Emotional Health – The Scaffolding of Life

Guest Blogger
30 Aug 2013

Emotional Health – The Scaffolding of Life

Dr. Ranj Singh

NHS Doctor for Children & Young People and TV Presenter

One thing that I remember from my younger years is that awesome feeling you get when you're on summer holiday. No school for several months and the chance to forget about all the things that wind you up? Amazeballs!

The feeling eventually wears off though, when you realise you've got to go back - the new term is just around the corner and that sickly 'stressed' feeling comes creeping back. I remember getting quite anxious about going back: new lessons, new teachers, more homework, and whether my friends would still be my friends.

School can be an emotionally tough time for children and I think we underestimate the pressure that they feel, distant from their 'comfort zones' and 'safe places'. They are on their own, having to perform in the eyes of their parents, teachers and peers, whilst fitting in with their environment and those around them. Different people will react in different ways to this stress, and luckily the majority are equipped with the emotional buffers and mechanisms to cope. However, there are some that experience real difficulty and need support to get them through those important years.

As parents we want to give our children the best chance in life – and that means making sure they get the most out of school. We’re good at physically nourishing them (probably too good!) and making sure they have all the tools (books, stationary etc), but we forget about all the important stuff in between. That’s precisely why ensuring good ‘emotional health and wellbeing’ (that’s the glue that holds it all together) can be just as important as physical health.

Emotional health is about they way we think and feel, and how we deal with the stresses of life. It impacts on all the other aspects of a child’s life and therefore we should be able to pick up problems if they arise, and be able to offer the right help. But it can be difficult to detect…. what are the signs that you need to worry?

Clues that your kid may be struggling include:

• Difficult behaviour (lack of interest, school avoidance, truanting, mood swings)

• Lack of interaction (with family and others)

• Poor school performance

• Not eating properly

• Not sleeping well

• Not wanting to do things they enjoy

• Substance or alcohol misuse

• Being upset a lot

Obviously the list can go on, but the important thing is to recognise that something is not right and to offer unconditional support. Your child needs to know that you are aware of what they are going through, and that you are there to help. That’s the greatest tool a child needs – the reassurance of someone that cares for them.

Other ways is which you can help are:

• Being open and honest about how they are feeling – be non-judgemental

• Taking them seriously

• Ensuring they do not feel alone

• Encouraging and praising positive behaviour and achievements

• Making sure they feel ‘good enough’ – it’s OK to fail

• Helping them with homework and projects (if you can)

• Try to ensure they have a good diet and sleep regime

• Try to ensure they are active and do some physical activities/exercise

• Being ‘on their side’ – but remember you are the parent before a friend

Ensuring the emotional health of our children and young people is such an important issue – and the benefits will be wide spread and life long. Being a carer involves more than just providing – it’s also about building and maintaining their emotional scaffolding. That’s what good emotional health is all about, and we all need it.

And remember that this is not something you have to do all on your own either. There are some great sources of help and information out there too (as well as your local GP):

YoungMinds’ Parent Helpline – a great website with lots of useful information, as well as a dedicated helpline for parents worried about their child.

Samaritans – these guys provide a great emotional health resource for young people 

NHS Choices – an excellent source of information for all health-related issues, including mental health and wellbeing


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  • Ms sunita pandit
    over 3 years ago

    My daughters leg got burnt during the school holidays she is six and is quite anxious in getting back to the school routine! I'm feeling a bit stressed out for aswell as she is sensitive! Thank you for the ad vice above has helped me as I have to push her to excercise and get involved in activities

  • Debbie
    over 3 years ago

    This is a wonderful insight. I think adults; teachers, parents probably underestimate just how tough school and growing up can be, especially for the children who are also facing difficulties outside of school. There is too much stress in life and not enough fun. Schools have been forced to obsess about attainment which has raised the stress felt by school staff and this transfers onto the pupils. The children go home and parents are often stressed about work or financial pressure. It's not always easy being a young person and not always knowing where to turn to for support.

  • Anonymous commenter
    over 3 years ago

    My daughter has suffered 'seperation anxiety' for 3 years now & it is very difficult to find help and understanding of this. I have done a lot of research and groundwork myself but anxieties around school can impact in mnay different ways for these little people.

  • Tree Tops Counselling Salford
    over 3 years ago

    It really worries me that our young people dont have enough access to services, every day we receive calls from worried parents, about youngsters who are distressed, isolated bullied, are self harming and worried about exams. Something needs to be done to stop this carrying on and on into the next generation. Our young are under much more pressures that when I was young and the title is apt for the problem.

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