Worried about your child's mental health?

Posted by iChild, June 29, 2018 3:06 PM

By Place2Be

If you think your child is troubled about something or may have a mental health issue, the most important thing to remember is not to panic.

  Boyinstairs

Every child is unique and there is no formula or one set of symptoms, but if you're concerned, it's always worth seeking professional help. 

Young children may not always have the words to express what's bothering them. Here are some common behaviours and signs you can look out for, which may indicate that further support might be needed for your child:

- Sudden or extreme changes in behaviour, such as becoming very withdrawn and uncommunicative, or alternatively lashing out and becoming boisterous or even violent

- Expressing negative thoughts, or a particularly low opinion of themselves, for example that they're a 'bad' child

- Provoking or lashing out at other children

- Disrupted sleep patterns

- Strong desire to avoid school or stay with you at all times

- Complaining of aches and pains

Of course, there could be some other perfectly reasonable explanation why your child might be showing one or more of the above signs, which has nothing to do with their mental health.

Ask yourself whether the behaviour is out of character for your child, and consider whether there is anything obvious that might have upset them, for example, divorce, bereavement, friendship problems or illness.

If you're worried, you can talk to your child. Try to find a way of bringing up the conversation without putting pressure on them, perhaps during a car journey or, for younger children, when you're playing with them. This can help them to open up naturally. You might find the advice below helpful: 

Self-awareness

ChildandParent

With all the pressures on a modern-day parent, it's all too easy to become distracted when you're with your child. Whether it's the phone ringing, the bill that needs paying, or the dinner that needs cooking, parents are often juggling many demands on their time - particularly if you have more than one child! 

Make sure you carve out time to be with your child one-to-one, when you can very deliberately commit to putting other worries to one side and you can actively listen to them and their feelings. Try paraphrasing their words - this will help you tune in to the feelings behind the words.

Enjoying a quiet activity together can make it easier to talk to your child without it turning into an interrogation - something that parents of teenagers will be all too familiar with - and can encourage your child to open up naturally.

Modern life is so hectic that it's understandably difficult to make the time to sit down quietly and reflectively with your child and not be distracted by other things.  But you will all gain so much more in the long run - and benefit from taking a step back from today's busy lives and enjoy some dedicated time listening and playing with your child.

It's a good idea to make this a regular activity, and once you've committed, it's important to follow through so that your child knows they can count on you to hold this space for them.

Play

Play

Through play, children learn about themselves, their environment, people and the world around them. For younger children who sometimes don't have the words to describe their emotions, it can be a very useful way to understand how they're feeling and to help them express themselves.

Creative activities such as arts or crafts can be a wonderful way to bond with your child using materials you have around the house. While you are being creative together, you can encourage your child to tell their story and talk through what they're doing.

Role plays with toy figures or animals can also be a powerfully telling insight into how a child is feeling. Trained therapists and counsellors who work with Place2Be often use this technique which can reveal the factors behind negative behaviours.

If you're ever worried by anything that your child tells you or describes while they're playing, it's well worth consulting with a professional.  

Relationships

FatherandDaughter

Children are extremely observant and aware of what is going on around them. As parents we are constant role models. It's important to think about your own behaviour and how you deal with emotions such as anger and frustration in front of your children, as this will influence how they behave and cope themselves.

Providing a stable and consistent environment, with clear boundaries, will help your child to feel secure and better able to learn about and cope with the world around them. 

Most importantly, remember that it's natural for everyone to get upset or angry sometimes, and parenting can be a very stressful experience. Be kind to yourself and look after your own mental health, as this will have the most beneficial impact of all on the wellbeing of your child.


If you're still concerned, the best thing you can do is talk to someone - your GP can recommend local organisations who can offer support.

You can also get immediate support and advice by phone or email from the organisations on Place2Be's useful contacts page

Place2Be is a children's mental health charity providing school-based support and in-depth training programmes to improve the emotional wellbeing of pupils, families, teachers and school staff. Place2Be’s important work is generously supported by the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery. Find out more at www.place2be.org.uk

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