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Caring for and supporting your child

This is a time of great uncertainty and a lot of children and young people will be feeling anxious and worried about what is going on. Even very young children can pick up on the anxiety of those around them and be upset by the change of routine. This is all very normal and it’s important that we do all we can to support children and young people through this difficult time.

It’s important to also look after yourself so that you can help your children in the way that you would want to. Please see our advice on our main website on looking after yourself.

Keep a routine

Children respond positively to a routine so try to have some routine throughout the day to help them to feel safe. Plan how you will spend your time – it might help to write this down on paper and put it on the wall. It can be difficult to follow a strict routine but try to keep to basics like mealtimes and bedtimes as you usually would so that children are well rested and have an understanding of what is coming up next. You could set aside regular time for homework in the morning and craft time in the afternoon.

Stay connected

It can be really hard for children to not see their friends and family as they are used to. Keep in touch digitally via video chat, send little videos via Whatsapp. There are some great apps for online group videos such as Houseparty, Facetime, Skype, or Zoom.

Get some sunlight and fresh air

Fresh air can benefit us all physically and mentally. This could be as little as sticking a jumper on and opening the windows or having a picnic in the garden if you have access. 

Try to keep active and healthy

Build physical activity into your children’s daily routine if possible. There are some fantastic online resources – check out Joe Wicks’s PE lesson at 9am daily on YouTube, or Cosmic Kids yoga which is themed in all sorts of ways like Frozen and Pokemon. CBeebies Andy also has a fitness class on iplayer for younger children. Get Berkshire has some great ideas on how to get active at home, for young people as well as those with young families.

Try to ensure the whole family maintains a healthy diet, with lots of fruit and vegetables. A varied and interesting diet as much as it is possible will help keep everyone healthy. If your child struggles to eat fruit and vegetables try cutting them into fun shapes, arrange fruit into funny faces on a plate, or blend fruits into homemade smoothies as a 'treat.' Try and avoid too many treats or sugary snacks. Stay hydrated- this means having around 6-8 glasses of water a day. 

Find ways to have fun indoors

There are lots of fun things you can do with your children while you are indoors. You could set up a treasure hunt with toys from around the house, do some baking or cook a pizza (which can help to build on maths skills), build a den or get crafty with some junk modelling. Check out the CBeebies website for ideas on 'things to do indoors with your children'. 

Use screen time wisely

If you need to get things done around the house, it’s ok to use screens to help you to have a break, just try not to let your children spend all day at a screen if you can. Perhaps look for some educational games that they can play. Try to supervise older children if you can so that they are not in their rooms looking on social media for long periods.

Spend time together

Young children just need to spend time with their parent or carer to feel happy. As hard as it may feel, try to use this time to spend quality time with your child and look at it as an adventure – they will probably look back on this time as a great time when they got to spend lots of time at home having fun with their family.

The Gov.uk website has some great information on supporting children and young people's mental wellbeing during the coronavirus.

  • The Children's Commissioner have produced a useful visual guide to coronavirus which gives loads of information about the virus and how to stay safe, as well as to help with their worries:

Not being able to see your friends and wider family can be upsetting and tough. There are lots of ways to combat loneliness and anxiety and following our tips is a great start:

  • Stick to a routine, go to bed at the time that you usually would if you were going to school so that you are well rested and your eating habits don’t get disrupted
  • Set up video calls or Zoom parties with your friends and family so you feel less lonely and get to see a friendly face. Try and talk about something that isn’t coronavirus so that you can take your mind off the situation and cheer each other up.
  • Stay calm and practice some mindfulness techniques. There’s lots of apps out there, such as the Headspace app which helps you clear your mind of anxious thoughts
  • Social media can affect your mental health – unfollow any accounts that may be making you feel more worried, and don’t spend too long looking at stories about the virus.
  • Don’t focus all day on news stories, limit the time you spend watching the news. Find out about mindful media consumption.
  • Use this time to do something you’ve always wanted to do – have you always wanted to get into creative writing or drawing?

It can be stressful not being able to remove yourself from the people in your home. If things are feeling anxious or tense, take yourself off to your bedroom if you can and do something that you enjoy to relax, like listening to music or reading a book. Find support if you are living in a difficult situation at home.

