This webpage is for parents/carers of younger children (aged 3-11 years) who may like some information, advice or guidance around supporting their child with their mental health.
If you are a young person, you might like to have a look at this page about mental health support for teenagers.
When children are feeling anxious and worried, it can be really hard for them to explain or understand how they’re feeling. You may notice that your child behaves a little differently and it can be really stressful as a parent/carer to understand what’s happening and how best to support your child through it. Sometimes, what could easily be seen as being naughty, could be your child’s way of trying to show you that something is wrong and they aren’t feeling happy. One way to understand this is by knowing your child’s typical behaviours, and identify whether there is any change or behaviour out of character.
Recognising the signs
The first step is to recognise the signs that a child might be struggling with worry or anxiety, such as:
- become irritable, tearful, clingy or have angry outbursts
- have difficulty eating or sleeping
- feeling tense and fidgety, or using the toilet often
- complaining of tummy aches and feeling unwell
- wake in the night, have bad dreams and/or start wetting the bed
- lack confidence to try new things or seem unable to face simple, everyday challenges
- find it hard to concentrate, constantly worrying and have a lot of negative thoughts
Practical support and ideas to help your child
Everybody can have bad days, no matter their age. Below is a list of practical support and ideas about how to help your child manage any worries or anxiety they might have.
It's important to keep in mind that changes in behaviour may also be a developmental change as opposed to worry and anxiety, and even though a child may be experiencing worry and anxiety, children can be resilient. A lot of our anxiety’s and worries are healthy for our development; they allow us to become resilient, problem solve and cope with difficult situations in the future.
TIP 1 - Talk to your child about their worries
Ask your child how they are feeling. If your child is worried about something in particular have a conversation with them about it. There are resources available to help you explain to your child in an age appropriate way about certain subjects or living situations and help them understand why things might feel difficult at the moment.
Allow children to ask questions. It is natural that children will have questions and worries. Giving them the space to ask these questions and talk their worries through is a good way to ease anxiety.
How to make a worry monster box - Worry boxes have been used for years to help children with feelings of worry and anxiety. They are a great way to encourage children to think about their feelings and give them a sense of control over their worries. Download our Worry Monster Guide below:
- The Worry Monster Guide
- Download (1.14MB - PDF)
- Advice from the NHS on talking to children about their worries https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/talking-to-children-about-feelings/
- Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services (CAMHS), which is provided by Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust (RDaSH), has lots of support and advice available for parents and carers about children’s behaviour.
- RDaSH has a team of Mental Health Support Workers who are based in and near schools and colleges around Doncaster who help children and young people with their mental health. Find out more at the With Me In Mind website.
- Talking to children about the coronavirus – a guide put together by the Doncaster Council’s Education Psychology team includes lots of resources to talk to primary aged children about their feelings.
- Doncaster Council Young Advisors have written a book about ‘Super Sam’ which is a resource to raise awareness of mental health issues and to encourage children and young people to talk about their feelings. Read all about Super Sam here.
- Every Mind Matters website has guidance on supporting young children’s mental health if you suspect they are struggling.
- Young Minds website has guidance on talking to your child about coronavirus. Young Minds also have a Parents Helpline 0808 802 5544 or you can get in touch via email by using their online form.
- The NSPCC website has advice on children’s mental health and advice for parents and carers on supporting children. There’s also an NSPCC Helpline which can be reached 24 hours a day by email, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through its online reporting form on the main NSPCC website. Helpline practitioners can be contacted on 0808 800 5000 Monday to Friday 8am-10pm or 9am-6pm at the weekends.
- Children express themselves through play as well as words. The Cbeebies website has some useful information on How Children Learn Through Play and how knowing this can help you understand their feelings and behaviours.
- The CUES-Ed website is a helpful resource for children and gives advice on looking after ourselves and what to do about worrying.
TIP 2 - Keep to a routine
Keep as much routine and structure to your child's day as possible. This will help your child to feel a sense of safety and a lack of uncertainty. Where you can try and stick to daily routines, with wake-up times, meals, naps, and bedtimes as usual so your child knows what is happening and when.
