The last few months have been tough on all of us. But the effect on our children’s mental health and wellbeing are only just starting to be understood. For those who find change difficult it may be difficult to adjust to the ‘new normal’. Others may be worrying about the future or picking up on stress, as parents juggle work and home without the usual support network.
The good news is, whether you need help with childcare or support with looking after your children’s mental wellbeing, we’ve got your back. We’ve got experts on-hand to fix your childcare worries – and now we have an in-house child therapist as well.
Plus, we’ve got some expert advice on steps you can take at home to look after your children’s mental health and wellbeing during these difficult times.
To all the parents out there – we see you.
But before we go on, we just want to take a moment to say to all the parents out there – we see you.
We see you and we salute you. You’re doing an amazing job.
Lockdown and the pandemic has put parents (particularly working parents) under huge pressure. Looking after children while working, home-schooling and trying to hold it all together is exhausting.
But you don’t have to do it alone. We’re here to support you and your family in these strange and uncertain times.
If you’re struggling to juggle parenting and working at home and need some help with childcare, give the Happy Nest team a buzz on 020 8819 1567.
And if you’re worried about the effect of lockdown on your children’s mental health (or have other concerns) we can help with that too.
Whatever the coming months bring, we can help you and your children feel as happy and secure as possible.
Read on to find out more.
Child therapy, mental health and wellbeing in uncertain times
As many of our little ones return to school they may need some extra support. It’s a stressful time, so it’s good to know help is available if they’re struggling. Which is why we’re delighted to announce a new partnership with Emma Hickling from Little Minds Matter.
Emma is a qualified and experienced Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist – and from today she will be offering private child psychotherapy sessions as part of the Happy Nest team.
So if you have any concerns about your child’s mental health or wellbeing, whether it’s related to recent events or ongoing issues, you can contact her via Emma@happy-nest.co.uk to arrange a consultation.
In the meantime, let’s meet Emma and find out how she might be able to help you and your child if you need support.
Read on to the end for a chance to ask Emma a question and have it answered in a future blog.
Introducing Emma. Who she is, what child therapy is, what a psychotherapist does and how it works.
So Emma, what made you want to become a child therapist…?
I’ve been working with children in various settings since I was 18 and am still fascinated by their behaviour and development.
Before becoming a therapist, I spent many years in childcare, watching children learn to play, socialise and express themselves. I would celebrate their milestones and be curious about those who struggled to meet considered developmental norms.
So moving into child therapy was a natural step. But it was only when my son became seriously ill that I realised this was what I really wanted to do.
Why child psychotherapy?
One of the main reasons I love Child Psychotherapy is that it’s based around children’s natural form of communication – play. Through play children are able to process difficult emotions and can be helped to overcome trauma and better manage behavioural difficulties.
From my years in the Early Years sector, I know how important play is to child development. It was a big part of my life and still comes very naturally to me.
So when my son was taken ill, I threw myself into doing what I do best – playing. I would role-play with him and other children in his hospital ward would join in.
It was a coping mechanism to help me deal with my own fear and anxiety, but I realised it was helping other families too.
Trauma and therapy
I knew what these families were going through. Distraught and in shock, trying to cope with the trauma that they, their child, or sibling were experiencing.
But for a short time (while I was pretending to be a pirate with their children, and playing games of hide and seek) they were distracted from the physical and emotional pain of the situation.
The children could let off steam and release their fear and frustration. And the parents could just enjoy watching their children, being children.
Seeing the relief that brought was inspiring. But it was clear that more emotional support was desperately needed to look after these families and their children’s mental health and wellbeing.
So I began my journey to becoming a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist. Hence the reason I’m so passionate about working with children and child survivors of trauma.
What is child psychotherapy?
A child psychotherapist works with the causes, not just the symptoms, of behaviour.
Using the latest techniques and understanding from neuroscience, psychoanalytic theory and psychiatry. We work with the deep unconscious to discover and help overcome underlying issues that might be driving certain behaviours.
We don’t prescribe medication, but we might advise someone to see a psychiatrist for that reason if we think it’s necessary.
What is psychotherapy used for?
I work a lot with children who have experienced trauma, often in their early years when there is a huge amount of brain development happening.
They may have lost a loved one, experienced illness, abuse or injury, either directly or of someone close to them. Even if a child can’t remember events in detail, the impact of childhood trauma cannot be underestimated.
It’s my job to find out what might be causing them distress. Help them find a way to understand and express their feelings safely and appropriately so that they can move forward.
How does psychotherapy work?
We use child-friendly tools like play, the arts and metaphor to gently uncover the root causes of problems.
By using tools a child feels comfortable with and can understand, we can hopefully move towards them being able to articulate their feelings, emotions and experiences. So that they can let go of trauma or anxiety.
That all sounds very grown-up, but basically we use play, stories and games to connect with children. Helping them express themselves and feel in control of their lives and emotions.
When does a child need therapy? What are some of the main reasons parents come to you?
There are many possible reasons, but if you are concerned about your child’s behaviour, mental health or wellbeing always seek advice from your GP in the first instance. They may recommend therapy or be able to refer you to the right professional.
