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The last year has been extra stressful, especially if you’re a parent. As we enter another lockdown over the first two months of 2021, it's normal and entirely understandable if you're feeling overwhelmed frustrated, worried or exhausted about the situation.

You might be finding it harder than ever at the moment to know how to best look after your child’s mental health and wellbeing, as well as your own. If you’re struggling, you are not alone. We have advice and tips that can really help.

Use our Helpfinder

Answer these six questions to find out how you can support your child's mental health during the pandemic.

How can I support my child during lockdown?

  • Talk with them about what’s going on, keeping communication as open as you can. Let them know that it’s okay to feel however they feel – whether that’s scared, worried, angry, sad or something else. You can find our tips on starting a conversation with your child here.
  • Try to answer your child's questions and reassure them in an age appropriate manner. While you don’t need to know all the answers, talking things through can help them feel calmer. 
  • Encourage your child to do the things that help them when they’re finding things difficult. This will be different for everyone – it could include things like doing exercise or going for a walk, watching a favourite film, reading a favourite book, cooking or baking, talking to friends, or drawing or writing.
  • Reassure them this will pass, you’re there for them, and you will get through this together. Having returned to some of their normal activities over the summer, going back into stricter measures might feel frustrating for your child. They may even be worried that things will never get better. Recognise how difficult this is, while also letting them know that the pandemic will not last forever.
  • Spend time doing a positive activity together. This can help them to feel calmer by giving them a short break from everything that’s going on. It’s also a great way of providing a space for them to talk through their concerns, without having a ‘big chat’. You can have a look at our activity ideas for younger children, and for teenagers, to help you.
  • Keep as many regular routines going as possible to help your child feel safe and secure. This can include things like having regular times for going to bed, waking up, eating meals and doing hobbies.

You can also have a look at more advice around:

Lockdown

  • Tips to help you cope with a difficult living situation at home
  • Parents' tips for looking after yourself in lockdown
  • A parent's tips for managing family life in lockdown
  • Tips for supporting your family's wellbeing
  • If your child is feeling worried about the lockdown, it might help to make a worry box with them, or if they're a teenager, they might like to try making a self soothe box.

Talking about coronavirus

Specific mental health issues

Looking after yourself

Remember, you’re not alone – we're here, and we’ve got lots of tools and tips to help you.

I'm looking for advice about returning to school

After being off for so long, it's normal if your child is feeling worried about returning to school.

These are things that can help:

  • Talk to your child about how they are feeling and try not to make assumptions. Ask them if they are worried or feel scared about anything, but also if they are excited about or looking forward to something. No matter how your child feels, let them know that it is completely normal to feel a mixture of emotions and that everyone will be in the same boat. Have a look at more advice on starting a conversation with your child.
  • Provide your child with as much information about their new routine and school day as you can. This will help them to prepare for any changes that have been made to the timings of their day, the layout of their classroom, their peer groups and playtimes. For younger children, it can be really helpful for them to visualise these changes – so ask your child’s school if they can send any pictures to help make things feel more familiar.
  • Reassure your child. During the lockdown we have been told to stay at home, remain socially distant from others and wash our hands regularly. This means children may find it difficult to go back to school because it will be a huge change from what they have been asked to do during the pandemic. Talk with your child about ways they can stay safe at school, such as washing their hands before and after eating, and reassure them that the school are putting measures in place to keep them safe.
  • Re-establish a routine to help ease into school life. During lockdown it is understandable that your family’s routine may have changed. Children are likely to have been waking up later or going to bed later. To help them get ready for school, try to gradually get them back into their usual morning and bedtime routines as they get closer to their return date.
  • Don’t put pressure on yourself. The transition back into school is likely to take some time. Lots of children will experience ups and downs. Try your best to support, reassure and comfort them, without putting pressure on yourself to make sure their homework is done or they settle into a new routine straightaway.
  • Think ahead. As well as reflecting on what has happened during the past few weeks, it is important to help children develop hope and a sense of excitement for the future. At a time like this, it can be hard to feel positive, but identifying the things that they can look forward to will help them to realise that the current situation won’t last forever and their feelings will change.
  • Seek support if you need it. Transitioning back to school after being in lockdown is no easy task. You may find that your child struggles to get back into school or experiences difficulties while they’re at school. If this is the case, reach out to your child’s school as soon as you can so that you can make them aware of the challenges and work together to support your child. If you are concerned about your child’s mental health and you think they need professional support, speak to the school and your GP about the best next step.

