Children’s Mental Health Week is taking place on 1-7 February 2021 and NELFT is delighted to support the campaign once again this year.
Whilst the global pandemic has affected us all in one way or another, children have undoubtedly had their entire world turned upside down. Due to the school closures many of them have lost their daily routines and social contact. Some of children will also have suffered bereavement, difficult home situations or watched their parents struggle to make ends meet following redundancy.
This year's theme is 'Express yourself', and it focuses on finding ways to share feelings, thoughts or ideas through creativity. This could be through art, music, writing and poetry, dance and drama, photography and film, and doing activities that make you feel good.
At NELFT, we've created a colouring in template for children and young people to use throughout #ChildrensMentalHealthWeek which can be downloaded and printed here:
Please tag us in photos of your childs completed art work - @NELFT on twitter and @nelft_nhs on instagram.
Place2Be events during Children's Mental Health Week 2021
- Virtual Assembly, all schools and families at 9am on Monday 1 February - Children's Mental Health Week assembly - with BAFTA Kids and Oak National Academy - Children's Mental Health Week 2021
- Online Conference, Creativity as ailing tool: Connecting mind, body and imagination 2-4.45pm Friday 5 February - Creativity as a healing tool: Connecting mind, body & imagination (pesi.co.uk)
Place2Be is a children's mental health charity that provides counselling and mental health support and training in UK schools, using tried and tested methods backed by research.
Resources for parents
Regardless of their age, this may be a difficult time for children and young people. Some may react immediately, while others may show signs of difficulty later on.
How a child or young person reacts can vary according to their age, how they understand information and communicate, their previous experiences, and how they typically cope with stress. Adverse reactions may include worrying about their health or that of family and friends, fear, avoidance, problems sleeping or physical symptoms such as a stomach ache.
During this time, it’s important that you support and take care of your family’s mental health. As well as thinking about the children or young people in your care, it is important to take care of your own mental health and wellbeing. Children and young people react, in part, to what they see from the adults around them. When parents and carers deal with a situation calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children and young people. Parents and carers can be more supportive to others around them, especially children, when they are better prepared.
Helping children and young people cope with stress during the pandemic
There are some key actions you can consider to support your child or young person’s mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic, including:
- Listening to and acknowledging their concerns. 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 they may wet the bed), or physical (for example, they may experience stomach aches).
- Look out for any changes in their behaviour. Children and young people may feel less anxious if they are able to express and communicate their feelings in a safe and supportive environment. Listen to them, acknowledge their concerns and give them extra love and attention if they need it.
- Providing clear information about the situation. Children and young people want to feel assured that their parents and carers can keep them safe. One of the best ways to achieve this is by talking openly about what is happening and providing honest answers to any questions they 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 more often than usual.
- Make sure you use reliable sources of information– there is a lot of misleading information from other sources that can create stress for you and your family. It will not always be possible to provide answers to all the questions that they may ask, or to address all their concerns, so focus on listening and acknowledging their feelings to help them feel supported.
- Being aware of your own reactions. Remember that children and young people often take their emotional cues from the important adults in their lives, so how you respond to the situation is very important. It is important to manage your own emotions and remain calm, speak kindly to them, and answer any questions they have honestly.
- Connecting regularly. If it is necessary for you and your children to be in different locations to normal, make sure you still have regular and frequent contact via the phone or video calls with them. Try to help your child understand what arrangements are being made for them and why in simple terms.
- 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. For more advice on helping your children stay safe online, see this guidance on staying safe online during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Creating a new routine. Life is changing for all of us for a while. Routine gives children and young people an increased feeling of safety in the context of uncertainty, so think about how to develop a new routine, especially if they are not at school: make a plan for the day or week that includes time for learning, playing and relaxing
- Encourage maintaining a balance between being online and offline and discover new ideas for activities to do from home if needed.
- Children and young people ideally need to be active for 60 minutes a day, which can be more difficult when spending longer periods of time indoors. Plan time outside if you can do so safely.
- Don’t forget that sleep is important for mental and physical health, so try to keep to existing bedtime routines
- It may be tempting to give children and young people treats such as sweets or chocolate but this is not good for their health, especially as they may not be as physically active as normal.
- Limiting exposure to media and talking more about what they have seen and heard. Like adults, children and young people may become more distressed if they see repeated coverage about the COVID-19 pandemic in the media. A complete news blackout is also rarely helpful as they are likely to find information from other sources, such as online or through friends. Consider limiting the amount of exposure you and your family have to media coverage.