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Emotional and Mental Wellbeing

When young children feel anxious, they cannot always understand or express what they are feeling. You may notice that they become irritable, tearful, clingy or have difficulty sleeping. They may wake in the night, start wetting the bed or have bad dreams.

In older children you may notice that they:

  • lack the confidence to try new things or seem unable to face simple, everyday challenges
  • find it hard to concentrate
  • have problems with sleeping or eating
  • are prone to angry outbursts
  • have negative thoughts going round and round their head, or keep thinking that bad things are going to happen
  • start avoiding everyday activities, such as seeing friends, going out in public or attending school

Brain development begins before birth and continues throughout adulthood. An analogy that is often used to describe brain development is building a house. The most intense development occurs during the first three years of a child’s life. Laying a solid foundation builds a strong brain structure, or brain architecture as experts call it. A weak foundation creates a faulty structure. Early experiences are uniquely important in establishing future development. All children’s centres support the emotional wellbeing of children because nurturing and responsive relationships build healthy brain architecture that provides a strong foundation for learning, behaviour, and health.

Top 5 tips:

  1. Teach your child to recognise signs of anxiety in themselves and to ask for help when it strikes.
  2. Children of all ages find regular routines reassuring so, if your child is feeling anxious, try to stick to regular daily routines where possible.
  3. If your child is anxious because of distressing events, such as a bereavement or separation, see if you can find books or films that will help them understand their feelings.
  4. Practice simple relaxation techniques with your child, such as taking three deep, slow breaths, breathing in for a count of three and out for three.
  5. Distraction can be helpful for young children. For example, if they are anxious about going to nursery, play games on the way there, such as seeing who can spot the most red cars. “This is a way of focusing attention away from internal anxiety cues and worries to external, more neutral anxiety-reducing things,” says Professor Stallard.

Useful links

  • Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) can assist in services to support your emotional wellbeing: www.iapt.nhs.uk/
  • For advice and support on talking therapies
  • Anxiety in children - Find out more information from the NHS website 

If you need any further information, please contact the public health team at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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