If you’re worried about your child and their emotional wellbeing or behaviour, it can be helpful to talk first to other people such as your health visitor (for under 5’s), the school nurse or a teacher. Each topic listed on this website has information to help you decide what you can do to support your child and whether you should seek professional help.
If you decide to see your GP, it might be a good idea to arrange a phone call or a visit to the GP without your child to explain your concerns first. Writing down what you or others have noticed or are worried about can be helpful too. Consider whether your child might prefer to talk to the GP alone for all or part of the appointment. (See guidance on Confidentiality below)
From the age of 16 years your child is entitled to full confidentiality from their GP who therefore cannot share information with you without their consent. Younger children who disclose information with the expectation that it will be confidential are also entitled to that confidentiality (See exceptions below). Of course GPs will generally encourage teens and young adults to talk to their families about the problems they are experiencing, and most children are happy to involve their parents. For young adults e.g. at college or university, this consent has to be noted in their GP records. Without that consent, you may still call their GP to share your concerns, which will then be noted, even if the GP cannot give you information about them.
It can be helpful if you are going to see the GP with your child, to consider whether they might find it helpful to talk to the GP alone. A GP may disclose confidential information in exceptional circumstances e.g. if they judge that disclosure is in the best interests of the child (who may not have the maturity to make a decision about disclosure) or where disclosure is required by law or is in the public interest.
Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)
To be referred to a specialist service, you will first need to see your GP.
Concerns about possible Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) will usually be referred to Community Paediatrics. Concerns about emotional wellbeing (e.g. severe anxiety, eating disorders) may be referred to CAMHS. Waiting times for both services can be quite long due to demand and in most cases there is an expectation that parents or the school have accessed some other help before a referral can be accepted.
In practical terms this means that any referral needs to explain what has already been tried, such as support from the school nurse, health visitor or local counselling. A letter from the school and/or from parents or carers detailing their concerns can be really helpful as well. As waiting times are constantly shifting, are different in each area and depend on the individual problem, we unfortunately cannot offer estimates for how long you will have to wait to see a specialist.
If you live in the South-West UK, you can find information on your local CAMHS services in the local section here.
CAMHS will tend to see children more quickly where there is:
An eating disorder
Serious suicidal thoughts or other concern about risk
Problems with bonding in infancy especially if mum has postnatal depression
Psychosis (see link for definition of what this is)
What is CAMHS ? Click here for a detailed explanation
Special educational needs and disability
Children or teenagers with special educational needs (SEN) or disability often experience additional issues with mood, anxiety, poor sleep and other problems. Much of the guidance listed on this website is relevant to all children and parents but for some specific support, such as how to find local groups in your area, see below. Most city councils will also have a SEN section on their websites.
Find your local information, advice and support (IAS) service for children and young people with special educational needs and their families via your local authority. This link will take you to the national IAS network so you can find what is available in your area.Click here.
Supportive parents This charity has a helpline and lots of online resources and practical advice e.g. on financial assistance. They are based in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire but the website is accessible to anyone. They run some local parents groups and liaise with schools. Helpline (free)0117 989 7725 http://www.supportiveparents.org.uk
Contact National charity for parents of disabled children with advice on child and family wellbeing, information on conditions and practical matters such as finance, and how to find parent support groups in your area. Helpline (free) 0808 808 3555www.contact.org.uk/advice-and-support
Box of ideas A fabulous site full of practical advice for professionals and parents on topics such as dyspraxia, dyslexia, autism . Ideas for games, coping with school, eating or toileting problems, fun things to do and much more. www.boxofideas.org
Advice for parents who are fostering or adopting(including “How to tell your child they are adopted”) on this page from Family Lives
Thinking Allowed.This website is for parents, carers, social workers and other professionals and provides support for young people in care and/or their carers. This can include individual therapy or other support. Click here
For children and young people
Childline page for adopted childrenof all ages discussing difficult feelings, being bullied, not fitting in and more click here
Childline page for children in care including fostered childrenclick here
RvoiceA website for young people in care or care leavers with news and blogs, games, art and an excellent section on “my rights”.www.rvoice.co.uk