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Parent Mental Health Day Thursday 27th January 2022
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Looking after you and your family's mental health and well being during the Coronavirus outbreak
Coronavirus has disrupted everyone's lives and has impacted lives in many different ways. This document is to signpost families to support available and how to manage the disruption.
Looking after your own mental health and coping with stress
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 caregivers deal with a situation calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children and young people.
Listen and acknowledge: 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may be upset, distressed, anxious, angry or agitated), behavioural (for example, they may become more clingy or more withdrawn, they may wet the bed), or physical (for example, they may experience stomach aches). Look out for any changes in their behaviour. Give family members a safe supportive environment to express their feelings. Listen to them, acknowledge their concerns, and give them extra love and attention if they need it.
Provide clear information about the situation: All children and young people want to feel that their parents and caregivers can keep them safe. The best way to achieve this is by talking openly about what is happening and providing honest answers to any questions they have. 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. It will not always be possible to provide answers to all the questions children and young people may ask, or to allay all their concerns, so focus on listening and acknowledging their feelings to help them feel supported.
Be 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, listen to and acknowledge children and young people’s concerns, speak kindly to them, and answer any questions they have honestly.
Connect regularly: If it is necessary for you or your children to be in a different location to normal (for example, staying at home in different locations or hospitalisation) 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.
Create 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 if they have to stay home from school, ask teachers what you can do to support continued learning at home. Online educational resources and activities to support children’s learning are available from the BBC children and young people need to ideally 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 or see Change4Life
for some ideas for indoor games and activities don’t forget that sleep is really important for mental and physical health so try to keep to existing bedtime routines it may be tempting to give them treats, such as sweets or chocolate, to compensate for being housebound, but this is not good for their health, especially as they will not be able to be to run around or be as active as they normally do - see Change4Life
for ideas for healthy treats
Limit exposure to media and talk about what they have seen and heard: Children and young people, like adults, may become more distressed if they see repeated coverage of the outbreak in the media. A complete news blackout is also rarely helpful as they are likely to find out from other sources, such as online or through friends. Try to avoid turning the television off or closing web pages when children or young people come into the room. This can peak their interest to find out what is going on – and their imagination can take over. Instead, consider limiting the amount of exposure you and your family get to troubling media coverage.
Children and young people who are accessing mental health services
Children and young people with an existing mental health problem may find the current uncertainty around the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak particularly difficult. Their 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, you may want to think about the following actions:
Speak to your child or young person’s mental health team
Identify how the support your child or young person normally receives can be maintained
Plan how you will access medication
Children and young people with learning disabilities
Children and young people with learning disabilities can feel a loss of control in times of uncertainty such as the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. They may need extra words of reassurance, more explanations or adapted explanations about the event, and more comfort and other positive physical contact from loved ones.
A good way to help them is by supporting their decisions, representing choices visually through written words, pictures, symbol systems or objects if helpful, supporting them to express their emotions and letting them know they are not alone. While listening, take their feelings seriously and don’t judge their emotions. They may feel anxious about big changes, such as going to new places or the possibilities of having to stay at home for a long period.
Where possible, it can be helpful to explain any upcoming changes to routine and circumstances before they happen and help them to plan and come up with solutions, such as finding a hobby or doing exercises to relax and cope with anxiety.
For useful tips for talking about feelings, see Skills for Care advice
. For further guidance on coronavirus (COVID19) for those with learning disabilities please see the Mencap website
(includes easy read materials)
Autistic children and young people
Irrespective of cognitive ability and language, autistic children and young people may struggle to identify any physical symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), as well as having difficulty talking about the emotions the situation will create. Keep an eye out for changes in behaviour which may help you to identify their emotional state, as well as physical symptoms.
There is going to be disruption for all of us during the outbreak, for example they may not be able to follow their normal routines, or visit older family members, so help them to manage these changes using the typical strategies you know work for your family.
