How to support children and what warning signs to look for during lockdown

How to support children and what warning signs to look for during lockdown Credit: PA

It's an anxious time for all children.

For young children, it may feel very confusing if they can't make sense of what's happening around them.

For older children, they may be missing their friendship groups, and be anxious about their futures, with the cancellation of exams.

Jane Caro is a psychotherapist who works for the Mental Health Foundation.

She specialises in helping children, and for many years worked for CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services) in Nottingham.

She says that as long as children have simple, clear messages about what is going on, and that you keep communication open, there is no need to presume there will be long term damage.

  • Keep repeating in a simple way what's going on so children understand. Problems tend to occur further down the line when children felt they had done something wrong, but didn't know why. So for example, explain to them calmly and clearly why it isn't a good idea to hug a relative at the moment, instead of making them feel ashamed when you abruptly stop them doing it.

  • Don't panic - it's very likely you will see some behaviour change at the moment - it's normal when circumstances change.

  • Look out for changes which continue - like a persistent change in mood or energy levels, a lack of interest in things they normally like, or not wanting to eat or sleep. Check they are getting up and going to bed at normal times.

  • Speak to the young person continually and show you're available and care.

  • If you see changes, tell them what changes you've noticed.

  • Show you're interested, but get the balance right - don't be intrusive.

  • If you're really worried, stay calm yourself in front of the young person.

  • Your GP is a good start if you're really worried. Try to get a video call, and encourage the young person to be there. There are also plenty of helplines around.

  • Remember it can be a positive time for some children who are enjoying being off school and who have a pleasant home environment.

  • This could be a life defining moment for young people, but it doesn't necessarily have to be a negative one. They won't forget that what they were expecting in life didn't happen or happened differently, but it's also an opportunity to think about what kind of society we want our children to live in.