Practical tips for parents and guardians
What you can do if your child or a young person you know is experiencing difficulties with their mental health.
What parents and guardians can do to help
We may not be able to protect children or young people from facing challenges with their mental health, but we can help them to find and develop positive ways to manage and make sense of what they’re experiencing.
Talk about your concerns
If you have noticed a change in your child’s behaviour or if there is something that is causing concern ask if they want to talk about it. If they don’t want to talk, you could explain you are concerned and say that you’re happy to talk if that would help, it can also be helpful to acknowledge that they might prefer to talk to someone else or even consult websites that could be of help.
Keep a journal
Writing down how we feel is sometimes easier than talking about it. Writing can be a great way for anyone to process their feelings and can really help us to feel our feelings instead of ignoring or supressing them. This in turn, allows us to make sense of our feelings and time to move on.
Encourage a healthy lifestyle
Exercise is a great way for everyone to generate feel-good endorphins, process excess adrenaline from stress, interact with peers, build confidence and sleep better.
As a family you could start to go for walks or exercise together or suggest for your child to join an activity that they have an interest in. Have a look what is on offer in your local area, colleges or even try a few classes online.
Dedicated ‘worry’ time
If your child is a persistent worrier or ruminator, it can be helpful to encourage them to allocate a specific amount of time as ‘worry time’, guiding them to allow time for worry and teaching them skills to switch off from their worries at a certain point.
Worry time is a constructive time to focus on concerns and work out solutions to their concerns. Once they’ve done their journaling / spoken through their worries and the allocated time is up, encourage them to focus on cultivating and nurturing the positive aspects in their life.
This takes practice but is a great way to train ourselves not to let our minds spiral or run away with our worries all day.
Focusing and talking about the good things that happen each day can be a great place to start.
A nice way to do this can be at dinner time or just before bed. It’s said that if we can think of 3 things that we are grateful for on a daily basis we will gradually learn to automatically look for the positives even during tough times.
This doesn’t have to be complicated, it could be as simple as being grateful for having a comfy bed, for the weekend or for a meal. Start this simple practice with your family and see if you notice a shift in everyone’s outlook and mood.
Counselling can be a transformative way to process feelings and emotions. There are many different types of counselling and talking therapies and so a good place to start is looking into what might suit your child’s needs.
- Speak to your child about your concerns and see if they understand and share your point of view.
- If you are worried about your child’s wellbeing you can also speak to your GP, who can tell you about the services available in your area.
- If you are seriously concerned about your child’s wellbeing you can get in touch with Young Mind’s Crisis Messenger service for free 24/7 support across the UK if you are experiencing a mental health crisis. If you need urgent help text YM to 85258. (All texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors).
- In an emergency or if there is risk to life (that can be your own or another person’s) call 999.
For more support
- Young Minds: the mental health charity, has a dedicated, confidential helpline for parents. Call them on 0808 802 5544 (9.30am-4pm Monday to Friday) or visit their website here.Young Minds also offers a text service for young people in crisis. Text the YoungMinds Crisis Messenger, for free 24/7 support across the UK if you are experiencing a mental health crisis. If you need urgent help text YM to 85258. All texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors.
- FRANK, visit the website if you are worried about a child’s exposure to drugs. You can also call their helpline on 0300 123 6600 (available 24/7).
- Family Lives is a charity specialising in families. You can call their confidential helpline on 0808 800 2222 (9am-9pm Monday to Friday, 10am-3pm Saturday to Sunday). You can also visit their forums.
- PAPYRUS: For people under 35 and those supporting them Papyrus HOPEline 0800 068 4141 (Mon-Fri 10am-10pm Sat-Sun 2pm-10pm and bank holidays 2pm–5pm text 07786 209 697
- Childline: offering an array of support around mental health and related issues including information and advice. Call 0800 1111 for free for anyone under 19 in the UK. View their mental health resources here.
- C.A.L.L. Helpline: offering emotional support and information on mental health and related matters to the people of Wales. If you live in Wales call 0800 132 737 (open 24/7) or text word ‘help’ to 81066.