Mental health

There are lots of ways that we can help to keep our children’s mental health balanced. Children need to know what mental health is from a young age and be encouraged to talk about anything that might be worrying them. It is important to look at methods to help children to express themselves and how they are feeling. Children should be shown that talking about mental health is needed and to seek help if they are struggling. When you are taking care of children, you need to make sure that you follow self-care and make time for yourself.

How do I know if my child is having trouble coping?

It's common for many children and young people to face behavioural or emotional challenges at some point. Some of these issues may naturally improve over time, but others may require professional assistance. While it can be challenging to identify the underlying causes of distress in your child, there are signs to watch for. Keep an eye out for:

  • Changes in behaviour: notice any significant changes in your child's behaviour, such as increased irritability, withdrawing from friends and activities, or sudden shifts in mood.
  • Sleep problems: pay attention to changes in their sleep patterns, like not being able to sleep or stay asleep, nightmares, or too much sleep.
  • Self-harm or suicidal thoughts: any signs of self-harm or suicidal thoughts should be taken very seriously and require immediate professional intervention.
  • Loss of interest: a significant loss of interest in hobbies, activities, or the future could be a sign of emotional struggles.

If you notice any of these signs and are concerned about your child's mental health, seek professional support from a healthcare provider.

How can I support my child when they are struggling?

  • Have regular catch ups: make a habit of talking to your child about their feelings and emotions. Be sure to focus on them during this time so that they know you are listening.
  • Nurture their interests: it's essential to nurture your child's interests and passions. Encourage them to explore their hobbies and activities, whether they involve physical activity, creativity, learning or teamwork. Engaging in these interests not only connects them with others, but also enhances their mental well-being.
  • Support them when things are tough: be aware of your child's emotions and behaviour, especially during tough times. Support them through difficulties. While it can be hard to address challenging behaviour, try to help your child recognise their feelings and understand why they're experiencing them.
  • Stay connected: be present in your child's life by showing a genuine interest in what matters to them. This not only helps them feel valued but enables you to see issues and help when needed.
  • Show that you care and understand: give importance to what your child says and take their thoughts and feelings seriously. This makes them feel respected and allows you to assist them in managing their emotions in a positive manner.
  • Have a routine: Establish positive daily routines, especially around healthy eating and exercise. Keeping to these routines is really important. Ensure your child gets enough sleep by setting regular bedtime and wake-up times.

When should I consider professional help?

  • Big behavioural changes: if you observe a significant and persistent change in your child's behaviour, it's a reason for concern. This could involve shifts in mood, social relationships, school performance, or personality changes.
  • Emotional events: have there been specific events or life changes that might be causing the behavioural changes? Your child may need some help to work through and understand what has happened.
  • What triggers the change: consider whether the behavioural changes are limited to particular settings or situations. Do they occur at home, school, with friends, or when your child is alone? This information can help pinpoint the issue.

Looking after your own mental health

Parenting or caring for a child or young person can be challenging. It's crucial to take care of your own mental well-being, as it enables you to support yourself while you care for others.

Here are some essential points to remember:

  • Self-awareness: be aware of and accept your own feelings of sadness, stress, or being overwhelmed. It's okay to struggle or face your own mental health challenges.
  • No guilt: having difficulties or experiences with mental health issues does not make you a bad parent or caregiver. It's a normal part of life.
  • Emotions are normal: feeling worried, scared or helpless during tough times is entirely normal, and there's no shame in experiencing these emotions.
  • Seek support: if possible, confide in someone you trust about your feelings. Whether it's family, friends, or a colleague, reaching out for support or taking a break is essential.
  • You're not alone: never feel like you have to manage everything on your own. There is help available, and various organisations, such as Scope and Young Minds, offer advice and support for parents and caregivers.

Remember, taking care of yourself is a vital part of being able to care for others effectively. It's a sign of strength to seek help and prioritize your own well-being.

Support for parents and carers

Support for mental health emergencies:

CAHMS (child and adolescent mental health services) Tel: 0800 032 8728 option 1.


Windmills charity Stoke-on-Trent - acute bereavement support for children and young people in Staffordshire