This is a worrying time for everyone, and while it’s ok for children and young people to know that adults worry too, try and attempt to model helpful ways of dealing with your anxiety – such as calling a friend or family member or dancing to music to take your mind off things.

Signs that your child could be overly worried

  • Excessively checking social media
  • Compulsively hand washing
  • Obsessing over information updates
  • Withdrawing from people

If you notice any of these signs, try and spend some time with them and talk through their feelings and answer their concerns as well as you can. Let them know that it’s ok to be worried.

After you’ve addressed their concerns, try to switch the conversation to happier topics rather than letting them focus on their worries. Talk openly and try not to dismiss their fears. State the facts and be honest if you don’t know all the answers.

If possible, limit the amount of time that the news is on the TV, or they look at social media. It’s very easy to spend all your time thinking and worrying about the situation, so think of ways to have positive conversations and make each other smile.

If a child or young person’s anxiety appears to be getting in the way of their life more than you think it should, such as their sleeping, eating or interactions with others, they might need some professional help.

In the first instance contact early intervention services in your local area (Local Offer). View the Local Offer for your area:

If you feel your child or young person’s mental health appears to be having a significant impact in their day to day lives Berkshire Healthcare CAMHs can offer support, advice, guidance and treatment for children and young people with severe or moderate mental health difficulties. Please read our referral criteria before you go ahead and make a referral or call us on 0300 365 1234 for advice.

Anxiety and school-aged children

Students who were due to take their GCSEs, A-levels, Highers and other exams have had them cancelled and could now be at home wondering how they will get their qualifications. Let them know that you understand how worrying this it, but that it’s not the case that they won’t be able to go to university or get a job.

They may be upset that they're missing leavers balls at school and missing their friends. Try and encourage them to keep in touch using Skype or WhatsApp video calls so that they do not become isolated from others mentally as well as physically.

School-aged children will most likely have been given school work to undertake at home and they could be worried about this. Try and create a routine so that they can settle into their studies, and support them as much as you can without creating too much pressure on them or you – you are (most likely!) not a teacher, and are just doing the best you can. Every child and parent is in the same position, it’s unlikely that they will be going back to school behind other children.

If a child or young person appears to present with a high level of risk or you are concerned that if symptoms are not addressed they might result in a crisis or emergency referral please contact our CYPFHub on 0300 365 1234 (calls charged at local rate). The type of situations that might be considered are:

  • People who are actively suicidal
  • People showing severe psychotic symptoms
  • If there is perceived to be an immediate risk of serious harm to themselves  or to others

In the face of uncertainty, it’s natural to feel increased feelings of anxiety or worry, feelings that can be worsened by the constant stream of news and information. We’ve put together some top tips to help you and those around you consume media more mindfully and protect your mental wellbeing.

Stay up to date using trusted information...

It’s important to know what is actually going on so that you can have honest conversations with your children. The best places to follow for up to date official information are:

If you see or need further information, make sure you check that the source is trusted and reliable.

If you’re sharing other information on social media or with friends/family, think about the impact it may have on others. If in doubt, follow the three rules – is it true (e.g. do you know the reputable source), is it kind, is it useful?

...But consider limiting your intake

The media can be all-consuming and many of us may find ourselves constantly refreshing, reading and re-reading content. This can increase the focus and anxiety around the virus and uncertainty. Try not to have the news channel on in front of children for long periods as this can increase their anxiety. It’s important to try and think and talk about other things so that everyone can feel less stressed. Follow these top tips to limit your intake:

  • Don’t be afraid to mute or unfollow people that are posting unhelpful information or that you find increases your anxiety
  • Turn off notifications for media outlets and engage on a more planned basis
  • If you feel you’re becoming consumed, try and practice some mindfulness. The Headspace app is a good place to start.
  • If you find the pressure of having to homeschool your child is getting to you, do unfollow any accounts that are causing you to feel bad and compare yourself. Everyone has a different situation going on. Some people have very small children that need a lot of attention while also trying to work, some people have older children that are going through extremely anxious times and having to teach them subjects they may not know much about themselves: everyone is different.

Fill your news feeds with positive news

As the WHO has recognised, the kindness and compassion being shown by many in this crisis is fantastic. Many outlets are sharing positive stories and messages, including: