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Navigating young emotions as a parent

It’s not just adults who suffer from stress and emotional problems during difficult times. Kay Hill looks at how these mental health issues affect children and what parents need to look out for.

According to children’s charity Barnardo’s, around one in 10 children have a diagnosable mental condition, and many more lack confidence or struggle with their emotions. Anxiety, depression, and anger management issues are common possibilities in the current climate. All children have moods, of course, but these are some of the signs that your child might need extra support:

– Your child is sad for weeks on end, especially if there’s no obvious trigger

– Their conversations are fixated on gloomy subjects (although be aware that most children aged around 4-6 go through a stage of talking a lot about death – it’s a natural part of coming to terms with the concept of permanence)

– They have persistent behaviour that is out of control, dangerous or violent, especially if it’s out of character

– Your child complains regularly of tummy aches or headaches that come and go

– They have difficulty sleeping or wake with nightmares

– They start bedwetting after having been dry at night

– They lose interest in food

If you suspect that your child is struggling with their emotions, there are a few straightforward ways to support them:

– Don’t dismiss what they are going through – a particular worry might seem silly to an adult, but if it’s causing them pain it deserves a sensible, considered response

– Keep news and information age and child appropriate. You might want to keep the under-10s away from regular news bulletins at the moment. Instead, try the Playmobil video or the booklet from the Children’s Commissioner to explain what’s going on. With older children, watch the news with them. Answer questions honestly but try not to scare them (it’s a difficult path to walk)

– Offer plenty of verbal and physical reassurance – a hug goes a long way.

– Keep your own stress and anxiety under control and limit their exposure to domestic arguments where possible

– Help them to get some exercise and try to make sure there are healthy snacks to hand


For specific ways in which you can help a child with anxiety or anger management issues, read on.

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