Information and advice

Is there anyone I can talk to?

If you are worried about the mental health of your child or a young person you care for it is important you talk to someone about this. This may be:

  • a teacher at school
  • the school nurse
  • a social worker if you have one
  • your family GP.

Even if they cannot offer advice themselves they will be able to help you to access support from someone who can.

In an emergency situation telephone 999 or go to the Accident and Emergency department at your local hospital.

There are lots of websites and helplines that offer support to parents.

Young Minds (national third sector organisation) offer free confidential online and telephone support and advice to any adult worried about the emotional problems, behaviour or mental health of a child or young person up to the age of 25 years old. Telephone 0808 8025544

Worried about your child?

In recent years our expectations of children have increased and our ideas about what makes a ‘normal’ child narrowed. This puts more pressures on children and more pressures on parents. Finding yourself anxious and concerned about whether your child is going to meet these demands and whether you as a parent can cope or help them achieve this, has become a common experience.

Losing faith in your capacity as a parent is now common. This does not mean you have ‘failed’ or should feel guilty. Far from it. Good parents worry about their children and look for ways to improve things for them. It does mean however, that sometimes in these ‘pressure cooker’ conditions that modern life has created, it becomes harder than ever to remember what you can do. Parents can get confused by the varieties of advice available (particularly from professionals).

Below we include some advice on how you can help your child with their wellbeing .

Don't give up too quickly

It is important you make a commitment to see through whatever intervention or strategy you have decided to try and not give up, even if you feel you are not getting anywhere after only a few days. This is particularly so for some medications or supplements, where you may have to wait for as long as two or three months whilst it is working, repairing and improving the functioning of cells before any changes are observed.

With some of the interventions, like behavioural interventions, the use of negative consequences for unwanted behaviour often means unwanted behaviours actually get worse before starting to improve.  This is because if you are putting boundaries around negative behaviour and your child does not like this, they may feel they have to go even further than usual in their negative behaviour to get you to give in.

However, keep in mind the vast majority of children will feel happier (and safer) once any strategy you are using becomes ‘bedded in’ and they are used to the new rules/boundaries.  It is equally as important children are regularly getting positive feedback for any good behaviour.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT)

Young people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender are more likely to suffer from mental health problems such as:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • self harm.

This is because they are likely to have had to cope with a number of stressors such as:

  • fear of disclosure of their sexuality or gender issues
  • bullying or homophobic reactions at school or in the community
  • dealing with expectations from family or religions
  • loneliness
  • rejection
  • low self-esteem.

The basic need of every human is to feel loved, accepted, safe and secure. If your child or young person is struggling to cope with their feelings and is experiencing mental health problems, you can support your child by listening to their concerns and validating their emotions.

If you are worried that your child is experiencing distress from gender issues, you can ask a professional such as your GP.

There are several websites that offer support to both young people and parents if the young person is LGBT.

For more advice look at Family Lives website

Five simple things to try to help your child's wellbeing

Diet and nutrition

You can improve your child's overall wellbeing by offering a healthy and balanced diet. As the old saying reminds us ‘healthy in body, healthy in mind’. Modern children’s diets are high in sugars, fats and salt and low in fibre, vitamins and minerals and essential fatty acids. There are three components to improving young people’s nutrition that has evidence to support them to improve their mental health:

  • Remove all potential irritants such as artificial additives and where possible use organic or free range foods and home cooking rather than pre prepared meals and fast foods.
  • Balance their diet. Reduce sugars and saturated fats (unless the person is underweight) and increase complex carbohydrates (these regulate blood sugar levels) and fibre by eating raw fruit and vegetables.
  • Eat three balanced meals a day including breakfast.

Fresh air and excercise

Enable your child to get plenty of opportunities for exercise (particularly outdoors), including time for unstructured play.

Regular positive family time

Find opportunities to do things together as a family on a regular basis. For example going out together once every weekend and having at least one meal together a day. Like all relationships we have to continue to work on them.

Communication and understanding

Talk to each other but more importantly, listen to each other. Try to understand your child’s point of view and help them to understand yours. Try and create opportunities for you to communicate, listen and try and understand what’s on each other’s mind.

Remember these are just ideas and suggestions and there isn’t a magic ‘cure all’ that works for everyone.

It is okay if you get to the point of needing help. Accepting the need for help is often a sign of greater courage and honesty than avoiding it.

Boy with Mum looking at a book

The Royal College of Psychiatry has published a toolkit for surviving the health and behaviour changes that occur during adolescence.