The wellbeing of both children and their parents is very important when you are facing all the usual challenges of life, plus some extra ones. Wellbeing means different things to different people, but we’ve tried to cover as many different aspects as possible in this page and the connected ones.
Aspects of Wellbeing covered in the accordion table below
- Dental anxiety
- Domestic violence
- Drug and alcohol misuse
- Gender and identity
- Hospital treatment
- Obsessive Compulsive disorder (OCD)
- School refusal
- Toilet Training
Anxiety and emotions
The first thing to remember is that feeling anxious is a normal part of life. When you have a child with additional support needs, it’s natural for you to be more anxious than usual about ordinary life experiences for them, and about whether they will be happy, or cope.
However, it’s important to remember that your child looks to you for cues about how to respond to new situations. If you respond in a fearful or anxious way, they may do so too. Similarly, if you join in with their ‘dramas’, instead of responding calmly and reassuring them, that will reinforce the idea that there is something to be scared or worried about. This also applies to situations like shouting back if your child shouts at you, or over-reacting to their stories of bullying or upsets in the classroom.
For this reason, it’s important to get early help for yourself if you feel anxious or depressed. You can’t help your child if you’re not in a good place yourself. Some local resources for doing this are to be found on our wellbeing resources for adults & carers’ page or at Anxiety UK.
‘Anxiety’ is also a word we hear our children using more and more, when a more appropriate way to talk would be to say simply that they are ‘worried’ about something. ‘Anxiety’ sounds big and scary and unmanageable, whereas being worried about school or friendships, or afraid of the dark are natural childhood emotions that can be soothed away with the right words of support, or strategies. It’s only a problem if it impacts on you to such an extent that you can’t live your life as fully as you want to.
For children and young people Nip in the Bud has short films and resources for parents to help them recognise potential mental health issues associated with several different conditions such as OCD, eating disorders and self-harm as well as neurodiversity. There is also useful further reading in the ‘Where to get help’ section of the website Nip in the Bud
Zones of regulation is a useful concept that many West Lothian Schools are using to help children to learn about and regulate their emotions. Instead of having to explain or label emotions, which many children find hard, they or their teacher describe what colour ‘zone’ they are in (roughly, blue for tired/sad/ lethargic/ bored, green for happy/ready to do the next thing/calm/paying attention, yellow for a little bit silly or wiggly/frustrated/worried/excited, and red for angry/terrified/out of control). They can then learn strategies to get from one state to the next, without any disapproval being attached to their feelings (no colour is good or bad). “You seem to be in the yellow zone, lets see what we can do to get back to the green zone and focus on your work”. The ‘zones’ can be used to describe the whole family, so it’s not only ‘about’ the child. They can be used non-verbally as well. There are free handouts here – it’s not necessary to undergo training as the key points are covered by this parent handout from Holybrook School.
Some primary schools in West Lothian use Emotion Works instead, which is based on the Disney film ‘Inside Out’, so make sure to check with your child’s school, so that you are using similar strategies at home and at school.
There are more anxiety resources on our Wellbeing resources to support young people page
If your child tells you they have suicidal thoughts, or want to kill themselves, it is important to take them seriously, but not to over-react. If you feel that they are in immediate danger, call 999 or take them to A&E. If the need is not so immediate, see this article by Action for Children about how to respond.
West Lothian Council has a policy ‘Promoting Positive Relationships’ which covers bullying in schools at section 3. All schools should be able to show you their anti-bullying policy and explain how they make it work.
If a child has a good understanding of social skills, that will help them to make friends and deal with teasing. These webpages from Autism Teaching Strategies on interaction and communication have lots of resources.
Autism and bullying – the National Autistic Society has a guide for parents.
Young Minds has a young person’s guide about bullying, and an autistic young person’s story of how they overcame bullying. The BBC also has young people’s resources on this page about bullying and online/social media bullying.
Bullying Resources PDFs – ‘Promoting Positive Relationships’, Contact ‘Dealing with Bullying‘, Enquire ‘Talking to your School about Bullying’ and ‘Not Happy with School’s Response to Bullying’ can all be downloaded in the links at the bottom of the page.
Living Life to the Full has online courses for children and adults about dental anxiety and useful worksheets.
West Lothian has a special clinic for under-16s with additional support needs which can be accessed by asking a social or healthcare professional (e.g. your own dentist) to make a referral – see guidelines. For over 16s, the Adult Special Care Dentistry service is appropriate.
The British Society of Paediatric Dentistry has a booklet of advice for parents of children with autism.
If your child’s behaviour is becoming increasingly violent towards others, this Action for Children article may help. Action for Children also have live chat and call-backs where you can discuss your situation 1:1. If your child is self-harming, see our information here ( further down the page, under self-harm)
West Lothian Domestic and Sexual Assault Team (DASAT) offers confidential and friendly support to people who have experienced abuse. They provide tailored support for adults and children survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault. Specialist support is also available for people with mental health difficulties and/or substance misuse issues.
Office hours are 9-5, Monday to Friday, email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 01506 281055.
West Lothian Women’s Aid also has a website, call 01506 413 721 Mon-Friday 9-4pm.
Outwith these hours if you need urgent advice please call the Scottish Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage helpline on 08000 271 234.