My child needs to access mental health services during the pandemic

  • Your child can still access emotional support from helplines, textlines and online chat services any time they need to. Childline, Samaritans and the YoungMinds Crisis Messenger all provide 24/7 support. The Mix is also providing online, phone and counselling support as normal. You can find other organisations offering support for young people around specific mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, self-harm and eating problems in our Parents A-Z  Guide.
  • If you are worried about your child’s mental health and need professional support, contact your GP. This is still the right thing to do, and it’s important that you know that you will not be wasting anyone’s time. You may still be offered a face-to-face appointment, or they may ask you to speak to them via phone or video call. To book an appointment without going into the surgery, you can contact them by phone, use their online contact service if they have one, or visit the surgery’s website to find out the best way to get in touch.
  • If your child is already being treated by Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) or another mental health service, many are offering telephone or online support in place of meeting face-to-face or in groups. You can still get in touch with the service and/or your child’s key workers by phone to discuss anything you need to, including how the pandemic might be affecting their treatment.
  • If your child is already seeing a therapist or counsellor, or needs emotional support and would benefit from starting therapy or counselling while the pandemic is happening, it may be possible to arrange online or phone sessions in place of face-to-face. You can ask the counsellor or therapist about this over the phone.
If you are worried about your child’s mental health and need professional support, contact your GP. This is still the right thing to do, and it’s important that you know that you will not be wasting anyone’s time.

If your child experiences a mental health crisis and they need urgent care, you can seek professional support in the following ways:

  • If you are worried that your child is at immediate risk of harm or cannot keep themselves safe, or they have already been injured, call 999 or take them to A&E.
  • If the situation is not life threatening, and a health professional has already given you a crisis number to call in this situation, call this number.
  • Or, if your child is already under the care of CAMHS or another mental health team and they have a crisis plan that states who to contact when they need urgent care, follow this plan.
  • You can also call your local NHS mental health helpline or 111 for urgent advice.

If you need more advice around accessing mental health services during the pandemic, you can contact our Parents Helpline to speak to one of our advisors.

I'm looking for home-schooling advice

Supporting your child with home-schooling alongside the other responsibilities you may have, including work and caring for vulnerable family members, can be incredibly challenging. This has been a difficult year for many parents - so try to go easy on yourself when you can.

If you'd like some advice about managing the days, have a look at these tips from a parent who's going through the same thing.

Be kind to yourself. Keep reminding yourself that you are doing your best, even if you wish you might have handled something differently that day.
Rox, parent

My child is struggling at university

Knowing that your child is far away from you during the pandemic can feel worrying.

If you’re feeling anxious about the situation, or your child is struggling to cope, have a look at these tips from parents going through the same thing.

It is natural to worry about them - particularly with the restrictions - but try to support them and help them see that they can take on this new task.
Karen, parent

My child has lost a loved one during the pandemic

Grieving without normal daily routines and face-to-face support networks can be very difficult.

On top of normal feelings of grief and loss, your child – as well as you and the rest of your family – may not have been able to be with your loved one in-person when they died, and this may feel painful and difficult to accept.

Have a look at our practical tips to help you support your child and look after yourself.

I’m struggling with my child’s behaviour

It is normal if your child’s behaviour is a bit more challenging than usual at the moment. Children and young people often express how they’re feeling through they’re behaviour – and many young people are feeling uncertain, anxious or frustrated right now.

Challenging behaviour can, however, be exhausting for you as a parent, and it’s important to find ways of managing it that work for you.

Have a look at our tips to help you respond to your child’s behaviour:

Challenging behaviour is exhausting and demoralising. My favourite phrase when things are tough is: this too shall pass.
Parent

My child isn’t following the restrictions

At a time when we are experiencing so much change, uncertainty and worry, it is normal for young people to want to be around friends and family. Due to social distancing rules, they may not be able to visit, hug or be physically close to loved ones, and this can feel frustrating and upsetting.

You may be finding it difficult to support your child to comply with the restrictions. If this is the case, here are some tips to help you:

  • Empathise with your child’s feelings about the situation – letting them know that it’s okay to feel however they feel. This will help them to feel heard, reducing feelings of anger and resentment.
  • Give your child clear and strong messages about why it is still important to abide by the rules. Remind them that these rules are for their safety, as well as yours and the people around them.
  • Keep boundaries around their behaviour in place, as you would during normal times. In the midst of so much uncertainty, this will help your child to feel safer and more secure by giving them clear expectations to follow. Remember to also empathise with your child’s feelings, alongside holding boundaries around their behaviour.
  • Reassure your child that the restrictions are not a punishment. Remind them that while the situation may feel very difficult right now, these measurements are temporary and things will go back to normal.
  • Talk with your child about how they can stay safe. For example, show them what two-metre’s distance looks like and let them know when they should wash their hands. If your child is required to wear a face mask in public spaces such as shops, explain this to them and talk through any worries they have about it together.
  • Think together about how they can stay in touch with friends and family online – for example by using Zoom, Whatsapp or social media. Remember to focus on the things they can do, as well as recognising the things they can’t.
Remember to focus on the things they can do, as well as recognising the things they can’t

I need financial support for my family

The coronavirus pandemic has made things very difficult for lots of families. If you need financial support, it is important that you reach out for help.

