7 signs your child could be suffering from Covid-stress as referrals to a Suffolk wellbeing hub more than double
Referrals to a Suffolk wellbeing hub have more than doubled for children and young adults in the last six months, latest figures show.
Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust says it received 548 referrals to its Suffolk emotional wellbeing hub for under 18s in September compared with 229 in April.
For 18-25s, it received 155 new referrals in September compared with 48 in April.
The trust has now released a list of seven signs to look out for as England enters its second lockdown.
Dr Beth Mosley, lead clinical psychologist with the West Suffolk Psychology in School Team, says children and young people may well be feeling a second lockdown is harder than the first.
“They know what to expect this time and the kinds of difficulties that lockdown brought us before," said Dr Mosley.
“They know what to expect this time and the kinds of difficulties that lockdown brought us before. They have also enjoyed the easing of restrictions, returning to school to be with friends and reconnecting with some of their out of school clubs and activities.
"Now they will be returning once again to reduced social contact, an increase in Covid-19 cases in the community and uncertainty around what the festive period will look like this year.
"In addition to this we are approaching darker evenings, colder weather and continuous media coverage which can feel bleak, to say the least.
It is important that we can recognise when our children and young people are experiencing stress, in order to support them through this very difficult phase of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"As adults, we may well be finding this an anxiety-provoking time and we may feel that our mood has also dipped as we enter the second lockdown and the consequences this may bring for our health, wellbeing and financial security.
"We may be particularly concerned if our children have experienced emotional difficulties in the past and this is something to bear in mind, as they are more likely to struggle during this second lockdown.
For children and young people, the worry and uncertainty may feel overwhelming at times but there are many ways that we can support them.
"The first step is recognising that they are feeling stressed and this is where noticing changes in your child can be helpful. Individuals experience stress differently but we can think about whether we have seen a change in our children from their normal mood, behaviour and activity levels.
Seven signs your child may be suffering from Covid-stress
1. Changes in behaviour including restlessness and finding it hard to relax, hitting out, withdrawing from others, spending more time alone or being more clingy than normal, crying.
2. Changes in sleep patterns, for example sleeping a lot more or a lot less than usual, having trouble getting to sleep or waking during the night or very early. Younger children may find it harder to settle in the evening, nightmares may be experienced.
3. Changes in social relationships and activities, such as a loss of interest in contacting friends or family, not engaging in the hobbies they usually enjoy, lacking motivation and interest in attending school or completing homework.
4. Changes in eating patterns, for example eating a lot more than usual or a lot less, an increase in comfort eating and wanting more treats and snacks.
5. Changes in mood and thinking patterns, including feeling low, sad and hopeless about the future, unable to cope, angry or frustrated,more irritable, thinking or talking more about death and dying.
6. Changes in self-care, including not taking care of their appearance, showing less interest in personal hygiene, less concern about eating healthily and exercising.
7. Changes in coping strategies such as using unhelpful coping strategies such as alcohol, drugs or nicotine, hurting themselves or talking about wanting to harm themselves, taking more risks.
What to do
Dr Mosley, said: "It is important to keep the lines of communication open with your children and allow them to talk about how they are feeling, as this gives an opportunity for them to: express themselves; feel understood; and gain support from you. Just being there to listen when children talk can help them to make sense of their thoughts and feelings and this can reduce feelings of confusion, stress and hopelessness.
"Knowing that it is normal to feel scared and worried in such uncertain times can be very validating and knowing that there are ways to tolerate these feelings and improve our mood can help to build hope and resilience. Techniques such as calm belly breathing, mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation, regular exercise, spending time outdoors and listening to music can all help to reduce symptoms of stress and promote feelings of calm in the body.
"There are many accessible YouTube videos demonstrating these techniques.
Where to go
If there are changes in your child's mood, thinking patterns or behaviour which may indicate an increase in risk - such as self-harm, thoughts of suicide or self-neglect - it is important to seek help and advice from your GP immediately. If you think your child may be in crisis, you can call the First Response 24/7 helpline which offers immediate advice, support and signposting for people with mental health difficulties of any age. Call 0808 196 3494.
There are many organisations offering advice, support and webinars during this time.
Dr Mosley, added: "It is important for you as parents and carers to look after yourselves too.
"The pandemic is affecting us all and we need to look after our own emotional and psychological wellbeing.
"Do reach out for support if you need it and check out the website links below for support and advice."