Children’s mental health and wellbeing guidance from Public Health England during COVID-19 pandemic

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Here is Public Health England’s (PHE) guidance for parents and carers on supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and beyond.

What’s on the page

What is PHE’s guidance?

The guidance is to help adults with caring responsibilities to look after the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people, including those with additional learning needs (ALN) during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.

How the COVID-19 outbreak can affect mental health

This is a difficult time for everyone, some people may react to this right away, while for others it may affect them later on. How children and young people react to this news can vary depending on their age, previous experiences, how they process and understand information and how they cope with stress.

So, during this time it’s important to take care of your family’s mental health – there is lots of support and resources available for you to.

Looking after your own mental health

Public Health England advises the importance of taking care of your own mental health and wellbeing if children and young people are in your care. This is because they can react to what they see from adults around them – so if you’re stressed, they’re more likely to be too.

You can see advice on how to look after your mental health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 outbreak or visit Every Mind Matters for further support.

Helping children and young people cope with stress

Public Health England stated the following key points can help you support your child:

  • Listen and acknowledge
  • Provide clear information about the situation
  • Be aware of your own reactions
  • Connect regularly
  • Create a new routine
  • Limit exposure to media and talk about what they have seen and heard

How children and young people of different ages may react

All children and young people are different, and their reactions will differ, however, there are some common ways in which the different ages may react to a situation like the current one we are facing:

  • Infants to 2-year-olds – may be easily distressed and cry more than usual.
  • 3-6-year-olds – may return to behaviours they’ve outgrown such as bedwetting, tantrums, difficulty sleeping or being frightened about being separated from their parents or carers.
  • 7-10-year-olds – may feel sad, ha angry, afraid or trouble concentrating. More likely to share fake news and they may want to focus on the details of the situation and want to talk about it all the time.
  • Preteens and teenagers – may react by ‘acting out’ – this could be alcohol or drug use. They can feel overwhelmed and have intense emotions that they will keep to themselves and not talk about it.

How children and young people of ALN may react

Children and young people with additional learning disabilities (ALN) may need extra words of reassurance and more explanations of the situation.
They would need more comfort and positive physical contact from loved ones – such as hugs.

For useful tips for talking about feelings, see Skills for Care advice. For further guidance on COVID-19 for those with learning disabilities please see the Mencap website (includes easy read materials).

Autistic children and young people

Autistic children may struggle to identify the physical symptoms for coronavirus. And may have difficulty talking and expressing their emotions, so it’s best to keep an eye out for changes in their behaviour as well as any physical symptoms.

Where to get further support

  • If you or someone in your family has symptoms, call or visit the NHS 111 site or NHS website
  • In a medical emergency – call 999
  • For more advice and support for a mental health crisis, visit this NHS page
  • If you’re a parent or carer – Young Minds has a helpline – 0808 802 5544
  • Places for your child to get support – Shout, ChildLine, and The Mix

For a comprehensive version of this article, please visit

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