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How to start conversations about mental health

There is rarely an easy time to be a parent. But right now, it feels harder than ever. And right now, your kids need you more than ever.

They’ll be missing their friends, their routines, maybe even their teachers. They may be confused, and uncomfortable with this extraordinary situation and may need help to understand how they are feeling. They need to know that it’s ok not to feel ok; and they can talk things over.

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We've pulled together some helpful ways to help you look out for signs of stress and how to start a conversation with a child or young person.

If the child or young person doesn't want to talk to you about how they feel, they might display these behaviours if they are worried

  • They might be having trouble sleeping
  • They might have negative thoughts, or talk negatively about the future
  • Getting headaches or feeling unwell frequently
  • Not eating or feeling hungry due to worrying
  • Not able to enjoy or interested in the things they normally enjoy.

You might be worried about how to start a conversation witha child or young person, so try and find a good time in a relaxed situation perhaps doing an activity together or when out for a walk. A good starting point could be asking “Want to take a break with me?”

Possible conversation starters

  • How are you feeling?
  • What can I do to help you?
  • Is there anything you want to talk about? I’m here to listen when you’re ready
  • What are you finding most difficult at the moment?
  • Do you have any worries about the coronavirus / not being at school / not seeing your friends?
  • What are you worried about when you lie in bed and can't sleep?

Reassurance

It's strange for us all at the moment, but we can get through this together
If you need to talk to someone else, that's okay too but it’s important you talk to someone if you’re worried / struggling.

While we're trying hard to be super hero parents and keep it together, parenting at the moment is stressful and worrying too.

We asked young people what they’d say to parents to help them support themselves and their family through the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s their advice for you:

  • Don’t check the news all the time or spend lots of time on your phone when you don’t need to. Check the news once or twice a day for important updates and focus on doing positive stuff together the rest of the time
  • Make the most of the opportunity for family time. Do activities together that help you bond, show an interest in your child’s hobbies and consider choosing a new skill to learn together
  • Listen to your child and find out what will help them as an individual
  • Especially with teenagers, respect your child’s boundaries. Find ways to connect and spend time together without being on top of each other 24/7. If your child doesn’t feel like talking, let them know you’re there and wait until they’re ready
  • Be patient with each other
  • Remember you’re doing your best as a parent. You will get frustrated and stressed – this doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. It’s okay to take some time for yourself.

If you're a parent and you want more support with your own mental health during the coronvirus or more support for your child visit our mental wellbeing during Coronavirus webpage. We've got more support on our emotional resilience pages too.

The Start Now website is made by young people for young people, and they have plenty of excellent advice and ways to keep mentally well during the Coronavirus.