- Online learning and activities for children
- Family Hubs are running a wide variety of free, fun online activities for families with children.
- Staying physically active is a key part of looking after yourself and your children, for ideas on how to stay active with your child, the Families Information Service Support page has lots of ideas on how to do this.
- Active Imaginations is a great online resource full of simple and fun activities that will help two to four year olds stay active and have fun.
- NHS Change 4 Life page has lots of information about staying healthy and active and wellbeing tips for parents.
TIP 3 - Look after yourself and your own needs
It might feel impossible at times, but finding some time for yourself can be really good for you. Use techniques that help to make you feel a bit calmer - if you are at home, music, breathing and relaxation techniques, distraction (such as watching something funny), and time with family or friends can all help
- Learn about the five ways to wellbeing.
- The Doncaster Educational Psychology Service booklet has advice and ideas on self-care (pages 7-8).
- The Coronavirus Information for Parents and Carers page has information for parents/carers on mental health and wellbeing support.
- It’s normal for families to argue, whether you’re in a relationship or separated, but if you think your arguments are becoming a bit of a problem, help is at hand. Being around regular conflict can have a big impact on children, as well as your own wellbeing. The Relationship Matters website is full of useful advice and how you can access support, stay calm and work it out.
TIP 4 - Don’t be afraid to ask for some support
We’re all in this together and can learn from and support each other. Sometimes talking things through with someone with experience or in the same position as you can be a huge help.
- The School Nurses team is a group of experienced qualified nurses and support workers who support young people in Doncaster aged 5-19 years and their families to stay healthy physically and emotionally.
- The Family Hub are running sessions on parenting children and parenting teenagers where you can talk about some of the issues families are facing and some ideas on how to overcome them. The virtual groups are great for top tips, support or even just a listening ear and are free to attend (booking essential), email FamilyHubManagementTeam@doncaster.gov.uk or ring 01302 737350 to arrange an invite to the session via Microsoft Teams (limited to eight parents per session).
- Parenting children - Tuesdays, 2-3pm and
- Parenting teenagers - Wednesdays, 2-3pm
- Free online parenting programme for all Doncaster parents or carers: Courses include understanding your pregnancy, understanding your baby and understanding your child and teenager. Visit https://inourplace.co.uk/ then enter your Doncaster postcode and use the access code STGEORGE to gain this free support and advice.
For more information, advice and guidance, please visit the Families Information Service’s Information for Parents and Carers page which is packed full of useful resources.
Make a Worry Monster with your little one!
Why not try this at home activity with your child/children to start working on taming those worries.
We've pulled together a handy guide on how to make your very own Worry Monster to eat those fears away! All you will need is an empty tissue box, scissors, craft supplies, an adult and a little imagination! That way, your little one can write down their concerns and let the Worry Monster munch them away. You can download the how-to guide below:
- The Worry Monster Guide
- Download (1.14MB - PDF)
Advice and support for more serious mental health concerns
Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services (CAMHS)
CAMHS services are provided by Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust (RDaSH). Between 9am and 5pm you can contact the CAMHS team or your care coordinator (if your child is already seeing someone in CAMHS) on 01302 796191. Please note the services are closed on public bank holidays but the out of hours service continues to operate. Out of hours is after 5pm and at weekends – for a mental health crisis access to support is available at your local Emergency Department. You can also contact the Single Point of Access by freephone on 0800 804 8999.
Early Help Services
Early Help is a way of thinking and working together as services with families that have additional or more complex needs. Early Help can prevent problems from getting worse by providing support to families when a need is identified or as soon as a problem emerges. This can be at any point in a child’s life, from conception, through childhood and into adolescence. It can also prevent further problems arising by building resilience with families to find their own solutions in the future. It should not be seen as a specific service, but any service, and crucially how services work collectively through tailored support packages for specific needs in individual families. Find out more on the Doncaster Safeguarding Children Partnership website. If you need information or advice about a child or young person before completing the form, call Early Help from 8.30am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday, on 01302 734110.
Winston's Wish is the UK's childhood bereavement charity; they provide support to children and their families after the death of a parent or sibling.