This week is Children’s Mental Health Week. Beth, Policy Lead at Transforming Lives for Good (TLG), writes about how children’s emotional wellbeing continues to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and what you and your church can do about it.
The Children’s Society annual ‘Good Childhood report’ has found that children’s emotional wellbeing has been in decline for the past decade. Across the UK, children are dealing with this emotional wellbeing crisis.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic added further emotional trauma to this. Isolation from family and friends, the stress of keeping up with schoolwork and anxiety around what happens next as new variants (such as the Omicron variant) emerge are among the many challenges children continue to navigate. Many are also impacted by ongoing household financial insecurity and the current cost of living crisis.
Last year, TLG released ‘The Hidden Crisis’ policy briefing paper, looking into children’s emotional wellbeing, the impact of COVID-19 and the link to school exclusions. The writing of this took us on a journey to the very core of the challenges so many children faced before the pandemic, how those challenges have been further intensified by it and the potential life-long consequences if children are not given the support they need.
We were already aware of many of these challenges through our 22 years’ experience supporting children’s wellbeing, but it still breaks our hearts every time we hear another story about the reality of what children are forced to face each day.
However, we are also inspired every time we hear of another child re-discovering they too have hope and a future. All because a TLG Early Intervention Coach took the time to listen, to support and to teach the child coping mechanisms. That is why, at the core of our policy recommendations in ‘The Hidden Crisis’ is a call for a trauma-responsive and early intervention approach everywhere in education, children’s services and the community.
Over the last year, through the local church working in partnership with TLG, we have provided support to over 7,000 children who are struggling with their emotional wellbeing, in poverty and in education.
Two such programmes, our TLG Emotional First Aid and TLG Emotional Rollercoaster programmes, use our experience to equip churches to respond to the emotional wellbeing crisis children are facing.
Written by our Head of Therapeutic Practice, these programmes train volunteers to spot and respond to the signs of emotional distress in children and adults. So far, nearly 2,000 volunteers have been trained across more than 800 churches, with this number constantly rising.
This week is Children’s Mental Health week, an opportunity to continue to raise awareness of the ongoing challenges children are experiencing, while reflecting on what more can be done – as individuals, as churches and as a nation. A collective response to raising our understanding, awareness and ability to support struggling children will mean that no child is far from the help they might need. You never know when you might be the listening ear that makes the change. Are you ready?
The emotional wellbeing of children must be put straight to the top of the agenda, in practical support from the church and in national policy responses, in the recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 crisis and into the future.