Young people’s wellbeing has been a prominent issue within the media throughout 2015, including the recently published Children’s Society report that called on the UK Government to make it a legal requirement for schools in England to provide counselling to pupils.

BACP's Senior Lead Advisor for Children and Young People, Karen Cromarty, writes for welldoing about the current state of children and young people’s mental health and practical advice for concerned parents, including what support is available.

Children being unhappy is a huge concern. All the professionals we talk to say that children becoming more distressed and having emotional problems has been on the rise over the past 20 years. Parents tell us, school teachers tell us, anyone who works with children and young people tell us, that children are under an increasing amount of pressure. It can have a significant impact on young people, and can result in preventing healthy social development and academic success.

What brings young people to see a counsellor?

The majority of children who attend counselling talk about their families, and after that they talk about managing anger – particularly boys. Following that young people talk about a wide range of issues significant to them at the time, such as stress, bereavement, relationships with friends, school work and bullying.

If parents are concerned about their child, the first thing to do is to try and talk to them about it. It’s about choosing the right way and the right time to talk to children, so don’t choose a time, for example, over breakfast when everyone is trying to get ready for their day.

Find an appropriate moment, such as a quiet time during the day or when you’re working on something together, like doing the washing up, or on a regular ‘taxi run’, when it doesn’t have to be so intense and the conversation can flow freely.

Why parents resist counselling for children

Some parents think that if their child receives counselling it is a poor reflection on their own parenting skills. It’s very common for parents to feel like that - you’ve brought up your child who’s been fully dependent on you and who, to all intents and purposes, is now saying ‘I’ve got some problems and I don’t want to talk to you about it, Mum and Dad.'

That’s really hard to hear when you’re a parent, but it’s part of letting go and children growing up and becoming more independent. It’s often the case that young people don’t quite know how to start talking about these difficulties at home and so by talking to the counsellor who is independent of the problem, they practice – and this helps them talk with parents or carers.

Young people tell us that they appreciate being able to discuss the difficulties with someone who won’t judge them. It’s important to trust your son or daughter whilst they go through this process.

How can a child or young person benefit from counselling?

Counselling has proven to be an effective source of support for young children, but it’s important that finding a counsellor or any other form of support is found in conjuncture with your son or daughter. See it as a collaboration; you’ve both identified between you that this might be the way forwards.

It’s been found that counselling has a positive impact on the majority that undertake it, and there are several different ways it can be accessed. Your child’s school may have a counsellor or a GP may be able to refer your child on to an appropriate service, while community and youth counselling services may be available in your local area. You can also access counselling privately through such services as the BACP.

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