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Coronavirus: Mental health and emotional wellbeing advice for children

Protect your mental health and emotional wellbeing

During this time of uncertainty and recommendations to distance yourself from others, you may worry about how you will cope.

Below are a few ideas about how you can protect your mental health and emotional wellbeing.

If you are in need of urgent mental health care, call the Crisis Team on 0191 566 5500 or free on 111.

  1. Print this information and activity sheets
  2. Talking about and sharing your feelings
  3. Ways to be kind to yourself
  4. Activity - Circle of control
  5. Activity - Changing our thoughts
  6. Activity - Worry jar and worry time
  7. Activity - Coping chart
  8. Time to connect
  9. Time to learn
  10. Time to get active
  11. Time to notice
  12. Time to give
  13. Activity - Wellbeing daily tally chart
  14. Vitamin D
  15. Activity - 'What makes me happy' flower
  16. Activity - Making a planner
  17. Activity - Take a brain break
  18. Parent notes - winning ways to wellbeing
  19. Online resources for parents

Print this information and activity sheets

To print the information on this page, including the activity sheets to complete at home, download the Children’s mental health and emotional wellbeing advice4.12MB.

Talking about and sharing your feelings

It is very important to talk about and share your feelings.

Everyone feels anxious, worried or scared at times. During these times it is important to take notice of your feelings.

The below information contains advice and activities to help you manage your feelings and wellbeing, either on your own or with the help of an adult in your home.

Ways to be kind to yourself

  • Accept what is in your control
  • Notice your thoughts - Do you speak kindly to yourself?
  • Treat yourself like you would treat a friend
  • Forgive yourself - we all get things wrong and have off days
  • Enjoy the good days
  • Accept who you are and your worries

Circle of control

When our worries aren't real ones that can't be problem solved, it might help to think about the circle of control. Most things in life that we worry about are things we cannot control. We are more likely to find an answer to the problem if we focus on things that are within our control.

Make your own circle of control:

  • Draw a big circle
  • Inside that circle, draw another smaller circle
  • In the big circle write down things you can't control
  • In the small circle write down things you can control

When things are not in our control, we can control our reaction to them.

Write down your reaction to one of the things that are not in your control.

Notes for parents about the Circle of Control - In times of uncertainty it helps to revisit which things in life are within our control. Encourage your child by naming personal examples. This open dialogue eases anxiety and makes children feel secure.

Changing our thoughts

We spend a lot of time listening to our thoughts. These thoughts are automatic and are usually about ourselves, what we do and what is going to happen in the future.

Sometimes when we think about a situation, we have unhelpful, or 'red' thoughts that can make us feel anxious or sad. Helpful or 'green' thoughts help us think and act more calmly.

Here are some thoughts:

  • I'm rubbish at maths
  • I can't do that without mam or dad
  • I'll do my best, it doesn't matter if I make a mistake
  • Mam or dad will help me if I get stuck
  • I'm good at a lot of things
  • No one likes me

On a piece of paper, can you write down which thoughts you think are helpful in green and which ones you think are unhelpful in red?

Notes for parents about 'Changing our thoughts' - These activities are based on a Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) approach, which examines the link between thoughts, feelings and behaviours. During periods of change we often notice the behaviours first. Acknowledging that these behaviours can be caused by our critical inner voice impacting on our feelings can be the first step in changing behaviours. For primary age children we refer to these as 'unhelpful' thoughts.

Worry jar and worry time

Unhelpful thoughts can make us worry more.

When you're feeling worried it can be difficult to share these worries with the people around us. A worry jar can help with this.

You can draw your own worry jar or, if you have an empty jar at home, ask someone at home to help you make a real worry jar.

To make your own worry jar, get a piece of paper and draw a jar. Inside that jar, write down your worries.

Now you have your jar, think of a nice quiet time you can think about these worries. This is usually at the end of the day. Try your best not to think about these worries until then.

This 'worry time' is when you can make your worry list.

A worry list is to help you sort out your worries.

On a piece of paper write down:

  • Worries that might happen
  • Worries that will probably never happen
  • A plan to fight these worries
  • Remind yourself that really bad things don't often happen

Now you have your worry time, why not make a worry time sign so everyone in your home knows this is your special time.

You can decorate or use your favourite colours to make it special.

Notes for parents about the 'Worry jar and worry time' - Normalising worry is important with young children. Creating a 'worry jar' will help this process. Having a specific time to worry will take time to implement but is a proven strategy to help young people manage their worries (The Huge Bag of Worries is an excellent book to support Key Stage 1 children, Starving the Anxiety Gremlin is suitable for Key Stage 2).

Coping chart

To help us forget our worries that we can't make a plan for, it is important to keep busy.

