As our monthly Mental Health theme draws to a close this weeks post highlights the difficulties Children and Young Adults face which has also compounded by COVID. We will intend to continue to raise awareness about Mental Health throughout the year. Watch out for further posts.
A significant impact of lockdown has been on the mental wellbeing of the general population. It will have affected everyone, including children and young people, in different ways depending on individual circumstances and experiences. Some may have experienced their own mental health challenges while others may have lived with parents/carers whose mental health has been impacted by the lockdown. Furthermore, children and young people who suffer from social anxiety may find the transition back into group activity a struggle, and if they do, may require extra support. For some, there may be some general anxiety around COVID 19 and social distancing.
Thank them for bringing the concern to your awareness
- Acknowledge their concern/Listen
- Gather all relevant information from the parent/carer
- Give them time to offload – not all of what they share may appear relevant to the concern, but it is important that they feel heard
Empathise and Advise
- Empathise with their position
- Advise them of what they might be able to do
- Advise them of what you will do and what follow up or feedback they can
- expect from you
- It is important that coaches are sensitive to children and young people’s mental wellbeing. That they are understanding that individuals will be experiencing the return to our sport in different ways and that they are empathetic and supportive of this. If coaches have concerns regarding the mental wellbeing of a child or young person and require further support, they should follow the appropriate steps in their club’s Responding to Concerns procedure.
Look for changes
Children and young people may respond to stress in different ways. Signs may be emotional (for example, they may be upset, distressed, anxious, angry or agitated), behavioural (for example, they may become more clingy, or more withdrawn, or have difficulty concentrating, or they may wet the bed), or physical (for example, they may experience stomach or headaches). Look out for any changes in their behaviour and be aware that these changes may not occur in all contexts (for example they might just happen at school or at home).
Making time to listen
Create a calm safe space where they can communicate how they are feeling without judgement. Some young people may find it easier to talk while you are doing something together, such as playing or exercising in the park, going for a walk, painting or other activities. You can’t always know the answer and it is often better, to be honest, and say ‘I don’t know’ rather than put more pressure on yourself or set unrealistic expectations. Listen to them and acknowledge their concerns.
Remember to let them know you are there to help and give them extra love and attention if they need it. Children and young people who struggle to communicate how they feel may rely on you to interpret their feelings. For further advice, you may contact Young Minds Parents Helpline. They also offer Parents Email and Parents Webchat services.
MindEd for families is a free online educational resource about children and young people’s mental health designed for all adults, which can support parents and carers through these exceptional circumstances. Young Minds also has a useful resource about ‘Starting a conversation with your child’.
Providing clear information about the situation
One of the best ways to achieve this is by talking openly about what is happening and providing honest answers to any question’s children have, using words and explanations that they can understand. Explain what is being done to keep them and their loved ones safe, including any actions they can take to help, such as washing their hands regularly.
There are resources available to help you do this, including the Children’s Guide to Coronavirus, Make sure you use reliable sources of information such as gov.scot children-and-families or the NHS website – incorrect or misleading information can create stress for the child or young person you care for.
Being aware of your own reactions
Children and young people often take their emotional cues from the important and trusted adults in their lives. How you respond to the situation is very important. Try to manage your own emotions and remain calm, speak kindly to them, and answer any questions they have honestly.
Support safe ways for children and young people to connect with their friends
Where it isn’t possible for them to meet in person, they can connect online or via phone or video calls. Advice for parents and carers on helping children to stay safe online during the COVID-19 pandemic is available.
Creating a new routine
Changes to our lives caused by the pandemic might impact routines. Routine gives children and young people an increased feeling of safety in the context of uncertainty, so if your routine has changed, think about how to develop some regularity where possible. Some ideas might include:
- make a plan for the day or week that includes time for learning, free time (including play, creativity or hobbies) and relaxing. A weekly timetable that can be visualised can be helpful
- if children have to stay home from school, ask teachers what you can do to support continued learning at home. The Department for Education has a list of recommended digital-learning-and-teaching
- for those who are learning at home
- add in positive activities that you know the child or young person will enjoy- and discover new ideas for activities to do from home if needed. Encourage maintaining a balance between being online and offline.
