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Social, Emotional and Mental Health

What are the social, emotional and mental health needs in children?

Social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs are a type of special educational needs in which children/young people have severe difficulties in managing their emotions and behaviour. They often show inappropriate responses and feelings to situations. Emotional problems in later childhood include panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), separation anxiety, social phobia, specific phobias, OCD and depression. Mild to moderate anxiety is a normal emotional response to many stressful life situations.

At St Joseph's, we have developed an inclusive curriculum, specifically using RSHE and GREAT DREAMS to enable us to support children with a range of emotions. This is also supported during our 'Anti-Bullying' week (Autumn Term), Mental Health Week (Spring Term) and 'Health Week' (Summer Term). Teachers consistently adapt their teaching to respond to the particular needs within their cohort, so that the right support is timely and effective. Furthermore, we work collaboratively with parents to ensure that children have the right support at the right time, using what we teach in school to further implement them in the children's home environment.

However, we also recognise that there are more specific needs that present in children that will need specialist support from external agencies. We have outlined these below.

What is ADHD?

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder.

It is characterised by difficulties in the areas of attention, level of activity and impulse control. These difficulties are present before the age of 7 years and can affect many areas of the child’s and family’s life.

It is sometimes called “hyperkinetic disorder”. It is also, at times, referred to as “attention deficit disorder” (ADD) if problems are mainly due to difficulties with attention rather than overactivity.

If you think your child might have ADHD, talk to your GP. GPs are able to offer you support and refer you to a specialist for an ADHD assessment. To find out if you have ADHD, you'll need to talk to an expert, like a specialist child psychiatrist.

There might also be other reasons for these symptoms, such as anxiety, which is not uncommon in children. The ADHD specialist will be able to tell you more following an assessment.


Main key symptoms in ADHD in young children:

The difficulties with attention, overactivity and impulsivity can show themselves in the following ways:

  • Inattentiveness:
    • Listening difficulties
    • Not following instructions
    • Making careless mistakes
    • Highly distractible
    • Day dreaming
    • Forgetting/Losing things
    • Not finishing tasks
    • Easily bored
  • Overactivity:
    • Squirming/fidgety
    • Restless, leaving seat without permission
    • Talking too much
    • Moving quickly and forcefully
  • Impulsivity:
    • Find waiting for things difficult
    • Control/interrupt conversation
    • Have trouble with taking turns
    • Difficulty resisting temptation
    • Blurting out answers before the question is complete
    • Risk taking/little or no sense of danger
For more information, please click here. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it does not necessarily mean that you have ADHD, but a health professional may be able to help you to manage your symptoms, especially if it is having an impact on your everyday life.
Support for anxiety in children
Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear – it's an understandable reaction in children to change or a stressful event. But for some children, anxiety affects their behaviour and thoughts on a daily basis, interfering with their school, home and social life.

Take a look at these useful things to do with your child to help them open up and express themselves:

  • Have a box or a jar where your child can pop a note or drawing of 3 things that they have enjoyed about their day.
  • Have a separate box or jar where your child can do the same with any worries, thoughts, or feelings. You can check in regularly and talk these over with them - if they want to (be led by them, go at their pace and don't force it!)
  • Read books together that help you open up conversations on talking to others and sharing our feelings, such as Margot Sunderland's "A Niffeloo Called Nevermind: A Story for Children who Bottle Things Up"

Useful things that parents can do:

  • Keep a book where you can note down any changes in your child's behaviour, for example when they do or say anything unusual for them - this can help you see any patterns.
  • Keep a note of sleep patterns: if they are waking a lot, having nightmares, wetting the bed etc.
  • Keep clear, firm boundaries that are also kind and understanding.

Aim to be PACEful when communicating with your child. This means: 

Playful – continue the enjoyment in your relationship and have fun together.
Acceptance – not trying to change them, they are ok as they are.
Curiosity – stay interested in their thoughts and feelings.
Empathy – consider your child's experiences and that they may see the world as an unsafe and threatening place to be. Tune in and listen to what they are saying. Find ways to validate them and let them know that you understand.

For more support and information to support your child with anxiety, please follow the links below: