Unfortunately, children and young people don’t come with a manual and it is often hard to know what course of action is best when your child’s behaviour changes and you start to worry about them.
Don’t blame yourself. It can be very difficult to deal with stressful situations. Hopefully this guide will help you start of think of ways you can help.
If you don't find what you need on this page, please take a look at our Self Help page for children and young people for advice on specific issues and general wellbeing
Returning to basics
Be clear to set boundaries. We all need to know where the line is drawn and without boundaries life can be confusing. Don’t be afraid to be clear about what is acceptable or not and be consistent. Being a parent might mean making unpopular decisions but your role is to keep your children safe.
As children get older it is normal to expect some behaviour changes. Teenager’s brains are wired differently from adults. The frontal cortex which is the part of the brain used to:
- manage emotions
- make decisions
- control inhibitions
is restructured during the teenage years. The whole brain does not reach full maturity until about the mid 20s.
Hormones on top of these physical changes can further complicate things. Whilst these biological differences does not absolve them from responsibility for their behaviour it does help explain why teenagers behave impulsively or frustrate parents with poor decisions, social anxiety and rebelliousness. Understanding teenage development will help you to understand why they are behaving.
Teenagers are trying to establish their own identity and may be more influenced by their peers than by their parents. This may lead to more arguments and a withdrawal from family life to spend more time with their friends.
Hormones and developmental changes can often lead to mood swings and an inability to cope with their own emotions. It is a really important time for you to show your teenager that you are there for them. They more than ever need your positive attention and to feel loved.
As human beings we model others behaviours. If you get angry with your child they will also act in a negative way. The same can be said in reverse. If your child is acting in a negative way towards you, and you respond in a similar way, you will very quickly find that you are stuck in a negative cycle of behaviour.
Your child or young person needs to know that your love and support for them is unconditional and that they can talk to you about anything. Let them know that they are not alone with their problems.
It can be very difficult to talk to those closest to you. If your child is finding it difficult to talk to you, see if they would prefer to write things down, record a vlog (private video log) or find someone that is safe for them to open up to such as a teacher, relative, GP etc.
Encourage your child to keep a diary of how they feel and what their sleep pattern is. It may be that you will be able to find some patterns in the diary that can be solved but at the very least it will be beneficial for them if a referral is made to mental health services.
Children age 6 years to 13 years need 9 to 11 hours sleep a day.
Teenagers are recommended to have 8 to 10 hours sleep and not more than 11 hours.
Children and Young People need significantly more sleep than Adults to support their rapid mental and physical development.
Sleep routine is important for all of us to feel refreshed and motivated. If your child is not going to bed until the early hours of the morning they won’t be able to wake up until late morning. Encourage your child to go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning.
To get a good night’s sleep it needs to be dark. Ban electrical equipment from being used whist in bed. This means no phones, TV’s, iPad, electronic games etc. Apart from the over stimulation when you’re trying to relax, light from these items prevent Melatonin production. Melatonin is produced in the body to control our natural sleep wake cycles.
There are conditions which affect the amount of sleep a child or young person has. These include:
- Sleep Apnoea
- some physical conditions that make sleep difficult.
It is important to watch out for significant changes to sleep pattern. Excessive sleep beyond normal teenage tiredness or difficulty in sleeping (insomnia) may be due:
- to depression
- substance use
If you are concerned speak to your GP.
If you would like further guidance, or ideas as to how to help with sleep problems, please visit these links;
- Sleep self-help from 'Moodjuice'
- Sleep self-help from 'GetSelfHelp'
- 'A good night guide' by the sleep council
Watch what your child or young person eats and drinks. Avoid excessive eating or drinking just before bed. But a light snack before bed may help them to get a good night’s sleep.
Caffeine can cause sleep problems up to 10 to12 hours after drinking it.
- Encourage exercise on a daily basis. Regular exercise helps you sleep better and feel less sleepy during the day. It can take several months of regular activity to experience full sleep promoting benefits
- Get outside. Access to the outside during daylight hours will help your child to feel more awake and encourage a normal melatonin cycle.
Having a good bedtime routine will help your child or young person to relax. Encourage them to read a book, take a bath, listen to music/books, write a diary.
As more and more children and young people use social media and play out their lives online, the importance of teaching young people to stay safe online grows. We appreciate this can be an understandable source of anxiety for parents, so we've collated some guides and helpful information to hopefully help you navigate this
ThinkUKnow An education programme from NCA-CEOP, a UK organisation which protects children both online and offline. It includes information and training for parents and carers, and also young people of different ages
ShareAware The NSPCC’s Share Aware Campaign is aimed towards the parents and carers of children aged 8 to 12. This is the age at which young people start doing more online, begin to become more independent with technology along with increased independence online and have access to a greater range of devices.
Parents Protect Online safety webpage shares some tips and an online video around how to help keep your child safe online.
Apps for you to explore
- SafeToNet is pioneering technology that educates children “in-the-moment” as they use their device. It is a safeguarding assistant that helps them become responsible and safe digital citizens.
- Life360 is a family communication, location and alert app for smartphones that allows users to share their locations with each other.
- Circle Circle’s parental controls let you manage screen time and monitor all websites and apps across family devices.
- Google Family Link Family Link app lets you set digital ground rules to help guide them as they learn, play, and explore online
Video & audio exercises
Our Healthy Minds Lincolnshire team have put together some videos detailing a range of short exercises that you can encourage your child or young person to practice and do together. The majority of these video exercises are designed to reduce physical feelings of anxiety, worry or stress.
My happy place exercise
Progressive muscle relaxation
Tips from parent and carers
Things I wish I had known earlier....
Knowing "who is who"
There are so many different professionals in Children and Young People’s services and there are so many acronyms or jargon used. We wish someone would have sat down with us and explained who people were and what their role was. With this in mind, we have helped LPFT CYP Services develop a ‘Jargon Buster’ with common terms and acronyms. This Jargon Buster webpage is available here.
Registering as your child's carer
You can register as your child’s carer by speaking to your GP surgery. If your doctor and surgery know you are a carer they can support you with any physical or mental health health issues related to your caring role and provide you with general information and advice.
Eligibility for extra support
Depending on the needs of your child or young person, you might be able to claim Disability Living Allowance (for under 16s) or Personal Independence Payment (over 16) for your child.
Claims are based on a person’s needs rather than their particular condition or diagnosis. DLA and PIP are not means tested. This means that how much you earn from your job has no bearing on the amount of DLA you receive.
Please note CYP services do not provide bespoke letters of evidence to support these applications and cannot advise on whether or not you are eligible to make a claim.
Juggling work and care can be very challenging, so it’s important to find out about your rights, such as:
- The right to request flexible working
- The right to time off in emergencies
- Protection from discrimination
- The right to parental leave
More information about this is available from Carers Uk webpage
The best advice we were given...
“Don’t rush to fix it, just listen.”
As a parent you’re automatically geared to try and ‘fix’ any issues your child has. It’s so hard seeing your child struggle and so it’s natural that we just want to make things better for them. But mental health doesn’t work like that. Once we stepped down from this mentality, and provided more listening space for our daughter, it created new lines of communications. She started opening up to us more and our relationship strengthened as a result.
Get practising your “mmhmm”s and your “that sounds really difficult”. Phrases like these show active listening, and help to validate your child’s emotions. They yield more power than you can ever know!
“Information is power”
The most useful advice given was, don’t think that because a service are sending you on parenting groups in relation to your child’s condition that they think the problem is at home. It is to help you understand the condition or illness and to drip feed mountains of information to your child as and when they need help. It also empowers you and help you feel like you are back in control.
If you have questions regarding your child or young persons support needs in school, or are concerned about any aspect of their support package within school, the first suggestion would be to raise this with relevant people within the school itself to explore this together and agree next steps. In many instances this would be the SENDCO (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Coordinator). These are specialist teachers who are responsible for co-ordinating the special educational needs support in schools.
However, these services/resources are also available to help you through this process, if needed.
The Working Together Team
The Working Together Team offers high quality support to schools and academies working with students with a wide range of social communication or learning needs. The team works in partnership with our colleagues in schools and academies within the graduated approach outlined in the SEN Code of Practice. The Working Together Team provides expertise and practical specialised assistance that enables children and young people to achieve the best possible educational outcomes and make successful transitions to adulthood.
Telephone 01775 840250 (Available during school hours)
Liaise is a free, confidential and impartial Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Information and Support Service for Lincolnshire. They offer information and advice about SEN and Disabilities to parents, young people and children (0 to 25 years). They provide initial help and support via telephone and email and have a confidential helpline for parents and young people.