- children and young people ideally need to be active for 60 minutes a day, which can be more difficult when spending long periods of time indoors. Plan time outside if you can do so safely or visit Change4Lifefor ideas for indoor games and activities. Physical activity is good for our physical and mental health
- good sleep is important for mental and physical health, so try to keep to existing bedtime and morning routines. The NHS provides healthy sleep tips for children
- try giving children and young people healthier alternatives to treats such as sweets or chocolate. See Change4Life for ideas
How children and young people of different ages may react
All children and young people are different, but there are some common ways in which different age groups may react to a situation like the COVID-19 pandemic. The common reactions to distress will fade over time for most children and young people, though could return if they see or hear reminders of what happened. Understanding these may help you to support your family.
For pre-teens and teenagers
Some pre-teens and teenagers respond to worrying situations by acting out. This could include reckless driving, and alcohol or drug use. Others may become afraid to leave the home and may cut back on how much time they connect with their friends. They can feel overwhelmed by their intense emotions and feel unable to talk about them. Their emotions may lead to increased arguing and even fighting with siblings, parents, carers or other adults. They may have concerns about how the school closures and exam cancellations will affect them.
Children and young people who are currently accessing mental health services
Children and young people with an existing mental health problem may find changes and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic particularly difficult. The increased stress may lead to a change in their behaviours and their mental health needs. If you are concerned about how to access support if they need to stay-at-home-guidance , consider taking these actions.
Speak to the child’s or young person’s mental health team
Contact the team to discuss any concerns and check how care will continue to be accessed. Update any safety and care plans as agreed.
Identify how the support the child, young person or family normally receives will be maintained
Ask if appointments normally offered in person will now be by phone, text or online or a mixture of these. Ask if there is extra support that the health professional can offer if the child or young person needs it, including how to contact the service if you have any concerns between appointments. Talk to the health professional about what plans are in place and how best to communicate these to the child or young person if you, the child or young person need to stay-at-home-guidance.
- Be aware of children and young people’s general mental wellbeing
- Offer empathy and support to children who are experiencing mental wellbeing or anxiety issues during the transition back to organised sport.
- Follow Responding to Concerns procedure where appropriate
Children and young people want to feel assured that their parents and carers can keep them safe. It will not always be possible to provide answers to all the questions that children and young people may ask, or to address all their concerns, so focus on listening and acknowledging their feelings to help them feel supported.
There are some actions you can consider supporting a child’s or young person’s mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic, including:
Resources to support you and the child or young person include:
- easy-read COVID-19 guide to looking after your feelings and your body– this provides advice on how to look after your mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak
- Beyond Words has published a book that supports those who help people with a learning disability to better understand the COVID-19 pandemic
- Skills for Care provides Top tips for talking about our feelings
- Mencap provides information on COVID-19 for those with learning disabilities, including easy read materials
- BILD (the Learning Disability Professional Senate) has published a collection of resources to support families and carers of people with learning disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Learning Disability England has some tips for people with a learning disability on looking after their mental wellbeing
- Scottish Commission for People with Learning Disabilities, which has advice with a focus on learning disability and autism
Contact details of support groups
SAMH website – The website has a lot of useful information for organisations and individuals.
There is also a Coronavirus information page available. Lots of useful information including the – ‘Clear your head campaign’ an NHS initiative.
The NHS A-Z contact list of support from Mental Health Charities.
Big White Wall
Offers safe and anonymous 24-hour support
Time to Change
Student Minds – for Students in further education.
Young Scot – Wellbeing advice for young people
Young minds – School-age advice. They also conduct training courses for leaders of groups at a cost.
sportscotland has a Mental health awareness workshop for Coaches and Volunteers – link below https://sportscotland.info/mentalhealth/#/
There is also the Institute of sport mindfulness guide.
We have also researched several helplines listed below.
Breathing space: 0800 838587
Weekdays: Monday-Thursday 6pm to 2am Weekend: Friday 6pm-Monday 6am
Webchat is available Monday to Friday, 6pm to 10pm
Samaritans: 116 123 (24 hours)
email email@example.com (24 hr response time)
Mind Infoline: 0300 123 3393
Monday to Friday (except for bank holidays) 9am to 6pm Text: 86463
No Panic: 0844 967 4848
10am-10pm every day
B-eat: 0808 801 0677 (adults) 0808 801 0711 (U18)
email advice firstname.lastname@example.org
Please continue to Listen, Talk and try to understand. Most of all don’t be afraid of asking for help.