • Get dressed
      • Eat breakfast
      • Let the dog out
      • Get your backpack/purse/work bag

    How Can You Help Kids Form Good Habits?

    Follow the 3 R’s – and remember to start easy and make small steps toward the goal!
    • Reminder (the trigger to start the action)
      • Make it visual.
      • A calendar or checklist works great. 
      • Put it on the fridge or in their room. 
      • Parents will need to give reminders at the start.
    • Routine (the action you want to take)
      • Make sure kids know specifically what they are expected to do.
      • Practice together.
      • Make sure they are capable.
    • Reward (what you get for doing the action)
      • Have the new behavior be rewarding to your child.
      • Offer something special when the new routine is completed.
      • This should be small, but meaningful:
        • 2 pieces of small candy
        • Extra screen time (10 minutes or so)
        • Penny in the jar to earn something bigger at the end of the week

    Practicing the 3 Rs in your daily lives will help form habits to reduce stressors on your children and your family

  • How do you start conversations?
    1. Set the stage. If your family creates a daily habit of checking in with each other, it will make difficult conversations easier.
    • Pick times with low distractions, such as family dinners, bedtime routines, car rides or short daily walks.
    • Model the behavior. Children learn by watching us.
    • If you share details about your day, thoughts and feelings, kids will learn to do the same. If you had a hard day, share that too at the right developmental level. This helps children learn that emotions are normal and they see how to cope with them by watching you.

    2. Ask open-ended questions. You can talk about all kinds of topics, not just emotions or behaviors. Remember, your goal is to create the habit of comfortably sharing with each other. The questions below can help.

    3. Find the right time for difficult conversations. Pick a time when everyone is calm. Ask permission to start the conversation and if your child is not ready, ask them when a good time would be.

    What if they don’t want to talk?

    If they don’t want to talk, that’s OK! If you try to push it, they will shut down more.

    Compromise. Let them know you care about them and what’s going on in their lives, so you want time to check in. Ask them when a better time would be instead and try again. Children are more likely to engage if they feel some control or choice over a situation.

    For more ideas and prompts, download these conversation starters in English and Spanish

    Information is also available in this video.

  • How do I keep the conversation going?

    Starting the conversation with your kids about their thoughts, feelings and experiences may be the easy part.

    Now that they’re talking, you may be thinking, "What do I say? How do I react?"

    These are important questions because our goal is to keep them talking and to create an environment where they know they can keep coming back to us with any future problems or worries. So, we have to make talking to adults rewarding and pleasant!

    How to Keep Kids Talking

    • Notice your body language. As your child starts sharing, check in with yourself. If you are starting to feel upset, angry, or overwhelmed, pause and breathe. Remember this moment is about them, not how you are feeling (that can come later). Use body language that reflects openness and interest, such as nodding and eye contact.
    • Don’t ask a lot of questions. You may have 100 thoughts a minute when your child is sharing something you did not know about or are concerned with. Remember: pause and let them guide the conversation. Asking a lot of questions can cause children to shut down or feel defensive. If the conversation gets stuck, you can try questions or statements such as:
      • "And then what happened?" or
      • "Tell me more about that..."
    • Try reflective listening. Focus on what they are telling you instead of what you want to say next. Then repeat back what you just heard your child say. 
      • For example: "It sounds like you are feeling angry because you can’t go out with friends" or "I hear you saying school has been stressful recently."
      • This allows your child to know you are truly listening, to clarify if that is incorrect, and to continue adding to the conversation without you having to ask questions.
    • As much as we wish this was different, children do not have to share anything with us if they do not want to. So, when they do open up, thank them for choosing to do so!
      • Praise can help them feel good about sharing and then they are more likely to do it again in the future.
      • SAY THIS: "Thank you. That had to be hard to tell me, but you did still did." Or, "That was brave of you to share. Thank you." This helps you sound curious.
      • AVOID SAYING THIS: "Why didn’t you tell me sooner?"
    Remember, if this conversation goes well, they are more likely to tell you sooner the next time a difficult situation comes up.
    • Normalize emotions and do not judge or dismiss what your child is sharing. You can talk about situations in which you have felt the same or discuss role models who have gone through difficult situations. Statements such as "anyone in your situation would feel that way too..." can be confirming and relieving for children to hear.
      • Avoid statements such as "There is no reason to feel that way."
      • Also try not to place blame with statements like, "If you had not done that, you wouldn’t …"
    • Take breaks. For difficult conversations, strong emotions may happen. Give yourself or your child a break, if needed. No one should feel forced to talk if they are feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes having a silly code word that shows a break is needed can help lighten the mood and remind everyone involved to pause. Pick a determined amount of time for the break and return to the conversation.

