Supporting Good Mental Health in Children as a Childcare Practitioner

Supporting Good Mental Health in Children as a Childcare Practitioner

According to the World Health Organization in 2022, 10% of children and adolescents experience a mental health disorder, and the majority of them do not seek help or care. Some children and adolescents are more at risk than others, due to numerous risk factors like poverty, lack of education, abuse and family dysfunction.

According to Copeland’s study about ‘Adult Functional Outcomes of Common Childhood Psychiatric Problems’, poor mental health during childhood often leads to poor mental health as an adult. This is why it is essential that childcare practitioners know how to support the mental health of the children they work with. With the right support, children who experience mental health issues can improve their mental well-being and grow into resilient adults who can adapt to change, focus at school or in the workplace, form meaningful relationships and generally function well in society. If you want to learn about child development, behavior and mental health, consider a  child development course online.

Here are some things childcare practitioners can do to support good mental health in children:

Look Out for Risk Factors and Signs of Mental Illness

Childcare practitioners should be aware of the risk factors that influence children’s mental health, and of the signs that often come along with mental health struggles and disorders. There are all sorts of social, environmental and behavioral factors that can impact mental health. Some of the most common risk factors in children are poverty, neglect, having a parent or carer with a mental health problem, physical or sexual abuse, and witnessing domestic conflict or violence. If you suspect that a child in your care has one or more of these risk factors, it is important that you keep an eye out for their well-being and address any signs of mental health struggles as soon as possible. According to an article published by the Mayo Clinic in 2019, some common behavioral signs that come along with mental health issues include:

  • Regular sadness
  • Social withdrawal
  • Regularly talking about suicide or death
  • Outbursts/extreme irritability
  • Erratic behavior
  • Drastic changes in mood, behavior or personality
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Self-harm or mentioning it
  • Weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches or stomach aches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in academic performance
  • Avoiding or missing school

Work Closely with Families and Other Professionals

It is important that child carers communicate with the families of the children they look after or work with, and that they share resources and knowledge with these families whenever and wherever necessary, to help effectively care for the mental well-being of the children. If you are concerned about a child and don’t believe their family will provide adequate support, you should follow your workplace’s processes in regard to getting help for struggling children. Generally, you will be advised to consult with a health professional or child protection body to find out the best course of action.

Teach Children to Manage Their Feelings

There are all sorts of lessons and activities that you can do with children to support their mental health and well-being and teach them to manage their feelings. Generally, teaching children skills like emotional language/literacy, positive coping, problem solving, stress management and how to seek help when they need it is profoundly helpful. With the right emotional toolkit, children can learn to recognize, manage and express their emotions and seek help when they need it.

When children are taught the language to describe their feelings, they learn that it is normal to feel angry, alone, scared, or lonely sometimes, and are more likely to express these feelings when they arise. You can also teach children how to improve their mental health and well-being – encourage them to take breaks from screens, spend time with people who make them happy, play outside, get creative, listen to music, eat well, get more sleep and talk to someone if they need.

Listen to the Children Carefully

When a child comes to you for help, this is a sign that they trust you. Make sure that you listen carefully, and try not to overwhelm them with too many questions or to interrupt them when they are speaking. Always thank a child for sharing with you, because this validates their experience and encourages them to talk to you again in the future. Also, make sure to follow up with them regularly to check how they are going, and if necessary, take action to get them further support.


World Health Organisation, ‘Improving the mental and brain health of children and adolescents‘, 2022

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Data and Statistics on Children’s Mental Health, 2022

Mental Health Foundation, Children & Young People, 2021

Copeland WE, Wolke D, Shanahan L, Costello EJ. Adult Functional Outcomes of Common Childhood Psychiatric Problems: A Prospective, Longitudinal Study. JAMA Psychiatry. 2015;72(9):892–899. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.0730

Victoria State Government, ‘Supporting students’ mental health and wellbeing’, 2020

Mayo Clinic, ‘Mental illness in children: Know the signs’, 2022

Connections with the National Quality Framework, ‘Helping children who are experiencing mental health difficulties’, 2014


I am a pop culture and social media expert. Aside from writing about the latest news health, I also enjoy pop culture and Yoga. I have BA in American Cultural Studies and currently enrolled in a Mass-Media MA program. I like to spend my spring breaks volunteering overseas.

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