Supporting your child’s mental health in a post-COVID world 

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Health Assured team

02 November 2021

The NHS recently revisited the Mental Health and Young People Survey (2017) to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The research looked at pre and post-pandemic mental health, considering social media, family and education. 

Results showed that:

The likelihood of children developing a mental disorder has increased from one in nine to one in six

39% of children have experienced a deterioration in their mental health since 2017. 

Possible eating problems also increased from 45% to 58%. 

The emerging research confirms suspicions of the pandemic’s impact on mental health—mental health problems are on the rise in young people. 

Their mental health has deteriorated, and abnormal eating behaviours are increasing. These key findings highlight the need for intervention. The mental health conversation has come a long way—but talking is only half the battle. 

 

Taking a child’s perspective 

An unpredictable world, months away from friends, locked away from life-threatening viruses. The pandemic was difficult for all of us, but it’s hard to imagine putting yourself in a child’s shoes during this time. A lack of understanding and awareness make these traumatic events seem even more threatening. 

Childhood development studies have highlighted the impact of adverse early experiences on mental health¹. We know it’s incredibly important to help children recognise when they’re struggling and offer them tools to keep their mental health in check. The tips below will help you support your child’s mental health in a post-COVID world:

 

Help them to manage difficult emotions 

It’s good to regularly check in with your child and ask them how they are feeling. Asking this question shows you care, and it also encourages them to recognise their current emotional state. This emotional awareness will help them identify with their feelings in the future. 

Once they’ve recognised a painful emotion, you can then suggest helpful ways to deal with them. Here are some ideas:

· Suggest writing their feelings down to help process them

· Remind them that difficult emotions come and go

· Teach them how to focus on the breath and try a simple breathing exercise 

· Ask them to think about what advice they would offer to a friend in their situation 

 

Encourage them to reach out to others 

They say a problem shared is a problem halved. Dealing with a problem alone can feel daunting and overwhelming. But connecting with others offers a mood boost in itself. Sharing feelings with others can also help to take away worries or anxieties. 

Try to teach your child that talking to others is a sign of strength, not weakness. Talking makes us feel less alone with difficult emotions, and it encourages others to do the same. 

 

Empower them to take positive action 

Overwhelming negative emotions can leave us feeling powerless with no way to turn. Your child might still be experiencing anxieties because of the pandemic that leave them feeling fearful or worried about what might happen in the future. To help them combat these fears, you can empower them to take positive action. Taking action can help them to edge beyond the security of their comfort zone. 

Encourage them to take care of their physical health, nutrition and sleep. When the basics are taken care of, we feel ready to take on the rest more easily. Suggest new hobbies or clubs and take your child to new places you’ve never been to before. These experiences can help them to grow, improve self-esteem and overcome negative feelings. 

 

References 

¹ Daines, C.L., Hansen, D., Novilla, M.L.B. et al. Effects of positive and negative childhood experiences on adult family health. BMC Public Health 21, 651 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-021-10732-w

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