A parent may get in touch with me after seeing their GP. Perhaps their child has experienced a trauma like loss, or illness. Or they may have reason to believe their child is suffering from depression or anxiety.
Common causes of anxiety might include the transition to a different school, moving to secondary school or coming to terms with divorce or parental separation.
Parents may also come to me if their child has received a diagnosis that can benefit from therapy, such as ADHD or an eating disorder.
How do I arrange for my child to see a therapist? How do I find a private child therapist?
I work in schools and with local authorities, so sometimes children are referred to me.
But I am also a private therapist. So any parent or carer can contact me if they’re concerned about their child’s mental health or wellbeing, or have been recommended therapy.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call on 07805 070752.
What should I expect from the therapy process?
It usually starts with a scheduled telephone call with the parent or carer. We talk through any concerns about the child’s mental health or wellbeing and establish what they might need help with.
We talk about my recommendations and the costs involved, so everyone is on the same page. Then I like to have a face-to-face meeting with the parents or carer to get an in-depth history of the child’s life so far.
Following that, I meet with the child for a 4-6 week consultation period. At the end of which, I discuss progress with the parent and if we need to work further.
How much does child therapy cost?
Sessions are charged weekly, so there’s no big upfront financial commitment.
However, if possible, I recommend committing to that first 4-6 week consultation period. This gives me enough time to understand what’s going on and avoids unsettling the child by starting the process and then pulling out.
The cost of therapy sessions depends on individual needs, but they are usually around £40-60 per hour. I recommend one forty five minute session per week over that 4-6 week initial period.
What happens in a child psychotherapy session?
We might do some role play, art sessions, play games or work with sand trays – whatever works for the individual child to create a safe space in which they feel able to express themselves.
I work with the children alone and we have a ‘contract’, which I explain clearly so we have a bond of trust. We both sign it, so they know that (unless they are in danger) what we discuss is confidential.
That’s not to say I won’t tell parents anything. I give them a very general overview of the child’s progress or needs. And will obviously let them know if I think their child requires any additional support or assistance.
What is your favourite part of the job?
As I said before, I genuinely love children and find them fascinating, so this is pretty much my dream job. I also enjoy talking and connecting with people. It’s incredibly rewarding to feel like I am (hopefully) making a difference in their lives.
Being a Child Psychotherapist has also allowed me to put my own life experiences to good use. I have learnt so much about myself and been able to turn one of the most devastating experiences of my life into something incredibly positive.
Got a question for Emma about children’s mental health and wellbeing?
We’re asking parents to send us their questions. Perhaps you’ve noticed a change in your child’s behaviour or would like to help them understand what’s happening?
Please contact your GP and speak to your child’s school if you have any urgent concerns.
But if you have a general question about supporting your children’s mental health and wellbeing that you’d like to ask Emma, please send it to us here at Emma@Happy-Nest.co.uk and we’ll try to answer it in one of our upcoming blogs.
We will treat all questions in confidence, but you don’t need to include names or specifics. Questions will be answered anonymously in very general terms.
In the meantime, Emma has put together some helpful advice about what you can do to support your child’s mental health and wellbeing.
Expert advice for parents: looking after your child’s mental health and wellbeing
It’s an unsettling time for everyone. But Emma has put together some simple suggestions you can try at home to support your child’s mental health and wellbeing, during the pandemic and beyond.
- Plan ahead. Talking through stressful situations in advance helps avoid meltdowns. So plan ahead for situations that you or your child may find challenging or anxiety provoking. Find a time when everyone is calm to talk through any negative emotions that may arise. Then plan together how to manage those emotions to get through those first days and weeks.
- Find ‘safe’ ways to express ‘big’ worries and emotions. Some children like to express themselves by creating something visual, like a written or drawn out plan. By putting their ‘big worries, or big fears’ on paper, together you can devise ways to work through them and make them seem smaller and less scary.
- Acknowledge and validate your child/children’s feelings. You don’t have to have all the answers. Nor do you have to ‘fix anything’ or ‘make it right’. All you need to do is listen to your child and acknowledge that the uncertainty of some situations is hard to manage and that it is perfectly normal to have strong feelings at such times.
- Have a clear routine. This can be helpful for most children (and adults), particularly in a visual format. Look over your child’s timetable and work with them on designing a visual timetable that they can use to refer to each morning and/or evening. Being in control of planning ahead is empowering and can relieve anxiety.
- Set aside five or ten minutes a day to focus on your child. Talk about when it will be and do not make it conditional on good behaviour. This is ‘your together time’ regardless of how your child’s day has gone. Knowing that they will have your full attention will be reassuring and give them something to look forward to.
Get in touch for help with childcare or to arrange a psychotherapy consultation
We hope these help as we all navigate the uncertain times ahead. But if you need any further advice about your child’s mental health or wellbeing contact Emma at Emma@happy-nest.co.uk to arrange a consultation.
And if you’re struggling to juggle work and home, or finding that working under the same roof as your family brings its own challenges, we can help. Give the Happy Nest team a call on 020 8819 1567 and we can find the right solution for your childcare needs.
Take care out there. Stay safe, be well and look after each other.
All the best
The Happy Nest Team