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19 June 2020

NHS doctor shares advice to children as they return to school

NHS England’s top doctor for children and young people’s mental health has urged parents to be alert to signs that children could be experiencing anxiety, distress or low mood as some pupils return to school.

The return to school may cause anxiety for some pupils heading back to the classroom after months away – and those who would like to return, but remain at home feeling left out or isolated.

NHS mental health services remain available for children and young people. Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust is working in partnership with schools and other services to support children and their families.

Parents can also take simple steps to help sons or daughters who might be struggling to deal with the loneliness and uncertainty of lockdown or fears about returning to school.

Professor Prathiba Chitsabesan, NHS England Associate National Clinical Director for Children and Young People’s Mental Health, said: “Children and young people may be experiencing a variety of feelings in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, including anxiety, distress and low mood and it is important to understand that these are normal responses to an abnormal situation.

“The NHS offers a large amount of mental health support for children and young people and, if a child needs urgent mental health support or advice, check nhs.uk for services in your area, including 24/7 crisis support.”

NHS England has issued advice on what parents should look out for and steps they can take to look after their child’s mental health, based on advice from clinicians and first-hand experience from patients and parents.

Signs parents should look out for in their children include:

  • they may be more upset or find it hard to manage their emotions

they may appear anxious or distressed

  • increasing trouble with sleeping and eating
  • appearing low in mood, withdrawn or tearful
  • reporting worried or negative thoughts about themselves or their future
  • for younger children, there may be more bed wetting.

If you are worried about your child’s mental health, you can help by:

  • making time to talk to your child
  • allowing your child to talk about their feelings
  • trying to understand their problems and provide reassurance you have heard them and are there to help
  • helping your child do positive activities
  • trying to keep a routine over the next few weeks
  • looking after your own mental health.

Parents should immediately contact NHS 111 online or a GP if they notice any physical injuries on a child, such as deep cuts or burns.

Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust offers support for young people across Kent and East Sussex. The services we offer include:

  • CHAT Health is an anonymous and confidential texting system for 11 to 19 year olds who would like advice. This service is run by school nurses.
  • CYP Counselling Service. This is a service aimed at primary and secondary aged children and young people and has been extended to include bereavement counselling for those bereaved as a consequence of COVID

You can find out more information about these services and how you can access them here.

The trust has also set up some specific FAQs for adults supporting children during Coronavirus (COVID-19). You can read these here.