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Advice to support children and young people's emotional health and wellbeing

Emotional health and wellbeing ​is an important aspect of our overall health.

F​eeling good about ourselves and being emotionally well is linked to our ability to make better and healthier choices in daily life. ​​


Signs of good emotional health

If your child has a good level of emotional health, most of the time they:

  • are able to have fun
  • can be creative
  • can learn new skills and information
  • know when things are right and wrong
  • can enjoy their own company
  • care about other people and how they feel
  • can make positive choices
  • wonder about things and ask questions
  • can face problems and learn from them
  • can cope with change and difference
  • can make and keep friends​

​Signs that your child may need support

If you're worried your child is going through a difficult time, they might show the following signs:

  • not eating and sleeping as well as usual
  • spending less time with their friends
  • spending less time doing things they enjoy
  • having mood swings
  • not doing well at school
  • struggling to make it to school
  • feeling bad about themselves or their life​

How to support

If your child is showing any of the above signs, you could:

  • talk to them
  • talk about their strengths with them
  • ask them to talk to someone they trust​
  • contact an organisation that can help

Organisations that can help wi​th your child's emotional health​

Practical advice for parents about young people's drug use

Practical advice for parents about ​self-harm​

Keeping up good levels of emotional health and wellbeing

There are a range of things you can do to make sure your child has a good level of emotional health and wellbeing.

Healthy and balanced diet

A healthy balanced diet is important in maintaining good mental health. Poor diet is thought to contribute to low mood, anxiety, and behavioural problems.

To encourage your child to eat better, you could:

  • provide meals that include all of the main food groups
  • encourage regular eating habits, for example 3 meals and at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day
  • make sure healthy snacks and fruit are readily available
  • limit the amount of cakes, biscuits, soft drinks and energy drinks​

The eatwell plate on NHS w​ebsite

Rest​​​​​ and sleep

Taking some time out to relax is an important way of helping minds and bodies switch off from daily pressures.

To help your child relax, you could:

  • encourage them to take the time to pause and take a break
  • encourage them to take notice of the world around them
  • inspire creativity and imagination through a​rt, writing and reading 
  • encourage taking warm baths before bed

Not enough sleep can cause irritability, stress, anxiety and bad moods. A healthy sleeping pattern can enh​ance mood and promote feelings of energy and wellbeing. 

Be aware that sleep patterns of teenagers means they might not be tired and ready for sleep until late at night.​

To help your child sleep better, you could:

  • encourage them to be physically active during the day
  • switch off devices, television, or computer games near bedtime
  • turn off monitors and screens as light can interfere with sleep
  • keep rooms cool and quiet
  • make sure they have a comfortable bed and thick curtains to block daylight
  • encourage a good bed routine
  • promote the benefits of sleep, for example, better memory, performance and general wellbeing 
  • talk to your teenager about their worries and concerns
  • discourage them from taking naps too close to bedtime, as this could have a knock on effect

Exercise​​​ and physical activity​

Exercise and physical activity is known to greatly improve wellbeing. It releases serotonin and endorphins which has been linked to help reducing anxiety and stress.

Encourage your child to be physically active by:

  • talking about the importance and benefits of physical activity
  • being a positive role model. Parents who are physically active themselves have children who are also physically active
  • encouraging your child to take part in sports, either by watching them play or compete, or by offering lifts to sports events
  • limiting the time spent watching television or playing computer games
  • finding different ways for your child to do things they enjoy, which might not be organised or team sports
  • doing or trying new activities as a family


A routine brings structure intoyour child's life and help them feel more in control. Long days with nothing to do can have a negative impact on mental health.

To encourage a routine for your child, you could:

  • create more structure and opportunities for positive interactions 
  • encourage down time but make sure it isn’t happening too often
  • encourage them to have a plan for eating, sleeping, socialising, exercising and relaxing 

Family and friendship​​​​

Being close to and feeling valued by others is a fundamental human need. Remind your child that friends and family will be there for them and can help talk over their problems.

To encourage healthy relationships, you could:

  • ​encourage them to spend time with friends and family 
  • remind them it's important to spend time with people who make them feel good about themselves
  • encourage them to phone, Skype, FaceTime or meet a fr​iend, as well as texting or using social media 
  • make your children's friends feel welcome
  • take an interest in their activities 

Social media and the internet

Social media and the internet are useful resources that can help young people connect with others, be creative, and learn new things. However, they do have a negative side that parents should be aware of. 

To encourage positive use of social media and the internet, you could:

  • ​think about how you guide your family in the real world and do the same in the digital world
  • set boundaries and rules for your child from a young age
  • make digital issues part of everyday conversation; don't shy away from difficult subjects like responsible online behaviour, bullying and pornography 
  • encourage your child to catch up with friends face-to-face, and to not overly rely on social media

Internet and online safety


Low self-esteem can be damaging on general mood, health and wellbeing.

To address low self-esteem, you could:

  • encourage your child to focus on their strengths and positive thinking 
  • support them to recognise the skills that they have 
  • encourage them not to dwell on the things they might not be so good at​
  • set small, realistic goals when doing something new, and try and reach them

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