Supporting Children and Young People

In a recent report*, the Children’s Society stated: ‘The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the life of every child in the country. It is not only an unprecedented public health emergency, but also a challenge our society and our economy have not seen in peacetime.’ So, while young people may have been at less of a risk from COVID 19, they appear to be suffering other adverse consequences from it.  Emerging research suggests that, in the aftermath of lockdown, children and young people are at a heightened risk of mental health problems. For example, a study by You-COPE, the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute for Child Health* found that one in three teenagers, without previous mental health symptoms, now reports being depressed.  The mental health charity, YoungMinds* also found that four out of five young people felt that the pandemic had worsened their mental health.

The financial implications of COVID-19 can also affect children, as those growing up in households with problem debt are five times more likely to have low wellbeing and, experiencing poverty or financial strain during childhood, is linked to lower wellbeing and poorer mental health in later life. Time spent with friends, particularly without adult supervision, is important to children’s wellbeing but will also have been extremely limited. Practising social distancing, or even being self-isolated, is likely to have reduced the choice and autonomy children and young people feel they have over their lives. Children with special educational needs or learning disabilities may still need additional support to adapt to changes in their routines and to understand what is going on. And those with long-term physical health conditions may now feel less confident about managing their symptoms effectively.

Some of the things we can do include, giving children and young people the opportunity to talk about how they are feeling; encouraging free play – letting children choose what they want to do, how they want to play and for how long. Free play allows children to be creative and expressive, using their imagination to problem solve. It can help to focus on the positives, asking what made their day that little better and, at bedtime, think about all that they are grateful for. And, if someone the child knows well, has died, not to protect them too much from the effects of grief, as they may need to deal with this in their own way. Not being able to attend a funeral can also slow the grieving process and having a personal ceremony, to honour the memory of the person who has died, sometimes helps.

The Children’s Society is, ‘a leading national charity committed to improving the lives of thousands of children and young people every year. We work across the country with some of the most disadvantaged children and young people through our specialist services. We place their voices at the centre of the work that we do.’

You-COPE is the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute for Child Health. The research referred to is from the Youth COVID Response Personal Experience: Tracking health and wellbeing amongst 16-24-year olds in the UK during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. ‘You-COPE seeks to understand more about how young people aged 16-24 in the UK are being impacted by the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.’ It is an online study that comprises an initial web-based 20-minute survey, followed by subsequent on-line surveys every two weeks and then monthly, asking questions about life, health and wellbeing, and daily activities.

YoungMinds was established in 1993 and is ‘the UK’s leading charity committed to improving the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people.’ They champion children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing across the UK, so that they can cope with life’s adversities, find help when needed and succeed in life. Their specific focus is to foster innovation to meet the needs of vulnerable and excluded children and young people; promote good mental health to more children and young people than ever before and champion the voices of young people and parents so that this influences mental health policy and practice.   Call the Parents Helpline: 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday 9.30am – 4pm, free for mobiles and landlines)

The Mix online community is a UK based charity that provides free, confidential support for young people under 25 and a number of online support services. This includes forum/discussion boards and a group chat which runs 5 nights a week. They also offer a helpline via the telephone or web chat and online or telephone counselling. 0808 808 4994

ChildLine provides access to a counsellor for young people through an online chat or helpline. Information and advice can also be accessed on the website.  0800 1111 to talk to a counsellor online,

Tiny Happy People is an initiative from BBC Education that aims to help support younger children’s language development through fun activities and games. In England, 1 in 4 children starting primary school are behind with their level of literacy development (language, communication and literacy skills) by the time they start primary school, rising to more than 1 in 3 (42%) in some areas (Department for Education, 2019). Language and communication skills unlock literacy, and that’s why Tiny Happy People is concentrating on the building blocks of language development.

The Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity is hosting 6 x 20 minute, self-confidence workshops in August aimed at primary school aged children. Boosting resilience and self-esteem before return to school can help to minimise stress and anxiety around the transition from home back to school.

Kooth is the flagship service of XenZone, offering online counselling and well-being support service for children and young people. Young people can sign up themselves – no referral is needed – and then access free, safe, and anonymous support. There are discussion boards, live chats with staff, using a daily journal and a magazine, with lots of helpful advice and tips. It provides a gateway to other services and Kooth supports over 20,000 young people each year. There is text based – live or asynchronous messaging, a full range of therapeutic tools and activities. The service is open 365 days a year and an out of Hours Service runs from 12-10pm weekdays, 6-10pm weekends. ​