Drug and Alcohol Misuse
Gender and Identity
2021 Scottish Government guidance for schools about how to respect the rights of transgender pupils is here.
This resource covers grief and bereavement at different ages/stages (remember that your child may be developmentally ‘younger’ than their actual age): Your child’s school should also be able to assist. westlothian.gov.uk/Insight-Developmental-Stage-Understanding.pdf
Supporting grief and bereavement in children:
Books about grief and bereavement:
Books beyond words – suitable for adults and children, a story told in pictures with tips about how to use it to discuss bereavement and grief booksbeyondwords.co.uk/when-somebody-dies
Child Bereavement Trust has an online bookshop with helpful leaflets and books
Finding your own way to Grieve workbook – for children with autism, but works for anyone amazon.co.uk/Finding-Your-Own-Way-Grieve/
When Someone Very Special Dies workbook – a favourite of Signpost parents amazon.co.uk/WHEN-SOMEONE-VERY-SPECIAL-DIES
NHS Lothian has learning disability hospital liaison nurses who can support young adults with hospital visits and treatments.
Children’s Health Scotland has a parent pack, and various guides such as ‘Coping with Needles’ which can help you prepare your child for a hospital visit. In some cases, play therapists can help children get used to the sights and sounds by arranging visits before treatment. You can contact Children’s Health Scotland with any questions.
OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
A side effect of Covid has been an increased fear of germs for some of our young people, or a tendency to get stuck in cleaning rituals or other compulsive behaviour. This can occur in young people with autism too, who may have less flexible thoughts or more rigid beliefs which make it more difficult to stop these behaviours.
Video introduction ocduk.org/features/an-introduction-to-ocd-in-children/ (warning – not for under-12s)
Information about helping your child can be found here: childmind.org/article/kids-and-ocd-the-parents-role-in-treatment/
and here: anxietyuk.org.uk/Helpling-your-child-with-Obsessive-Compulsive-Disorder.pdf (booklet)
A guide for young people: youngminds.org.uk/young-person/mental-health-conditions/ocd/#Thingsthatcanreallyhelp
Useful books on puberty for younger children include Let’s Talk About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Family and Friends and What’s Happening to Tom? and What’s Happening to Ellie?
For older teens, simple, visual guides on body changes and keeping clean, shaving, periods and more can be obtained from FAiR for £1 each: FAiR Limited 95 Causewayside Edinburgh EH9 1QG, Tel: 0131 662 1962, email: email@example.com
For trickier topics for children with autism, such as teaching about masturbation in private, or how to use public toilets safely, Kate E Reynolds has also created Things Tom Likes, and Things Ellie Likes (warning, explicit drawings) and Tom Needs to Go and Ellie Needs to Go.
A small group of teaching staff at North Lanarkshire Council have created a blog to support communication friendly environments: glowscotland.org.uk/
They have created many resources using Boardmaker to teach and support communication for children and young people with additional support needs and one of the topics covered is Puberty: examples of how to discuss puberty for males can be found here and the visual tools for females can be found here.
Dates-n-Mates is a service which helps disabled adults find new friends and relationships. It has social events, workshops, a podcast, and can facilitate individuals to socialise more widely. For more information, call 0141 427 2957 or see their website.
We cover respite on our main family support page.
If your child is in danger of immediate harm or their life may be at risk, call 999 or visit A&E
Self-harm can occur for a number of different reasons in children with additional support needs, particularly if they have autism or a learning disability. For some children/teens it is a way of communicating an unspoken emotional need, but for others, it may be a sensory issue or even a behaviour they copy from seeing self-harm on social media.
For good ways of thinking about the underlying cause, see this article from the National Autistic Society.
Action for Children also has a good article here about how to help.
A lack of restful sleep can be one of the biggest causes of upset and conflict within a family. If you are a parent/carer, it is really important to find ways to care for yourself and ensure you have enough rest. Sleep deprivation makes us irritable, depressed, impatient and inefficient, and turns bedtime into a battle.
Getting your child into good bedtime habits is increasingly difficult in the modern world, with so many distractions that make staying up late so attractive and that keep children stimulated. You will need calmness and persistence to succeed – not easy to come by when you are exhausted yourself!
Some good general advice about bedtime routines can be found on Sleep Scotland’s website. If you have consistently tried the strategies described for 6 weeks and there is no improvement, Sleep Scotland have sleep advisors – you can email them and they will arrange to call you back: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are also sleeping badly yourself, there is an excellent online resource called Sleepio which guides you through sleep training which is personalised specifically for your needs. It does take a bit of effort, with a daily diary to complete, but it does work for the majority of people. NHS-approved, and free.
Children with ADHD tend to need less sleep, as the parts of the brain that regulate attention also regulate the need to sleep. However, some children who don’t sleep enough become hyper-active instead of slowing down in the way an adult would. So over-tired children can seem as if they have ADHD. This article explains more.
If your child is later than others to be toilet trained there is help available. After the age of 3, speak to your health visitor about whether you can access help with additional/larger nappies.
Some supermarkets such as Tesco also stock larger sizes. Your GP can also advise about any probelms you are experiencing.
When your child starts school, the school nurse will be able to advise you on whether free nappies are available. Contact SchoolNursingWLothian@nhslothian.scot.nhs.uk or 01506 652824. Tell them your child’s name, date of birth, and which school your child attends.
The best source of information and support for toilet training is ERIC (eric.org.uk/potty-training/children-additional-needs), which has specific pages on toilet training for children with additional needs. They can also advise on children who are older and still wet the bed or have other difficulties.
Promoting Positive Relationships
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Dealing with Bullying
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Talking to your School about Bullying
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Not Happy with School's Response to Bullying
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