You can choose three actions daily from the list below, or if you have another jar make an activity jar to pick three things from each day.

  • Play a game you enjoyed when you were younger
  • Do something kind for yourself
  • Get active - even if you're indoors you can move and stretch
  • Try a new book or TV show
  • Call a family member or friend to catch up
  • Play your favourite music
  • Take five minutes to sit still and notice your breathing
  • Help to cook your favourite meal
  • Notice five things that are beautiful in the world around you
  • Send a letter to someone you can't be with
  • Drink eight glasses of water today
  • Complete a mindful colouring activity
  • De-clutter your bedroom
  • Connect with nature - notice signs of season
  • Look at old family photos
  • Write down five things you are grateful for
  • Set a goal - how will you achieve it?
  • Try a new food
  • Notice your sleep - are you getting enough?
  • Make sure you get your five a day

Add five of your own activities to the list.

Notes for parents about the 'Coping chart and activity jar' - Predictable routines help children feel safe, reduce stress and prevent changes in behaviour.

Time to connect

It is good to take time to connect with your family and friends.

Sometimes you may not be able to play out or interact with your friends as you would like, but you can still have contact with them.

Can you think of ways that you can talk to your friends and family without actually meeting up with them? Try and list 3.

Here are some suggestions to add to your list:

  • Telephone - it's good to talk - being able to talk to your friends and family is good for your wellbeing.
  • Video calling - some apps on your phone or computer allow you to video call - this is a great way of keeping in contact - Remember to check with your parent/carer first before you do this.
  • Playing a game online with your friends and family
  • Playing board games/cards with your family at home
  • Watching a movie together
  • Learning something together as a family - i.e. a new hobby, language.

Time to learn

Time to learn - we need to help our brain grow and stay healthy as well as our body.

Also, learning new things can be fun and may make you more confident.

What things can you and would you like to learn from home? Try and list 3.

Ways that you can do this are:

  • Completing any homework
  • Learning how to cook - if you need an adult to help please ask their permission beforehand. Learning to cook is not only fun, it helps with your maths - i.e. measuring quantities and managing time, the end result is that cakes or biscuits are tasty too. You could then share these with your family and could give yourself a tick in the 'Time to give' section too.
  • Learn a new language
  • Learn to play music - how creative can you be with pans, paper, jars, elastic bands, combs.

Give it a go remember to always ask a grown-up beforehand.

Time to get active

Time to be active - we need to help our body stay healthy by exercising.

Exercise can make you feel both physically and mentally healthy.

Can you think of ways to stay active in the house? Try and list 3.

Some ways to stay active at home is by:

  • Walking up and down the stairs
  • Dancing to your favourite music - You could learn a new dance routine and could give yourself a tick in the 'Time to Learn' section too.
  • If you have a computer or tablet/smart device you could ask a parent to help you log on to some online children exercise classes
  • You could create your own little circuit class with different exercise stations. You could do:
    • Ten sit ups at one
    • Ten star jumps at another one
    • Ten squats and the next one
    • Ten Push ups

Remember to drink lots of water when you're exercising, it's important to stay hydrated.

Time to notice

Mindfulness can help you slow down and help you to notice what is going on around you. It can help you to live in the present moment in time - not worry about the past, not worrying about the future - but appreciating what you have at this present time, and being grateful for what is around you.

An example of this could be noticing the birds singing in the garden - have you ever stopped, listened and noticed how beautiful the Blackbirds song is in on a morning or evening?

The Blackbird can sing beautifully as it controls its breathing when singing out loud. We can take notice of our breathing and try to practice breathing mindfully - this can help you to stay calm in stressful situations.

Can you list 3 things that you have noticed during your time off that you have never noticed before?

Mindful breathing

Try mindful breathing:

  • First of all, you need to take a deep breath in all the way from your tummy...
  • keep taking a deep breath in for 1...2...3...
  • and hold for 1...2...3...
  • now release for 1...2...3...

Try that 2 more times and write down how you feel after you have tried this.

A good way to help you with your breathing technique is when breathing in imagine you are smelling a beautiful flower, and when you release you are slowly blowing out a candle.

Your senses

Another great way to take notice of your body is to use your senses.

Can you list your senses? (There are 5 in total)

Now take a deep breath in and use your senses to notice:

  • Five things you can see
  • Four things you can touch
  • Three things you can hear
  • Two things you can smell
  • One thing you can taste

Time to give

Giving does not just make you feel good inside but it can bring a smile to other people too.

Giving doesn't have to cost any money, just by giving someone your time, or by asking how their day went is a great way to make someone else feel good and improve their wellbeing as well as your own.

Can you think of ways that you can give to others? Try and list 3.

