Family, Friends & Carers
Parents & Carers
Being a parent / carer when your child is struggling can be challenging and can put different pressures on everyone. If your child is having problems, don’t be too hard on yourself or blame yourself. Although it can be upsetting and worrying if your child is going through a difficult time and it makes your relationship with them feel more stressful, children often take it out on those closest to them, so you might be feeling the effect of their very powerful emotions.
It can be difficult to know what to do to help and support your child at this time. It’s important to give children reassurance and looking after your own mental health is also vital to their well-being so don’t be afraid to try new things together.
The Power of Talking
Talking to your child about feelings and behaviour can be the first steps to supporting your child. Take this slowly and give examples of what you mean. For example try asking open ended questions that encourage conversation and avoid closed questions or questions that only require a yes or no answer. Here are some examples…
“I’ve noticed you look sad today. Can you tell me what is making you feel this way?”
“When you can’t sleep, is there something on your mind which is making you worry?”
“I understand you are angry at your brother, but this is not like you to react that way. Is there something that is bothering you?”
Older children may not want to talk at first…
Let them know you are concerned about them, and are there if they need you. Sending a text can work better if this is the way your child likes to communicate.
The Importance of Time
Children will go through many stages of feelings; this could be seen in behaviour changes such as fighting with siblings, withdrawing from family time, sleeping or/ eating problems. This may be due to them adapting to a change in their family or school or friendship circles.
Sometimes time and space to go work through their emotions is all they need.
Ask your child what they think you can do to help them. Sometimes children have good ideas on what needs to happen to solve their problems. So always be prepared to listen.
How can you help?
We asked some of the young people at Boys In Mind to give us their top tips on what can help. Levi, one of our Youth Advisors, created this list of what he feels is important to remember:
Tips for talking to teenagers and young adults.
- Be empathetic
- Avoid gender stereotypes (e.g. boys don’t cry)
- Be mindful of the language you use (as above)
- Take concerns seriously if the young person speaks to you about something troubling them – it may not seem important to you but it may well be to them. Don’t trivialise.
- Lead by example: model emotionally literate behaviour; talk about how you feel, why you feel like that and what helps you to deal with it
- Be encouraging: always be on the look-out to give positive feedback, praise, compliments
- Be open-minded – you don’t always have to understand but it’s important to respect and support
- Find time to have conversations ; keep an open dialogue – this means you’ll be more in tune with their feelings & emotions
- Find good times to discuss things: car journeys, camp fires , walking, doing activities together (cooking, playing games ) where eye contact isn’t required
- Try to identify when statements like “I’m fine” shouldn’t be taken at face value
- Remind them you are always there for them
- Bring up related topics which are not about them personally
Tips for talking to primary aged children
Jackson recently helped make the film What Parents Do Well To Support Their Children (link to the film) with other students and parents at Paulton Junior School. Jackson came up with this list of his top tips for parents:
Top Tips for parents / carers:
- Listen to your child
- Make time for your child
- Have fun together
- Stick to boundaries you make as a family
- Reassure your child and give them plenty of affection when they want it.
Brother and sister Eva and Finn, who are at Ralph Allen and Swainswick schools respectively, made a great contribution to our Getting Through This Together project during lockdown shared their thoughts on what parents can do to help:
- Make time even when you have work to do
- Notice when something is not right – we don’t always tell you
- Listen and give us time to explain
- Give us time and space to calm down
- Help us make sense of things
- Teach us ways to calm down
- Check-in with how we are feeling
- Try to keep calm even when we are not
- Encourage us to see the positives
- Talk about experiences you have had and how you coped with them
Eva and Finn have made a short video to talk about their Top 10 Tips. To watch click here.
Resources for Parents
Some useful contacts:
The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust have a leaflet for parents with lots of useful advice
- Young Minds Parents helpline 0808 802 5544 or Click here for advice pages
- Young Minds guide to support for parents with an A to Z of questions – Click here
- Care For The Family – Support around bereavement – Click here
- Anxiety UK – Click here
The Anger Volcano.
Pupils at St. Michael’s Junior Church School in Bath have helped to develop a Boys in Mind/Girls Mind Too version of the Anger Volcano. Anger is often the way that children and young people, especially boys, express difficult feelings they are experiencing. The Anger Volcano resource is a way of exploring causes of anger which helps young people to recognise what causes these feelings and to think about what helps them to feel calmer. Our short booklet is a free resource for anyone to use. It is formatted to print as an A5 booklet and can be downloaded here.
Here are some films about real experiences of how parents and friends have helped children and young people to get through difficult times.
Click here to go to our Resources page where you can find more links to a range of organisations that can offer direct help, advice and support.
It can be really frustrating when you see your friend sad, withdrawn or isolating themselves. Sometimes you may feel that you are not doing enough to help or that your friendship doesn’t feel the same. Mental Illness can affect anyone at any time. You are not to blame and you could help more than you think.
How to support your friend: -
Be present with your friend, listening and remaining open to talk together. Its important to try not to force the conversation but to let them know you are there for them when they are ready to talk.
You could start with reassuring them that you care about them. You may want to say something like:-
“I’ve been worried about you, Can we talk about what you are experiencing ? I would really like to help”
“It seems like you are going through a difficult time. How can I help you?”
“is there someone you would feel comfortable talking to? “
“I am happy to help you to talk about how you are feeling with your parents/ carer / trusted person?”
Sometimes talking to someone who has been through a similar experience helps. If you know someone, you could suggest that your friend talks it through with them. You could help put them in touch.
If you are struggling to reach out to your friend that’s OK. Sometimes just them knowing you have noticed that they are experiencing low moods is enough. Continue to invite them along to social events, without being overbearing. Even if your friend declines the invitation don’t give up.
If you have real concerns about your friend’s safety, you might need to get additional help. This could be by talking to a teacher, your friend’s parents, a youth worker or any trusted adult about your concerns. You may feel that this will make your friend upset with you, but by telling someone you are keeping them safe and they will understand that eventually.
Resources for Friends
Some useful contacts:
- Young Minds – The UK’s leading charity fighting for children and young people’s mental health.
- Epic Friends – Helping you to help your friends.
- Student Minds – The UK’s student mental health charity.
- The Mix – Essential support for under 25s
- Calm Zone – The campaign against living miserably.
Here are some films about real experiences of how friends have helped children and young people to get through difficult times.
We give presentations to teams and multi-agency groups at team meetings or training events to help them understand the issues, explore approaches and look at what works best in their school or setting. Young people, wherever possible, support us with this training.