Supporting your child if they're feeling worried
It’s normal for children and young people to feel worried or anxious at the moment. We’ve all experienced sudden changes in our lives and routines – and we’re living with lots of uncertainty about the coming weeks. For some young people, the coronavirus pandemic may also worsen or trigger anxieties they were already struggling with.
Here are five things you can do to support your child:
- Talk to them about what’s going on. Find out how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking about, let them know it’s okay to feel scared or unsure, and try to answer their questions and reassure them in an age appropriate manner. Remember, you do not need to know all the answers, but talking things through can help them feel calmer.
- Help them to reflect on how they’re feeling and encourage them to think about the things they can do to make them feel safer and less worried.
- Reassure them that this will pass, you’re there for them, and you will get through this together.
- Spend time doing a positive activity with your child (such as reading, playing, painting or cooking) to help reassure them and reduce their anxiety. This is also a great way of providing a space for them to talk through their concerns, without having a ‘big chat’.
- Keep as many regular routines as possible, so that your child feels safe and that things are stable.
Supporting your family’s wellbeing during isolation
This is a really challenging time for families. Parents are experiencing a sudden change in their lives and routines – and are having to balance children being home full time alongside jobs, employment and health worries, financial concerns and care for vulnerable family members. This is inevitably going to feel stressful at times – and remember, it’s okay if things don’t always feel okay at the moment.
As parents, there are things you can do to help daily life feel as manageable as possible for you and your family. Have a look at our top tips and activity ideas to help you set up a routine that works for you.
How can I access mental health support and treatment for my child during the coronavirus pandemic?
- If your child is already being treated by Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) or another mental health service, get in touch by phone with the service and/or their key workers to discuss how their support will continue during the pandemic. Many services will be offering online or telephone support in place of meeting face-to-face, so this is something you can ask about.
- If your child is already seeing a therapist or counsellor, or needs emotional support and would benefit from starting therapy or counselling while the pandemic is happening, it may be possible to arrange online or phone sessions in place of face-to-face. Ask the professional supporting your child about this, as well as any other ideas they have for how they can make sure some contact continues, rather than cutting off support abruptly.
- Your child can still access emotional support from helplines, textlines and online chat services anytime they need to – and Childline, Samaritans and the YoungMinds Crisis Messenger all provide 24/7 support. The Mix is also providing online and phone support as normal. You can find organisations offering support for young people around specific mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and self-harm on our Parents Guide to Support.
- If you are worried about your child’s mental health and need professional support, contact your GP. In line with NHS advice, avoid going to the GP surgery in person if you can. To speak to a doctor or book an appointment, you can phone the surgery, use their online contact service if they have one, or visit the surgery’s website to find out the best way to get in touch.
If your child experiences a mental health crisis and they need urgent care, you can seek professional support in the following ways:
- If a health professional has already given you a crisis number to call in this situation, call this number.
- If your child is already under the care of CAMHS or another mental health team and they have a crisis plan that states who to contact when they need urgent care, follow this plan.
- If your child needs urgent care but it is not life threatening, you can call 111 for advice.
- If there is a medical emergency, for example if your child is injured or you are worried that they or someone else is at immediate risk of harm, call 999.
If you’re unsure about anything and need some advice, you can call our Parents Helpline for free. We’re open Monday-Friday from 9.30am-4pm and you can reach us on 0808 802 5544. If you need further help after speaking to one of our Helpline advisors, we can refer you to one of our specialists – whether it’s a psychotherapist, psychiatrist, psychologist or mental health nurse. They will arrange a phone consultation within 7 days of your call.
What can I do if my child won't stay home?
Advice for parents whose children are refusing to comply with the COVID-19 lockdown rules:
- Give your child clear and strong messages about why it’s important to abide by the rules. For example, remind them that this is for their safety, for yours and the people around them.
- Remind your child that this is not a punishment, it’s temporary and things will go back to normal.
- Think about whether a compromise is possible, such as increased time talking on the phone or through video messaging with their friends, or making sure they have space in the home to have private calls or be on their own.
- Talk to them about what might help at this time, reassure them that you understand how difficult this is and that it won’t last forever, and try to come up with a few things that might help your child stay in the home.
- When they do go out for their one bit of exercise a day, ensure you set some expectations for them. For example, they should remain in public spaces, such as a local park, and not go into other people’s homes or meet up with anyone else. Remind them that being with people who they do not live with is breaking the law and a police officer will separate them and may fine them or you.
- If you are a parent or carer needing more support or advice, call our Parents Helpline for free on 0808 802 5544. Alternatively, you can complete our online contact form and we will be in touch within three working days.
- If you need further help after speaking to one of our Helpline Advisors, we can refer you to one of our mental health specialists – who range from psychotherapists to psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health nurses. They will arrange a phone consultation within 7 days of your call and during the consultation, will be able to explore your concerns and provide clinical insights and suggest coping strategies.