Help with food and other essentials

  • If you need help getting essential items for your family, such as food and toiletries, you can find support through your local food bank. You can find food banks near you using the Trussell Trust’s directory.
  • The Trussell Trust also provides a free, confidential helpline for anyone who is in financial crisis. Call 0808 208 2138 to speak to an advisor (open 9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday, England and Wales only).

Support with employment

  • If you have lost your job as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, you may be able to access financial support. To find out how, visit the government website.
  • If you are employed, but cannot work because of having less work available or because you are self-isolating or shielding, other types of financial help may also be available. You can find the government’s information about this here.
  • If you are self-employed, but are getting less or no work because of the pandemic, you may be able to access a range of financial support packages. You can find out about the different options here.

Support with accommodation

  • Shelter supports families who are living in poor housing conditions, at risk of becoming homeless, or homeless. You can find your nearest housing advice centre here.
  • If you need urgent housing advice, you can contact their helpline by phone or webchat.
  • You can also find information and advice on issues such as homelessness, evictions, benefits and council housing on their website

How can I look after myself?

This year has been incredibly challenging for parents, and it’s okay if things don’t always feel okay at the moment.

Remember that your own mental health is important too – and that this is a time to be kind to yourself. Take time when you can to check in with yourself, have a break and do the things that help you look after yourself during challenging times. These are different for everyone – it could be doing exercise, reading a book, watching a film, having a bath or speaking to friends.

If you need someone to talk to, remember that you can reach out to some of the services listed at the end of this guide.

If you'd like more ideas, have a look at: 

As parents, we often (innocently and with the best of intentions) place taking care of ourselves at the bottom of the list of priorities. With our to-do lists multiplying overnight, that much-needed ‘me time’ inevitably starts to slip further down the list. But looking after our own wellbeing and self-care is so important.
Kate, parent

Supported by The National Lottery Community Fund:

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Finding more support

The Mix

Offers support to anyone under 25 about anything that’s troubling them.

Email support available via their online contact form.

Free 1-2-1 webchat service available.

Free short-term counselling service available.

Phone: 0808 808 4994

Opening times: 4pm - 11pm, seven days a week

Childline

If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.

Sign up for a free Childline locker (real name or email address not needed) to use their free 1-2-1 counsellor chat and email support service.

Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.

Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.

Phone: 0800 1111

Opening times: 9am - midnight, 365 days a year

YoungMinds Crisis Messenger

Provides free, 24/7 text support for young people across the UK experiencing a mental health crisis.

All texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors.

Texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.

Texts can be anonymous, but if the volunteer believes you are at immediate risk of harm, they may share your details with people who can provide support.

Text: YM to 85258

Opening times: 24/7

Boloh

Supports Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic children (11+), young people and parents and carers who have been affected by Covid-19. You can call to talk through any worry or problem, including around issues such as bereavement, physical or mental health, financial issues or unemployment, or bullying and racism.

You can speak to someone in English, Gujarati, Urdu, Bengali, French, Spanish, Arabic, Punjabi, Mirpuri, Pothwari, Hinko, Hindi and Sundhi. Interpreters are available for other languages.

Webchat service available here during opening hours.

Phone: 0800 1512605

Opening times: 10am - 8pm, Monday - Friday; 10am - 3pm on Saturdays and Sundays

Samaritans

Whatever you're going through, you can contact the Samaritans for support.

Phone: 116 123

Email: [email protected]

Opening times: 24/7

NHS urgent mental health helpline (England only)

Offers mental health support and advice, help to speak to a mental health professional, and can arrange an assessment to help decide on the best course of care.

Opening times: 24/7

Family Line

Provides information and support around family issues, as well as longer-term help through Befrienders and Counsellors.

Phone: 0808 802 6666

Text: 07537 404 282

Email: [email protected]

Opening times: 9am - 9pm, Monday - Friday

Gingerbread

Provides support and advice for single parents in England and Wales.

Phone: 0808 802 0925

Opening times: 10am - 6pm, Mondays; 10am - 1pm and 5 - 7pm, Wednesdays; 10am - 4pm, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays

Anxiety UK

Provides information, support and advice for anyone struggling with anxiety.

Live chat service available.

Phone: 03444 775 774

Text: 07537 416 905

Email: [email protected]

Opening times: 9.30am-5.30pm, Monday-Friday

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