What Can You do if You're Worried?
Whilst it may be difficult for parents and carers to identify when their children may or may not need support with their emotional health, identifying that there may be a worry is the first step for help and support for their child. There are many forms of support for children and below I have started with some things that you can do to help understand and support your child or children. This is in no particular order.
Interact, Communicate, Listen: Showing your child continuous love and affection in form of smiles, cuddles, and playful loving interactions is important. It demonstrates to them that they are loved and cared for from a very young age and will not only embrace this but will demonstrate it back to others around them. This will then build upon their self-esteem, self-confidence and resilience which is crucial for later on in their childhood and adulthood as they develop. Without this continuous love and affection and feeling of safety and stability, children may feel unwanted or unappreciated which could go on to impact them in a negative way as they grow older.
Communicating with your child is key and having a relationship that is built on trust and where they feel listened to Is crucial. Children want to know that they are listened to. Theodosiou L. et al (2020) states that some children may try and hide how they are feeling due to a number of reasons including worry that they won’t be understood or be believed which is sadly the truth in some cases. So what do you do if you feel that your child is not talking to you for any reason?
Identify with whom your child would talk to if they needed someone to go to. Who are the safe adults around them? Who are their Friends or peers? Who are their practitioners? Family members? Who are the other individuals they see on a regular basis? Social support can contribute to a child’s ability to regulate their emotions (Charuvastra and Cloitre, 2008).
As well as communicating, there are other ‘activities’ that could be completed to help understand how your child may be feeling. This could include asking your child how they feel, by drawing happy or sad faces and asking them to select how they are feeling. If your child Is able to understand, scaling from 1-10 is another method where they can point, write or hold up their fingers identifying a number of how they feel (make it clear whether 1 or 10 is happy or sad). You can then ask follow up questions such as ‘what would make you feel happier etc.?’ Asking your child to draw how they are feeling could be helpful as well as a parent drawing how they think their child is feeling and the child agreeing or disagreeing. There are many ways to communicate even if it is not verbally.
What do you do if your child is not able to express their feelings?
Play: Some children may find it difficult to communicate or may not have the language needed to express how they feel. As stated above, getting your child to draw how they feel and by doing activities that draw out how they are feeling can be helpful for them. As well as it being helpful for them, once you are able to discover how they are feeling it is then more possible for you as parents or carers to finding any possible or useful strategies in managing your child’s feelings.
Take note: Keep a diary of any worries you have about your children, their behaviours, their feelings and emotions, eating habits, health etc, and any other signs that may seem unusual or out of character. This can be key in identifying patterns which you as a parent may be able to analyse yourself. Additionally, if you feel that your child needed professional support in the future, you are then able to present this information which may help inform the professional of the best support that can be put in place for your child.
Seek professional support: There are a number of trained and qualified professionals who can support children with their emotional health. For young children this can be done through different types of therapy such as counselling and talking therapies and for younger children can also include things such as play therapy, art therapy. It Is important that you are supported in exploring the most suitable support for your child who is unique.
There is a support service called CAMHS (Community and Adolescent Mental Health Service) who provide support with their emotional health, find out more information here: https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/mental-health-services/child-and-adolescent-mental-health-services-camhs// There are also online helplines and telephone support available and you will find further information on the websites listed below.
- What else? (Tips):
- If you feel that you child is at risk, do the same as you would for a physical health need for example contacting your GP, going to a walk-in centre or visiting your local A&E.
- Children’s emotional well-being has been recognised as a key part of the Early Years Foundation Stage and for this reason practitioners working with young children will be aware of how to support children in this area. Be open with them so that they can support you and your family.
- Medication may also be useful for some children (please ensure you do the necessary research and understand all side effects and impacts that these can have on your child).
- Assessment checklists can be useful in thinking about signs and symptoms.
- Your local children’s services can sometimes support parents when they have worries about their children which can include family support services.
- It is beneficial that time is set aside for family games or family fun times weekly if not daily.
- Remember that from the moment a child is born, they can pick up on adults’ feelings and emotions and this can impact on how a child feels and manages conflict.
Please see resources tab for some supporting websites and services that you may find useful.