mother and daughter talkingParents worry about their children’s mental health more than any other health issue, a survey has revealed.

The poll of 2,000 parents by charity Action for Children found that mothers are particularly likely to worry about their children’s mental and emotional wellbeing; with almost half (47%) saying it was a concern, compared to a third of fathers (32%).

Mental health came ahead of worries about diet and/or weight (32% of parents) and suffering from serious illnesses such as cancer (21%).

Action for Children, which runs more than 200 children’s centres across the UK, has been concerned by the rise in support needed by children because of mental health and emotional wellbeing problems. Recent research by the charity found over half of their frontline services surveyed, including children’s centres, reported an increase in the level of need among children compared to this time last year.

“It’s clear that many parents are worried about their children’s emotional wellbeing and mental health,” said Sir Tony Hawkhead, chief executive of Action for Children.

Sir Tony emphasised that help is available, and getting that support at the right time can make a big difference. “We have seen for ourselves how giving children and their families the right support early can make a difference to their lives and help them reach their potential.

“Spending time and money preventing a problem rather than repairing the damage is the right and logical thing to do. With councils facing reduced funds, we are calling for a shift in funding towards early support to help prevent concerns or issues from becoming major problems.”

Ask for help

Lee, 24, a father of one from Hampshire said: “I had a bad split from my partner, and it left my son feeling very anxious, as a result his behaviour became very difficult and he would panic when he wasn’t with me.

“I felt like I couldn’t cope but staff at the children’s centre helped me regain my confidence and I did parenting courses to better understand and support my son.

“We are both happier as a result and I feel like my son is getting a much better start in life – my message for other parents is to ask for help if you are worried about your kids.”