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Supporting your child’s mental health

As a parent, you won’t be able to control everything that affects your child's mental health, but the way you act can make a big difference [1].

In this article we'll look at some skills you can use to support your child’s mental health. Using these skills can help your child feel motivated to improve their self-esteem, develop their social skills and do well at school. It can also improve your relationship with your child, your partner and even your community [2].  

Causes of mental illness in children 

Low self-esteem, an unstable home life and educational difficulties [3] can all cause mental health issues in children. Since Covid-19, many more children are struggling to manage their feelings and need social and behavioural support [4].

More than half of children don't receive enough support for their mental health, and issues can then carry on into adulthood. Giving children the support they need early on helps them to grow into healthy and capable adults [3].

What you can do to help
Be interested in their interests 

At school, children are often rewarded with a good mark or a teacher's approval. This can help them to do well, but when a child’s efforts go unnoticed it can be stressful for them. Taking an interest in other areas of your child's life can help them connect to a sense of purpose within themselves [3] and motivate them to engage in school. Talk to them about their worries, interests, likes, and dislikes. 

Top tip: Ask your child how their day was after school – allow them to lead the conversation and ask them questions about what they want to talk about from their day. 

Build a good relationship with school 

Children spend a lot of their time at school. Working with their teachers can help you and your child address any challenges they may have in and out of the classroom. This can help you to understand what support your child needs to be able to thrive [5].  

Consistency is also important. If there is a lack of trust between teachers and parents, it can lead to your child getting mixed messages [6]. Building a trusting relationship with your child’s school can mean more consistent care and better mental health for your child.  

Top tip: Keep in touch with your child’s school and be open with teachers about any concerns you might have.

Help them understand their emotions 

The school environment can feel overwhelming for children and may trigger strong emotions. Learning how to effectively handle these emotions can help build connections and friendships with other children and teachers.  

Being more aware of their emotions can help build a child's self-esteem [7]. It can help them communicate better, feel included, and feel more capable of solving problems. 

Five ways to support your child’s emotional awareness:  

  1. Pay attention to your child's emotions, so you can recognise when they are upset. 
  2. Recognise your child’s expression of emotion as a chance to learn. Encourage them to talk about what they are feeling, and guide them before emotions escalate. 
  3. Be empathic and understanding. Listen to what is upsetting your child and let them know you understand their feelings and why they are upset.   
  4. Help your child learn to label their emotions with words. This can broaden your child’s vocabulary and help to soothe them. You can lead by example with your own emotions. 
  5. Set limits when you are helping your child to solve problems or deal with upsetting situations. All feelings and wishes are acceptable. Not all actions and behaviours are acceptable. When a child misbehaves it is important to help them identify their feelings and explain why their behaviour was inappropriate [8]. 

Top tip: A fun way to introduce emotions to your children is to watch the Pixar film Inside Out. It follows a girl called Riley whose emotions are characters in her head that control her behaviour.  

Work on your relationship with your partner 

How you and your partner interact has a big impact on your children. Having regular heated arguments and leaving them unresolved can affect your child’s mental health and their behaviour at school [9]. If your child is affected by your arguing, they might struggle to concentrate, feel angry and act aggressively to others, or avoid friends and the things they normally do for fun [3]. Couples in happy relationships work at keeping a good connection by talking regularly and seeing things from each other's point of view [2]. Working at your relationship helps to provide a stable home environment, which can help your child thrive [3]. 

Top tip: For tips on how to improve your relationship with your partner or co-parent, try See it differently [10], a website from OnePlusOne with advice on how to communicate calmly and clearly, avoiding harmful arguments. 

Seek help 

When parents are thriving, their children are more confident, happy, and more able to concentrate at school [3]. Thriving families typically have a network to support them through good and tough times [2]. Having a network of people you trust can help relieve stress, solve problems, and add to your child’s social life. You can also seek support from the communities you are part of, such as work, school, faith groups, or LGBTQ+ groups.  

Top tip: Lean on friends and family for support: ask if grandparents can take the children for a while or have an evening phone call with a good friend. 

If you're worried about your child’s mental health, give some of these ideas a try and let us know how you get on.  

By Helen Molloy


Below is a list of references if you want to learn more about anything we have talked about. 

[1] Music (2010). Nurturing Natures: Attachment and Children's Emotional, Sociocultural and Brain Development (3rd). Routledge. 

[2] Barlow. A, Ewing. J, Janssens. A & Blake. S. (2018). The Shakleton Relationships project. Microsoft Word - Shackleton Report Master Copy Final Draft 28-06-18 JE - updated v2.docx ( 

[3] High speed training, child mental health training v4, CPD certified (2023). Child Mental Health Training | Online Course & Certification ( 

[4] National centre for educational statistics (2022). The Zones of Regulation. The Zones of Regulation | A Curriculum For Emotional Regulation 

[5] Rachael Levy (2023) Home–school communication: what we have learned from the pandemic, Education 3-13, DOI: 10.1080/03004279.2023.2186972 

[6] Ozmen, F., Akuzum, C., Zincirli, M., & Selcuk, G. (2016). The communication barriers between teachers and parents in primary schools. Eurasian Journal of Educational Research, 66, 26-46 

[7] Harris, R. (2008). The Happiness Trap (2nd). Robinson. 

[8]  Gottman, J.M., Katz, L.F. & Hooven, C. (1996). Parental meta-emotion philosophy and the emotional life of families: Theoretical models and preliminary data. Journal of Family Psychology, 10(3), 243–268. 

[9] OnePlusOne. (2023). RPC Package: Reducing parental conflict. LA ( 

[10] OnePlusOne, Good Things Foundation. (2023). See it differently. See it differently 

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