Expert shares tips to help your child struggling during lockdown

Childline has had thousands of calls from worried kids during the pandemic. Lisa Salmon talks with experts to find out how to help youngsters cope.

The pandemic has been tough for everyone – and that includes our children. Since it started last spring, Childline has heard from thousands of children worried about their own mental health and wellbeing, and feeling lonely.

It’s not hard to understand why – the change in daily routines, being isolated at home without seeing wider family and friends, and the removal of normal support networks outside the home has led to anxiety in young people – particularly those who were already trying to cope with other issues.

Childline counsellor Neil Homer says: “Last year was hugely testing and the challenges posed by the pandemic caused major disruption for many young people. Thousands reached out to Childline – sharing that they felt lonely and were struggling with their mental health, and telling us they felt isolated and scared.”

And Emma Thomas, chief executive of the children and young people’s mental health charity YoungMinds, says: “Sadly, the concerns Childline are hearing from children echo what young people have been telling us – they’ve struggled to cope with the changes and loss of coping mechanisms brought on by the pandemic, with many experiencing social isolation, anxiety, and fears around their future.

“The pandemic is deepening the crisis in young people’s mental health and there’s growing evidence suggesting the impact could be significant and long-term. Many lost access to mental health support during the first lockdown, while others chose not to look for help when the NHS was under so much pressure. With another lockdown, it’s likely more young people may struggle to cope.”

Here, Childline and YoungMinds outline how to help support children’s mental health and prevent feelings of isolation…

1. Know how to spot the signs

You can’t help your child if you haven’t realised they’ve got a problem, and Young Minds says there are many things to look out for. “If you notice your child is becoming withdrawn, that there’s been a change in sleeping or eating habits, if they seem to lack confidence or get upset, it might be a sign they’re struggling,” warns Thomas.

2. Talk to your child

If you spot signs your child might be struggling, it’s important to talk to them.“Keep talking and trying to communicate in any way you can – hugging, listening to them, texting them,” advises Thomas.

3. Expressing feelings doesn’t have to be face-to-face

Children might find it easier writing their thoughts down, so the whole family could do this and put them in a ‘feelings box’ and then talk about their good, sad or difficult feelings at the end of the day. For younger children, play can be a great way to help them talk about their worries or give them a good distraction when they’re upset,…

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