Young Children's Mental Health Advice
Updated: Feb 15, 2021
Young Children's Mental Health Advice to Support you During COVID
Children's mental health is so important whatever their age, now or any time in the future. Recognising that your own child or another child is struggling with their mental health is really tough if you don’t know what you’re looking for. We’ve put together some advice about Young Children's Mental Health which is more important than ever in this changing world and the 2nd lockdown for the UK and Wales.
Supporting your child now is essential as Action for children (actionforchildren.org.uk) say that, ‘most lifelong mental health issues begin in childhood. This means its more important than ever to recognise the signs and do what you can to support them which will help them now and as they grow into adulthood.
A lot of children and young people's negative feelings will usually pass, however, there are things you can do to support them during this time and if they have been anxious or distressed for a long period of time then you should seek medical advice and help from your doctor.
If your child is feeling stressed and anxious it is likely you will start to see this when they are at home and see their negative feelings will often be stopping them from getting on with their day to day lives and being happy and content.
What are the signs of a distressed, anxious or unhappy child?
Their behaviour may have changed quickly or over a period of time and it could be disrupting family life, they may have significantly withdrawn from family life, connections and conversations with you, family members and friends. This can often be hard to identify with them if they are growing up and becoming a teenager as this behaviour can be natural for teens as hormones are changing.
Children’s Mental Well-Being & COVID
Looking after and looking out for your child’s mental health during regional and national lockdowns as well as any times they may need to isolate due to any positive tests at school is more important than ever. Children may be worried about themselves or family members getting or passing on the virus and these thoughts can run out of control for them which can happen for adults as well. Always remember that if you are struggling with these thoughts or experiencing your own mental health problems this doesn’t make you a bad or incompetent parent.
If you are struggling then its really important that you talk to a family member or friend regularly about how you are feeling. Remember a problem shared is a problem halved and talking about it often makes you feel better about how you are feeling. You will realise you aren’t alone in your feelings and a lot of people are also struggling as well which can help.
The person you are talking to will help you calm your anxious feelings and can give you suggestions about things you could try that could help. You must keep talking and this is the same for children and adults. If you are an adult who is struggling then you should talk to your children to let them know you are struggling a bit (scale it back if you need to) and let them know that talking to them has really helped. This teaches your child that every person experiences times of strength and times when they are struggling a bit and there is no shame in this.
Try not to focus completely on the struggles they are having and help them balance the amount of time they focus and think about it. Encourage them to think and learn what their natural skills are the things they enjoy doing, their passions. As this will help them to naturally change their mindset which will grow their self-esteem which is vitally important in a child’s mental wellbeing.
In summary, talking to them about how you are feeling teaches them that talking is good, you are human as well and this often results in them opening up about any worries or fears they may have. Ask them, How are you feeling at the moment? What are your worries at the moment? How are you finding the changes to our lives at the moment?
What can you do to help your child’s mental health?
If you recognise your child is struggling with their mental health then there are different things you can try and do.
Encourage them to exercise every day. This can be in the form of a family walk in the fresh air or using online exercise classes which you can often do as a family and you will have some fun doing it.
How can physical activity help my mental health?
There are many studies which have shown that physical activity can improve mental health. For example, it can help with:
Improving the quality of sleep they have and encourage positive sleep patters as they will feel more tired at the end of the day
Encourages a happier mood – physical activity releases feel-good hormones that make you and your child feel better, giving you more energy and a sense of achievement
Manages stress, anxiety or intrusive and racing thoughts – doing something physical releases cortisol which helps us manage stress. Being physically active gives your brain something to focus on and can be a positive coping strategy at difficult times
Encourage them to keep talking to their friends via facetime or connect through online gaming apps, connection and inclusion are key for a happy and confident child.
Encourage them to read, reading is escapism for anyone and focuses the mind away from their worries.
If you have older children and you feel they are spending too much time on social media then talk to them about it and let them know that most people only ever post the good things about their lives and it is not a true reflection of how everyone is feeling. Although social media can be good for people to feel like they are connected it can also be damaging if someone is feeling low or anxious. If you feel you need to maybe encourage them to have a break away from social media for a while and just keep connect through messages and chats to friends. Maybe suggest you will do the same.
Encourage other activities in your home, this could be cooking, learning new skills, gardening, decorating and so much more.
Do things together as these are often situations when your child will open up about how they are feeling without them even knowing it.
Don’t insist on always doing things together, give them balance and let them have time on their own to think and do things they love and enjoy doing
How do mental health issues show in children?
Mental health issues in children, teens and adults can show in the form of anger, low mood, erratic behaviour or outbursts, withdrawing from family life and loss of connection with family members and friends, sleeping a lot, a change in sleeping patterns, crying, over worrying, spending too much time on social media or screens. Covid 19 rarely makes children very unwell which is reassuring, however, parents all over the country are worried about their children’s mental health now and in the long term.
If you have been worried or are worried about your child’s mental health there are lots of support groups and resources that can help. You should also contact your doctor for their advice and support if you have any concerns.
You can get free, confidential advice via telephone, email or webchat from the Young Minds Parents Helpline here https://youngminds.org.uk/find-help/for-parents/parents-helpline/
Action for Children has lots of tips to help you recognise signs of mental health issues in children and offer advice on the action you can take to help here
You can find more information about NHS children and young people's mental health services CYPMHS here
If your child has struggled with their mental health previously then the pandemic may and will likely have made it worse for them so you should always seek advice from your doctor or any of the helplines and websites available.
Mentalhealth.org.uk says that ‘children and young people's negative feelings usually pass’.
You should, however, seek help and advice immediately if they have been distressed or unhappy for a long period of time or their behaviour has or is changing dramatically.
Flowers Day Nursery
If your child attends The Flowers Day Nursery, our professional and caring team will provide further advice on your child's mental welfare.