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Mental wellbeing for children

Children’s mental wellbeing is just as important as their physical health, as their thoughts and emotions evolve with age. In this guide, discover helpful advice on understanding your child’s mental wellbeing, how to spot challenges and what you can do to help nurture their health.

Family on sofa

Exploring your child’s mental wellbeing

Children struggling with their mental wellbeing may hide their feelings or not know how to ask for help. It can be difficult for parents or carers to know when something’s wrong. But there are subtle signs you can look out for.

Mental wellbeing can be described as a mixture of how we feel and act, influenced by factors around us in everyday life. It affects everyone, and we can all experience positive or poor mental wellbeing, including children.

Protecting your child’s mental wellbeing can be daunting, but it’s important to spot challenges early on to support their long-term health. Experiences and memories we create at a young age have the power to shape our future selves, so it’s crucial to nurture these years as much as possible. And we’re here to help.

Children can struggle with many of the same mental wellbeing challenges adults face, including:

  • Stress due to emotional pressures at home, school or an unforeseen event
  • Trauma from adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) including violence, abuse, neglect or suicide
  • Anxiety from moving home, exams or making new friends
  • Lack of resilience because of low self-esteem or confidence
  • Loneliness from starting a new school or changes in friendship groups
  • Depression due to changes in the season or grief

If your child’s routine seems shaky, they’re neglecting themselves or taking little interest in life, take the first step and explore the support that’s out there.

The Bank Workers Charity was so helpful and very proactive with suggestions. A fantastic service, making a big difference to my child. Thank you

– from our client

Steps to stay ahead

Follow the steps below to help better manage your child’s mental wellbeing.

Talking about your child’s feelings can be tricky, especially if they find it difficult expressing themselves. You may feel the same way, too. But a simple question about how they’re feeling can open doors to better communication.

Many things can affect children’s mental wellbeing. From something you’re aware of, like a family change, to something completely unknown, like bullying or struggles with a school subject.

Remember, the key is to create a safe, loving, and non-judgmental environment for conversation. You can do this by:

  • Truly listening to them if they’re able to explain their feelings
  • Regularly checking in to remind them that you’re there, even if they’re not ready to talk
  • Giving them space to talk without jumping to conclusions or making assumptions
  • Checking how they feel about an action first, without forcing them into something they may not be ready for

Explore helpful advice from the NSPCC on tackling tough conversations with your child, or visit PAPYRUS for guidance on self-harm and suicide.

Your child’s school may be aware of challenges that you’re not, so it’s worth a conversation. They’ll be experienced in dealing with children’s mental wellbeing issues and have nurses, counsellors or other support services on hand to help.

Schools can also make a referral to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), who can support with more severe mental wellbeing challenges.

Talk to your child before contacting their school to keep things honest, open and inclusive.

Make time to book an appointment with their GP, who’ll listen to you and your child to find out what’s going on and talk through next steps.

Like your child’s school, they may also refer your child to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS). It’s a free NHS service, so waiting times can vary depending on where you live and the type of support your child needs. Read through the mental health support for children and young people guide from the NHS for more information.

Seeing your child suffer may have its own effect on your mental wellbeing, too. It’s not uncommon to blame yourself or feel frustrated that you can’t seem to help. But to support them, you have to support yourself. A good place to start is Young Minds’ free confidential parent helpline, with helpful advice and support for those worried about their child’s mental wellbeing.

Try to follow healthy routines as a family. Small steps like the ones below can have a big impact on reducing stress and anxiety:

  • Make sure they get a good night’s sleep every night
  • Minimise screen time before bed or adjust the screen settings for reduced brightness
  • Keep mealtimes healthy by finding new ways to eat well
  • Start being more active with help from the NHS

If your child needs more support, there are various counselling and therapy options that may be helpful:

  • Relate is an expert partner providing private counselling for young people, allowing them to openly talk about their feelings without worrying about anyone finding out or judging them. Give us a call to talk about a referral
  • Kooth is an online mental health support community for young people aged 11-18, offering access to a team of expert counsellors and self-help articles. Find out how to register, or download a leaflet for your child to learn more.

If you’re unsure or still have questions, give us a call to talk things through.

Illustration depicting a mental health matters.

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