Here are some other ways that you could give:

  • Help tidy your bedroom
  • Help to set the table at lunch time without needing to be asked
  • Smile at someone - they say that a smile is infectious. Pass on that smile
  • Pass on kind words
  • Thank your parent or carer for cooking you your favourite meal
  • Save your last sweet or chocolate and offer it to someone in your home

Pass on the kindness and count how many people you make smile today.

Wellbeing daily tally chart

Make yourself a wellbeing tally chart so you can see every time you carry out a wellbeing task.

How to make a tally chart:

  • On a piece of paper, draw a grid.
  • Along the top, on the fist line of the grid, write out the days of the week from Monday to Sunday.
  • Down the left hand side, write down:
    • Connect in red
    • Be active in yellow
    • Take notice in blue
    • Keep learning in green
    • Give in purple

Colour in the tally every time you carry out one of the wellbeing tasks during your day, using the the colour of the task you did.

Vitamin D

Have you ever noticed how people often seem happier when the sun is shining?

One of the reasons for this is that the sun helps our bodies produce Vitamin D which may change important brain chemicals, like serotonin, which affect our mood.

When we can't get outside to get enough Vitamin D from the sun, we need to be careful to make sure we help keep our mood up in other ways.

For many people, regular exercise can help with this, as does keeping busy doing things which are important to you. It might be that you enjoy learning an instrument, dancing, doing puzzles or even teaching your dog to do new tricks (your dog will be happy about this too).

'What makes me happy' flower

On a piece of paper, draw a flower with 6 petals.

Think about what things are important to you and what makes you happy. Write or draw them in the petals.

Look at your petals and thinks about:

  • How often do you do these things?
  • Can you do more of them?

People often have good intentions but don't stick to them.

One way to help you stick to what you said is to plan it in to your week and write it down, perhaps in a diary. If you have your own then you could use that or, if not, you can make one.

Making a planner

If you don't already have a planner or diary, you can make your own simple planner.

  • On a piece a paper, draw a table with 3 columns and 8 rows.
  • Down the right hand side, write down the days of the week from Monday to Sunday
  • In the top row, write AM in the second box and PM in the third box
  • In the boxes, write down when you plan to do the things that make you happy

Remember to tick the things off when you have completed them so you can see quickly how much you have achieved - this is a sure-fire way of giving yourself a mini pick-me-up.

Take a brain break

You can make yourself a die to help you if you are feeling angry or sad.

  • Draw 4 boxes in a line, directly underneath each other
  • Add a small tab, on the left hand side, to the first, second and fourth box
  • Next to the second box, on the right hand side, draw another box and add a small tab to the end
  • Next to the third box, on the left hand side, draw another box
  • Add a small tab to the bottom of the fourth box

Now you can write things in the boxes that might help you if you are feeling angry or sad:

  • Sing or listen to your favourite song
  • Do 10 jumping jacks
  • Name 3 you are thankful for today
  • Draw a picture of your favourite place
  • Do something nice for somebody else
  • Name 2 people you can talk to if you feel sad

Cut out around the outside of the die template you just made (ask an adult if you need help) and fold/glue to make into a die.

Give it a roll if you're feeling a bit sad or angry, and see if it helps.

Parent notes - winning ways to wellbeing

  1. Connect - talk and listen be there feel connected
  2. Give - your time, your words, your presence
  3. Take notice - remember the simple things that give you joy
  4. Keep learning - embrace new experiences, see opportunities, surprise yourself
  5. Be active - do what you can, enjoy what you do, move your mood

Introduce these five simple strategies into your life and you will feel the benefits.

The five ways to wellbeing are a set of evidence based actions which promote young people's emotional wellbeing. Evidence shows us that if we do the following five winning ways to wellbeing listed above, wellbeing will be influenced positively.

Online resources for parents

If your child is 10 or over, KOOTH is available to young people. Kooth provides a safe and secure means of accessing mental health and wellbeing support designed specifically for young people.

Kooth offers young people the opportunity to have a text-based conversation with a qualified counsellor. Counsellors are available from 12noon to 10pm on weekdays and 6pm to 10pm at weekends, every day of the year on a drop-in basis.

Young people can access regular booked online counselling sessions as needed. Outside of counselling hours young people can message our team and get support by the next day.

To find out more visit www.Kooth.comwhere young people can register and others can find out more about the service.

There are lots of helpful links that you may find useful, for example MindEd for families.

You may find that you are struggling with your own mental health or emotional wellbeing, you can access support for yourself by visiting

If you feel that your child requires a personal intervention or access to internet therapy, please call South Tyneside Lifecycle Talking Therapies on 0191 2832937to discuss this further.

If your child is experiencing mental health crisis requiring immediate response from the Crisis Team, please telephone 0191 5665500.

For more information visit Young people mental health

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