    For more ideas, download Keeping the Conversation Going Tip Sheet (available in English and Spanish)
    A model conversation is also available on video: How to Keep the Conversation Going.

  • Now that they have told you what is going on, what do you do?
    • Ask for their ideas first. Before jumping in with your questions and advice, ask them to problem solve. Ask questions like:
      • “What do you want to do now?”
      • “How can we make this better?”
      • “How can I help?”

    This lets them know you are on their team and allows them to feel empowered and listened to.

    • Ask permission. Let them know you have some questions or ideas and ask when they want to hear them. Now is the time for you to be open about your emotions and thoughts (remember, sharing your adult emotions models that emotions are normal and OK to talk about). For example:
      • “Even though this has been hard for me to hear, I’m glad you shared. I have a few questions. Do you want me to ask now or later?”
      • You can do the same thing before offering advice. If they do ask for a break, make sure to set a specific time to come back to the discussion so you can share what is on your mind too.
    • Choose your language carefully around follow-up questions. Notice how you ask questions. Asking “why” versus “what” questions can make others feel defensive.
      • SAY THIS: "What made you do that?" This helps you sound curious.
      • NOT THAT: "Why did you do that?" This can sound judgmental.

    Remind yourself that the goal is to understand your child better and learn how to best support them moving forward. You cannot change the past, so try not to focus your questions too much on things that can no longer change.

    Remember, these skills take practice, and it helps to build a daily habit over time. For more prompts, download How to Problem Solve Tip Sheet (available in English and Spanish). Tips are also available by video: Starting the Conversation.

  • Talking to Kids About Social Media

    One of the best ways to reduce the risks kids face online and through social media is a strong relationship with you.

    When you build trust and keep conversations open, you can work in partnership with your child to help them get the benefits of connecting online, while also improving their digital literacy and safety.

    Exploring Social Media Platforms

    What’s the best way to learn about kids and social media?

    Ask a kid! Kids are experts when it comes to navigating the newest social media platforms and trends. Let them serve as your guide.

    Keep enthusiasm and curiosity at the center. Social media isn’t always good or always bad for mental health. You’ll first need to gather information about how your kids are using it in their lives and it may be different for each kid. Set aside judgement and prepare to manage any initial reactions you might have.

    Sit and Watch

    Next, ask to sit alongside them as they spend time on their preferred social media platforms. It may feel awkward, and you might not get the lingo just right. That’s OK – it’s all part of learning.
    • Ask them to show you their favorite video, channel or online influencer.
    • Ask about the funniest memes going around their friend group.
    • See if they’ll share the most inspiring thing they saw online (or the silliest, or the scariest).

    Lead with open-ended questions

    Your goal is to start a conversation in a way that feels comfortable and safe. Be open-minded and curious when you ask things like, “Who do you follow and why? How do you feel when people like (or don’t like) your posts?”

    Share what you’ve heard

    Use a trend or risk you’ve heard about to start the conversation.

    “Have you heard about that new TikTok school prank?”

    “I read an article about catfishing – do you know anyone that’s happened to?”

    “I’m thinking about taking a social media diet – what do you think about that?”

    Respond to encourage more sharing

    Think ahead about how you’ll react if your child says something that worries you. The best approach is to respond neutrally, to encourage your child to keep talking. You want them to feel they can share without being judged or overwhelmed. And notice your body language – it should communicate openness too.

    Spend more time listening than asking questions. Then try saying back what you heard. And thank them for sharing with you!