It is important to be clear when communicating about the situation, how to stay safe and the symptoms of the virus. Try to avoid giving definitive statements about the future - this is a rapidly developing situation and your child or young person may be more distressed if things change when they were told they would not. Keep up to date with reliable information about coronavirus (COVID-19) (https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
If your child or young person becomes ill, they may struggle to manage the physical experience. You know what works with your family, so help to manage this situation knowing what helps your child or young person.
You should continue to access support of local autism groups online or via the telephone. The National Autistic Society
guidance on managing anxiety might also be helpful - you can call the Autism Helpline on 0808 800 4104 for further advice.
Children or young people with physical health issues
Children or young people with long term physical health issues, such as those who need continuous use of a breathing machine or are confined to a wheelchair or bed, may have stronger reactions to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. They might have more intense distress, worry or anger than children without these issues because they have less control over day-to-day wellbeing than other people. Support them by listening to their concerns, providing open and honest explanations about the situation, and giving them information about what is being done to protect them.
You may also be concerned about how you will continue their care if you have to stay at home, or you may be worried about infecting them. If you usually have support in your home, check who you would need to contact in your local authority to let them know you’re staying at home. Make sure it is clear if support is still needed for your child or young person.
For further information about the conditions that put children and young people at risk please see the guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from- covid-19).
Children and young people who care for others
Some children and young people also have existing caring responsibilities for adults or siblings. They may be anxious about what will happen if the person they care for becomes unwell, or what will happen if they themselves become unwell and unable to support the person they care for. Even if they don’t currently act as a carer, it is possible that they may become one if they are in a household with one adult.
Planning with your child or young person what will happen if you or another member of the family they care for or may need to care for becomes unwell, including contact details for others who can step in and support them, will help to reduce anxiety.
Unfortunately, the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has led to some individuals experiencing discrimination and harassment, often because of their ethnicity or nationality. It is important to check that your children and young people are not experiencing bullying or bullying others.
Explain that coronavirus (COVID-19) has affected and is likely to affect people from many countries, in many geographical locations. Emphasise that your child or young person should be empathetic to anyone who has been affected, whatever country or area they are from.
Remind your children and young people that everyone deserves to be safe at school, online and at home. Bullying is always wrong, and we should each do our part to spread kindness and support each other. If they have been called names or bullied at school, they should feel comfortable telling an adult whom they trust.
For more help and advice resources, please see the Anti-Bullying Alliance website (https://www.anti- bullyingalliance.org.uk/tools-information/if-youre-being-bullied/find-help-and-support).
You may be worried about supporting your family if you have to stay home – this can have a big impact on your mental health. For guidance on what your rights are at work, what benefits you are entitled and what further support is available please see the guidance for employees
or advice from Citizens Advice
or the National Debt line
Where to get further support
If you are worried about your or your child/ or young person’s symptoms. Please visit the NHS self-isolation advice website
for information. If you are still worried, call NHS 111.
If you are worried about your child or young person’s mental health. Seek help from a professional. You may have services attached to your child or young person’s school or college who can help, contact your GP, or look up information on children and young people’s mental health services on your local CCG website or on the NHS website. In a medical emergency call 999 (https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/urgent-and-emergency-care/when-to- call-999/
). This phone line should be used when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk. A mental health emergency should be taken as seriously as a physical health emergency. For more advice on where to get support for a mental health crisis please see this NHS page
Helplines and websites for your child and you
(https://www.crisistextline.uk/) provides free, confidential support, 24/7 via text for anyone at crisis anytime, anywhere.Text SHOUT to 85258 in the UK to text with a trained Crisis Volunteer text with someone who is trained and will provide active listening and collaborative problem-solving
provides a free confidential telephone helpline and online service that aims to find young people the best help, whatever the problem. Call 0808 808 4994 for free – lines are open from 11am to 11pm every day, access the online community
or email The Mix
Young Minds for Parents and Carers provides advice about mental health and behaviour problems in children and young people up to the age of 25. You can call the parents’ and carers’ helpline on 0808 802 5544. Please be aware Young Minds do not provide any direct psychological services and cannot make referrals to the NHS or Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services (CYPMHS).
Useful Whitefield Contacts