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Not only do mental health problems greatly impact the emotional and physical wellbeing of a child, but they can also affect the whole family – parents, siblings, grandparents – those who most want to help and actually may not know exactly how to.
It can be greatly upsetting and distressing to know your child may be showing signs of mental ill-health. Even when your child is slightly ‘out of sorts’, it can be hard to know when or whether to be worried, how to approach the situation, or where to turn for support.
There are lots of organisations that offer mental health help, both locally and nationally.
Help can come in many ways from one to one support with a counsellor, online forums and chat rooms to websites with useful tips on handling situations.
The most important things is that if you are worried about your child you seek advice and help early.
There are many types of mental health issues. Listed here are the most common ones. It is always best to start by talking to your GP as mental health is complex and your child's anxieties may be a combination of factors.
Parents know their children best. They know if a child is behaving differently and that something is not quite right.
Some of the signs to look for in your child
persistently sad or tearful
more irritated or angry than usual
changes in sleeping patterns - tired or won't sleep
changes in eating patterns - no appetite
feeling lethargic or hopeless
NHS advice if you are concerned about your child's mental health
Meet Ollee, a virtual friend developed by Parent Zone and funded by BBC Children in Need’s A Million & Me. Aimed at 8-11 year olds and their parents, Ollee helps families talk about difficult topics.
Young Minds fun activity ideas, conversation starters and advice to make talking easier and help you and your child
NHS advice if things are getting too much
Talk to your child as much as possible.
If they don't want to talk to you as their parent, ask them if another family member, perhaps a grandparent or aunt or uncle could chat with them about their feelings.
Don’t interrogate them.
Try to encourage your child to open up about what’s going on in their life and how they feel about it. Make sure this is a two-way conversation by opening up about the things you happen to be worrying about (but be careful not to make the whole conversation about you).
Reassurance is important.
Children should feel safe and happy with lots of confidence and energy. Knowing that they have love and support will help your child navigate through their negative feelings.
Do positive activities, play sport, get some exercise, meet friends, join a club,focus on something they really enjoy doing.
If you feel something is not quite right, talk to your GP, your child's school,other family members who know your child well. Seeking support early on is important for both child and family. Keep calm and try to stay in control of the situation.
Be positive with your child.
Try not to make them feel they are "bad" or "not normal". Reassure them that it's okay to be not okay.
There are lots of online helplines and forums where you can get professional support and talk to other families going through similar situations. Knowing you are not alone is very important.
There are lots and lots of helplines and support groups for mental health and wellbeing. Some are specific to an issue, others give general advice and support to families.
NHS mental health advice and support
Children can get support at any time by calling 0800 1111 or going online to chat to a trained counsellor.
mental wellbeing support
support for young people in Sandwell
NHS mental health support in Sandwell
emotional health and wellbeing support for young people in Sandwell
information, advice and a confidential chat line for teenagers
How to access NHS mental health services
A guide for parents on signs of self harm and what to do
Help and support for families living with eating disorders
ThinkNinja is an app specifically designed to educate 10-18 year olds about mental health, emotional wellbeing and to provide skills young people can use to build resilience and stay well.
Barnardo's emotional support hub with information and resources to support families
free educational resources on children and young people's mental health
supporting children's mental health
young people's stories, thoughts and feelings on mental health and wellbeing
Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families free guide giving seven ways you can use CBT to help children and young people who may be experiencing anxiety.
Shout 85258 is a free, confidential, 24/7 text messaging service for anyone in the UK. It’s a place to go if you’re struggling to cope.
To start a conversation, text ‘TeamKPG’ to 85258. You’ll receive four automated messages before you’re connected to someone who will listen without judgement. This is usually within 5 minutes but if the service is busy, it can take a little longer
UK’s leading charity fighting for children and young people's mental health.
No young person needs to feel alone with their mental health. Young people can get the mental health support they need, when they need it, no matter what.