Moving On and Preparing for adulthood guide for parents
Leaving full time education can be worrying for most young people. For young people who have special educational needs and or disabilities it can be a very difficult time. Parents and carers can also find this to be a difficult time. There are many uncertainties about where to go for support and information in order to make informed decisions to help secure a bright and happy future.
Parent/carer led Organisations
Not Fine In School
Not Fine in School is a parent/carer led organisation set up in response to the growing number of children and young people who struggle with school attendance. Providing support with 'school attendance barriers', which often relate to:
unmet Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (diagnosed or suspected)
excessive levels of academic pressure
Define Fine is a parent/carer led organisation set up in response to the growing number of children and young people who experience school attendance difficulties. Define Fine has produced resources based on relevant government policies and guidance, to help parents and their families to work with professionals to assess and then plan appropriate and timely support.
The Independent Provider of Special Education Advice (IPSEA)
The Independent Provider of Special Education Advice (known as IPSEA) offers free and independent legally based information, advice and support to help get the right education for children and young people with all kinds of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). They also provide training on the SEND legal framework to parents and carers, professionals and other organisations.
There are so many websites out there that you can take a look at to start to help you understand your child's condition. These are just a few that parent/carers themselves have found really helpful. If you have any additions to the website here then please feel free to email us at lpft.CYPinvolvement@nhs.net
Anxiety UK was established to promote the relief and rehabilitation of persons suffering from agoraphobia and associated anxiety disorders, phobias and conditions.
The Body Dysmophia Foundation has lots of useful information, videos and resources for parents supporting a loved one with body dysmorphia.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD Action website has lots of useful information for parents and carers in relation to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and an email support line.
Beat are the leading charity in the UK to support those affected by eating disorders. They offer useful written guides for parents and carers supporting loved ones. They also offer:
- telephone support
- online support
- online peer support groups
- carer skills workshops.
Self Harm and Suicide
Harmless is an organisation who works to address and overcome issues related to self harm and suicide.
Papyrus is a UK charity dedicated to the prevention of suicide and the promotion of positive mental health and emotional wellbeing in young people. Lot of useful information on their website, with great resources for you to download. Personalised support is available via the Hopeline.
It's normal to have mixed or shocked feelings if your child has come out and/or shared that they identify as LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning) community and/or is questioning their sexuality and gender identity. It is important you give yourself time to make sense of this information and access the help you need, which will better enable you to support your child/young person.
We understand that the variance and terminology used within the LGBTQ+ community to describe sexuality, gender identity a may initally be confusing. There are some handy information booklets/sheets that could help with this- though it is always valuable to talk directly with your child/young person to explore the label they use to describe their experiences, how this relates to them, and how they make sense of this.
- Stonewall Youth - explaining sexual orientation.
- Stonewall Youth- explaining gender identity
- Stonewall- glossary of LGBTQ+ terms
- Genderbread man infograph- gender identity, gender expression, biological sex, sexual orignation
- Mindout is a mental health service run by and for lesbians, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer people. They work to improve the mental health and wellbeing of LGBTQ communities and to make mental health a community concern. They also offer online support.
Some young people at Lincolnshire Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) who identify as LGBTQ+ came together to create a LGBTQ+ Tips for Parents booklet, based entirely on their own experiences, and recognising the important role that parents/carers play.
You may have a child/young person who has shared that they are struggling to make sense of their gender identity and are starting to question this. In these instances there is support out there to help both you and your child/young person.
- The HodgePodge support group is a Think2Speak's trans youth group open to transgender or gender questioning young children age 13 and under, their families and carers. This group is based in Gainsborough.
- The TPlus support group is a Think2Speak's trans youth group for young people age 12-17 who are transgender or gender questioning. This group is based in Gainsborough.
- The Mermaids website – is a supportive website that helps Young People and their families in the face of adversity, specialising in gender identification issues.
Gender Identity Services
- The Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) is a highly specialised clinic for young people presenting with difficulties with their gender identity. We are commissioned by NHS England who set the service specifications for how we work. We help our clients to explore their feelings and choose the path that best suits their ideals.
- The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust is a specialist mental health trust with a focus on training and education alongside a full range of mental health services and psychological therapies for children and their families, young people and adults.