    “Wow, I didn’t realize how much you were able to keep in touch with your friends even if you don’t have classes together. I hear you saying that is really important. Thank you for letting me know.”

    Make these conversations part of your normal routine - your child will be more likely to reach out to you if something concerning happens on social media.

    You can also refer to our Social Media Agreement to set guidelines for acceptable social media practices.

    For more information on how to manage social media with your kids, watch Social Media and Kids (English and Spanish) and Making a Family Social Media Plan.


Mental Wellness Tools and Resources

When you suspect a child may be suffering or struggling, one of the first steps in helping them recover should involve a visit to their pediatrician. Pediatricians specialize in identifying certain signs and signals and are trained to communicate with children of all ages. They can make referrals to specialists, prescribe medication and recommend remedies to ease symptoms until further treatment is available.

In addition, the tools and resources shared below help start conversations and get kids talking about their anxieties, fears and struggles.

Downloadable On Our Sleeves Resources

Elementary Students

Middle School Students 

High School Students

Parents & Educators

Online BayCare resources

Learn more about BayCare Behavioral Health services.

Additional Community Resources (organizations that focus on behavioral health for immediate/scheduled care)

In addition to the resources featured on this page, you will find many more helpful tools ready to view or download at

Feature Topic

Periodically, we will rotate content in this section to feature a new topic. Check back regularly to learn more about topics such as SMART Mental Wellness goals, Stress and Kids, Suicide Prevention and more.

Bullying and Kids: What you Need to Know

What is bullying? 

Bullying is defined as acting to harm, intimidate or persuade another. Bullying can take several forms including verbal, social or physical. Examples include name calling, writing mean or hurtful things about another person, purposely excluding others from games or activities, spreading lies about someone or physically hurting them.

Why do students bully?

Some children are looking for attention. Others bully to feel stronger, smarter or better. Some want to feel in control or powerful. Some kids model behavior they’ve seen in their environment, while others use it as self-defense if they’ve been a victim of aggressive behavior.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 14 percent of public schools report that bullying is a problem that occurs at least once a week. Every seven minutes on the playground, a student is bullied. Over one in three students have been bullied online. Children who are bullied can experience lasting problems that may interfere with their social and emotional development and school performance.

Bullying isn’t something kids need to endure as a rite of passage or to make them stronger. Bullying increases the risk of emotional stress. It’s important to understand that the child doing the bullying may also need help due to a history of being a victim or having trauma.
Signs to look for in potential bullying:

  • Unexplained injuries
  • Lost or damaged belongings/clothing
  • Feeling sick often or faking illness
  • Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
  • Failing school performance or loss of interest in school/activities 
  • Sudden loss of friends/avoiding social situations
  • Feelings of helplessness or lowered self esteem
  • Self-destructive behaviors such as: running away from home, harming themselves, talking about suicide

What can you do if you’re being bullied or witness bullying at your school?

  • Look at the kid bullying you and tell them in a calm voice to stop. If speaking up seems too hard or not safe, walk away and stay away. Don’t fight back.
  • Find an adult you trust and plan together to stop the bullying.
  • Be kind by using kind words and including everyone by asking those sitting alone to join your group of friends. Since kids tend to be bullied when they’re alone, use the buddy system and always have someone around.

What can parents do to address bullying?

  • Explain what bullying is and that it’s wrong. Let your child know that you’ll be there to help them, no matter what.
  • Help your child learn how to react to bullying. Teach self-control and how to assert boundaries. Teach kindness and encourage empathy.
  • Work with teachers, counselors and principals. Keep detailed records about the bullying so you can tell the school exactly what happened. Look into your county resources that may be available.
  • Identify an adult at school whom your child trusts. This adult can help your child feel safe at school by listening to them.
  • Monitor social media use and teach kids how to use it responsibly.
  • Seek help immediately from a doctor or a mental health professional if your child talks about suicide or seems unusually upset. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 or 988 is available seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

Each of us can impact the culture of bullying in our society by listening to our kids, educating about the impact of bullying and violent behavior, increasing empathy and teaching skills to stop the pattern.

For more information, please visit:

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