Supporting your child during the coronavirus pandemic

Tips, advice and where to get support for your child’s mental health during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, from

It’s normal for your child to be finding things difficult during the pandemic, especially now we are in a second lockdown. While everyone’s experience is different, your child may be feeling:

  • Worried or anxious about their own or other people’s health, as well as what the future will be like.
  • Angry or frustrated about the fact that they still can’t get back to their normal lives.
  • Sad about missing friends or family who they haven’t been able to spend as much time with this year.
  • Tired-out or low, or struggling with motivation for things like school.

It is also normal if, as a parent, you are feeling some of the same things. You have lived through a year of so much uncertainty and change. As we go into a second lockdown, you may be feeling exhausted, overwhelmed or worried about your child.

Even though things may be incredibly difficult for you right now, there are things you can do to support your child’s wellbeing. And remember, you’re not alone – we’re here, and we’ve got lots of tools and tips to help you.

How can I help my child during the second 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 lockdown 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, and the lockdown, 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 use our lockdown activity ideas 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.

My child needs to access mental health services during lockdown

  • 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 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 a health professional has already given you a crisis number to call in this situation, call this number.
  • 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.
  • If your child needs urgent care but the situation is not life threatening, you can call your local NHS mental health helpline or 111 for 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.

My child is in lockdown at university

Knowing that your child is far away from you during lockdown 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.

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:

My child isn’t following the lockdown rules

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 second lockdown. If this is the case, here are some tips to help you:

  • Empathise with your child’s feelings about the lockdown – 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 lockdown is 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.

How can I look after myself?

This year has been incredibly challenging for parents. At the beginning of the pandemic, you may have balanced having your children at home full-time alongside your job, worries about employment or health, and caring for vulnerable family or friends. As the year has gone on, you have continued to face lots of uncertainty. This is a lot to manage, and it will inevitably have felt stressful at times. As we go into a second lockdown, 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: 

Supporting your child during the coronavirus pandemic

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