It can be difficult to initially raise the topic with school or early childhood staff if you believe your child may be experiencing mental health difficulties. By sharing information, discussing possible support options and working together to implement support strategies, it can help families feel supported, hopeful and provide a coordinated approach to supporting your child.
When seeking help in partnership with education staff, the following ideas might be helpful:
- clearly communicate concerns to each other
- work together to develop a plan for seeking help and support each other in having realistic and achievable goals
- help each other think about what could be different and how you can work towards change together
- talk to each other about what the first steps could be when seeking help (e.g. talking to the education setting’s wellbeing team or counsellor, calling a helpline, making an appointment with the GP) and what options are available (e.g. a friend, counsellor, psychologist, etc.)
- share information about how things are progressing, issues that are presenting and things that are going well at home and at your child’s early childhood service or school.
Discussing observations with education staff and getting in early
If you think your child is experiencing mental health difficulties, taking time to observe your child and discussing these observations early with education staff can assist the help-seeking and support process. Both parents/carers and education staff can compare and discuss observations, using tools or strategies like the B-E-T-L-S tool, for example, to get a clearer picture of your child’s difficulties and strengths, and gain an understanding of whether these are consistent at home and your child’s school or service.
Key things to observe when you are concerned that your child may have mental health difficulties are:
- Behaviour – What is your child doing? (e.g. unsettled at sleep time)
- Emotions – What is/might your child be feeling? (e.g. sad, frustrated, anxious, angry)
- Thoughts – What is/might your child be thinking? (e.g. I’m worried about going to school)
- Learning – What learning areas might be affected? (e.g. difficulty concentrating)
- Social relationships – What social areas are being affected? (e.g. avoids group situations).
Through communicating and comparing your observations with those of the education staff, and then providing this information to health and community professionals, it can help professionals gain an in-depth understanding of your child’s context to provide the most appropriate support. You or the health professional can then communicate some of these support strategies that may be effective at your school or service to ensure your child has consistent support. Getting in early and seeking help together can prevent serious issues from developing and ensure families and education staff are working together and feel supported in assisting children with mental health concerns.