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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.
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
It's important to 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, but 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.
Encourage them to do positive activities, play sport, get some exercise, meet friends, join a club,focus on something they really enjoy doing.
Act early. 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 - don't 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.
Self Help Support Organisations
Getting Help Specific Mental Health Support
Children and Young Adults Support for young people with mental health issues