Let’s Talk Mental health in Kids: How has Covid-19 affected our children?
Often, when we discuss mental health, we think only of adults. As we start to emerge from the lockdowns to which we have been subject, it is useful to ponder some pertinent questions about our children’s mental health.
It is with this in mind that NHS England’s top doctor for children and young people’s mental health has urged parents to be alert to signs that children could be experiencing anxiety, distress or low mood as some pupils return to school. Such feelings might be experienced both by pupils heading back to the classroom after months away and those who would like to return but remain stuck at home feeling left out or isolated. For those pupils that do return to school, there is the added complexity of adjusting to a new learning environment in which social interaction is tempered by the rules around social distancing, wearing of masks, and alterations to the learning and play environment.
Signs that parents should look out for include:
- Children becoming more easily upset or finding it hard to manage their emotions
- They may appear anxious or distressed
- Increasing trouble with sleeping and eating
- Appearing low in mood, withdrawn or tearful
- Reporting worried or negative thoughts about themselves or their future
- For younger children, there may be more bed wetting.
If a parent is worried about their child’s mental health, they can help by:
- Making time to talk to the child
- Allow the child to talk about their feelings
- Trying to understand their problems and providing reassurance that they have heard them and are there to help
- Helping the child do positive activities
- Trying to keep a routine over the next few weeks
- Looking after their own mental health.
- Paying extra attention if they have children with autism spectrum disorder, learning disabilities and ADHD; taking extra time to explain change and manage any anxiety and distress. This might necessitate additional contact with specialist health and care services.
External help is also available from:
- NHS 111 online or GPs for urgent problems such as signs of self-harm or injuries in children
- Rise Above, a resource with advice for pupils, parents and schools about a wide range of issues that young people face
- MindEd, a free educational resource for parents and professionals working with children
- Young Minds Parents’ helpline, can provide advice and support to any parent or carer who’s concerned about their child’s mental health.
- The NHS website, which has a wide range of resources on just about every health issue.