Children's and young people's mental wellbeing
Help for children and young people
Childhood has a profound effect on our adult lives. Many mental health conditions in adulthood show their first signs in childhood and, if left untreated, can develop into conditions which need regular care. Good mental health allows children and young people to develop the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them and grow into well-rounded, healthy adults.
Things that can help keep children and young people mentally well include:
- being in good physical health, eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise
- having time and the freedom to play, indoors and outdoors
- being part of a family that gets along well most of the time
- going to a school that looks after the wellbeing of all its pupils
- taking part in local activities for young people
Other factors are also important, including:
- feeling loved, trusted, understood, valued and safe
- being interested in life and having opportunities to enjoy themselves
- being hopeful and optimistic
- being able to learn and having opportunities to succeed
- accepting who they are and recognising what they are good at
- having a sense of belonging in their family, school and community
- feeling they have some control over their own life
- having the strength to cope when something is wrong (resilience) and the ability to solve problems
Support for children and young people that deal with:
Anxiety and fear
Many children get scared of things that other children aren't scared of.
Common fears in primary school aged children are:
- being hit by a car
- not being able to breathe
- fire or getting burnt
- being sent to the headteacher
- falling from high places
- a burglar breaking in to the house
- getting lost
- failure and criticism
- being alone
- the dark
- thunder and lightening
- 'bad' people
- frightening stories in the media
- separation from parents or being left behind
- imaginary creatures like monsters
Common anxieties in teenagers are
- fitting in with friends
- school work/tests/exams
- failing to meet expectations
- starting/ changing school
Signs to look out for
- finding it hard to concentrate
- not sleeping, or waking in the night with bad dreams
- not eating properly
- quickly getting angry or irritable, and being out of control during outbursts
- constantly worrying or having negative thoughts
- avoidance of what is causing the anxiety
- feeling tense and fidgety, or using the toilet often
- always crying
- being clingy
- complaining of tummy aches and feeling unwell
How to manage fears
- talk to your child about their fears and let them know that you understand and that everyone gets scared sometimes
- set a good example by trying to control your own fears
- teach your child coping methods like taking deep breaths, relaxing, thinking of happy thoughts or places and saying positive things to themselves
- encourage your child to face their fears gradually. For example, if they're scared of dogs start by looking at pictures of dogs and work up in stages by seeing a real dog in the park, letting a dog sniff them and then stroking or feeding a dog
- remain calm when your child is scared and give them lots of reassurance that they're coping well
- offer praise and encouragement when they face their fears
- encourage your child to try new things so they are less frightened of new situations
- help your child to face situations they must do, like going to school or having an injection. Prepare them calmly by describing what will happen and praise them when it's over
- talk to your child about dangerous situations so they know what they should stay away from to avoid risks or getting hurt
- find other children of a similar age to talk to your child about frightening situations, such as starting a new school, so they can explain things from their point of view
Children get stressed just the same as adults and this can cause them to behave differently or become challenging. There are a number of things that parents/carers can do to make their children less stressed and happier.
What might children find stressful?
- birth of a brother or sister
- inconsistent routines
- inconsistent boundaries
- loss of a family member, loved pet or a key person in their life
- long journeys
- moving home
- not having what other children have
- parents’ absence
- parental stress/anger/anxiety
- starting nursery, school or other childcare setting
How might this make them feel?
How might they behave?
- overly clingy
- poor concentration
- obsessive behaviours
- reverting to younger behaviours
- poor sleep patterns
- physical symptoms – headaches/’funny tummy’
What can you do?
- manage your own stress
- physical activity
- prepare them for change
- provide more structure/predictability to their day
- plan fun time where there are opportunities to talk
- regular meals and a healthy balanced diet
- teach relaxation
MindEd - a free educational resource on children and young people's mental health for parents, carers and professionals
NSPCC - Mental health and suicidal thoughts – advice on helping a child if they're struggling with their mental health
Everyone gets angry from time to time but it can be worrying when your child seems to get angry easily or very often. There are lots of reasons why a child may get angry. The following links contain more information you could try sharing with your child and to help them to come up with ways to manage their anger:
Children and young people 5 to 19 year old's
The Reach4Wellbeing Team is part of Starting Well Service which is run by Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust. It promotes and supports emotional wellbeing for children and young people aged 5-19 years old. We offer short-term group support programmes for those experiencing emotional difficulties, specifically anxiety, low mood and self-harm. Young people aged 13 and over can self-refer, some may need help from a trusted adult to complete the referral form.
Kooth is a free safe and anonymous place for online support and counselling with various tools to use to support wellbeing.
Woo is a free 24/7 confidential, anonymous text support service for all ages.
- Text “WOO” to 85258 from anywhere in the UK to start a conversation.
Mentor Link is a registered charity dedicated to providing social and emotional support to distressed children and young people.
For young people with suicidal thoughts and whose life is at risk call 999.
For suicidal thoughts please contact The Samaritans 24/7 on 116 123.
HopelineUK is a specialist telephone service staffed by trained professionals who give non-judgemental support, practical advice and information to children, teenagers and young people up to the age of 35 who are worried about how they are feeling or anyone who is concerned about a young person.
• email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• telephone: 0800 068 4141 or text 07786209697
Reading Well for children
Reading Well for children provides quality-assured information, stories and advice to support children’s mental health and wellbeing. It covers general information and advice about understanding and managing feelings, school and online pressures, bereavement, parental mental health needs, and living well with specific diagnosed conditions and physical disabilities.
Reading Well for young people (Shelf Help)
Reading Well for young people recommends expert endorsed books about mental health, providing 12 to 18 year olds with advice and information about issues like anxiety, stress and OCD, and difficult experiences like bullying and exams.
For more information visit: Reading well in Worcestershire libraries