How to Support Children’s Well-being

children's wellbeing

Children can be incredibly resilient, responding to new situations and changes with curiosity, flexibility, and optimism. However, this resilience or emotional flexibility requires support and encouragement from parents or caregivers. Supporting children’s well-being is an undeniably tough job. There are ever-increasing and changing challenges to respond to the enormous pressure to get it right. To create the right conditions for social, emotional, physical, and mental well-being, a balance must be struck between maintaining stability and supervision and allowing autonomy and freedom.

Challenges to Children’s Well-being

There is a wide range of challenges that young people face that may impact their overall well-being.

Social Media and Well-being

Social media has become part of everyday life for most people, a way of connecting with friends and family – particularly those living far away, and passing the time on the train or bus. For teenagers and young adults, however, the prevalence of social media is ingrained into the fabric of their everyday lives. Most have not known a world without the internet, and their reliance on social media platforms can become unhealthy.

In a UK survey of 16 to 25-year-olds: 57% reported that social media creates an ‘overwhelming pressure to succeed; 48% said that they felt more anxious about their future when seeing the lives of their friends online, and half reported being more anxious than they were a year ago.[1]

Additionally, an NHS survey reported a direct link between the adverse effects of social media and young people’s mental health. It found that young people were more likely to compare themselves to others on social media and report that their mood was affected by likes and comments.[2]

Trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences

Trauma can have a profound effect on overall well-being, from psychological health to social and physical health. Trauma during childhood can make people particularly vulnerable, as they may not have the tools or knowledge to deal with the situation they find themselves in and so rely on maladaptive coping strategies. It is important to note that while these strategies may be labeled as maladaptive in adolescence and adulthood, they were essential to survival as a child. Examples of such strategies include:

  • Substance abuse
  • Self-harm and binge eating
  • Rumination
  • Emotional numbing
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Daydreaming
  • Procrastination

Many of these strategies act as ways to numb or control that feeling too big or scary to deal with. Other impacts of childhood trauma include hypervigilance, mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, agoraphobia, an overactive stress response, and even suicide.

For some people, particularly when childhood trauma is complex or continuous, such as in cases of child abuse, childhood coping mechanisms can become a severe mental illness. It is becoming better understood that dissociative identity disorder – previously called multiple personality disorder – can arise from the brain’s ability to be flexible and disassociate in response to fear or danger.

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) occurs when a child’s psychological development is disrupted by early recurrent trauma that interrupts the normal processes of developing a core sense of identity. In response to situations that are too overwhelming to deal with, a child can develop multiple, often conflicting, states or identities. These can mirror contradictions in family environments, such as caregivers who swing unpredictably between aggression and care, or mirror the figures and identities they require to deal with extreme trauma.[3]

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) refer to stressful or traumatic events that occur during childhood, such as physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, neglect, parental separation or divorce, parental incarceration, or witnessing domestic violence. They can significantly impact a person’s overall physical and mental well-being for the rest of their life.

The impact of ACEs can vary from person to person, but in general, research suggests that individuals who experience multiple ACEs are at a higher risk for adverse health outcomes later in life, including:

Mental health problems: People with a history of ACEs experience anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health conditions at higher rates than those with no history of ACEs.

Physical health problems: ACEs have been linked to various physical health problems, including heart disease, lowered immunity, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders.

Social and emotional problems: ACEs can impact a person’s ability to form and maintain healthy relationships, regulate emotions, and cope with stress.

Substance abuse: People who experience ACEs are more likely to engage in substance abuse, including smoking, drug use, and heavy drinking.

Interpersonal violence: People who experience ACEs are at a higher risk of being victimised by interpersonal violence or becoming perpetrators of such violence themselves.

Lifespan: ACEs have been found to decrease the lifespan of the individual who experienced them by 20 years or more.[4]

It is important to note that the effects of ACEs can be mitigated through interventions such as community and social support, various forms of therapy, specific lifestyle changes, and other forms of treatment. Early intervention can also help prevent the negative effects of ACEs from compounding over time.

Relationships and Well-being

Strong and loving relationships can directly and positively influence child, teenage and adolescent mental health.

Early relationships, particularly those formed with parents or primary caregivers during infancy and childhood, can profoundly impact a person’s overall well-being throughout their life. Positive early relationships can promote healthy development and social-emotional functioning, while early negative relationships can harm well-being. Some ways in which early relationships can affect well-being include:

Emotional regulation: Children rely on their parents or primary caregivers to help them regulate their emotions. Early relationships that provide consistent emotional support can promote healthy emotional regulation skills and improve mental health outcomes later in life.

Attachment: Attachment theory suggests that early relationships shape how individuals form attachments to others throughout their lives. Secure early attachments have been linked to better social-emotional functioning, while insecure attachments can lead to difficulties in forming and maintaining healthy relationships.[5]

Self-esteem: Early relationships that offer a sense of safety, security, and acceptance can promote self-esteem and a positive self-image.

Stress response: Early relationships can affect and mould a child’s stress response system, affecting how they react to and cope with stress throughout their lives. Positive, stable early relationships can promote healthy stress response mechanisms, whereas negative, unstable, unpredictable, and abusive early relationships can lead to chronic stress and other health problems.

Overall, early relationships can be critical in shaping a young person’s well-being. Maintaining stability and supporting positive early relationships that provide emotional support, consistency, and security can promote healthy development and resilience.

Building Resilience in Young People

Resilience is the ability to adapt and cope with stress, adversity, and change – a crucial skill for navigating life’s many twists and turns. Resilience can be built by fostering positive relationships, facilitating the development of problem-solving skills and critical thinking, as well as encouraging a growth mindset.

It’s also essential to provide opportunities for young people to practice resilience and develop these skills. This is often achieved through participating in sports, getting outdoors, attempting new challenges, or joining teams or clubs. In an age of instant food and information, Amazon Prime, Spotify, and Uber, teaching delayed gratification can help young people accept that they can’t always have what they want as soon as they want it. Ways to foster resilience include learning an instrument and playing games like chess.

Finally, sharing resources for mental health and wellness can promote resilience in young people and provide them with the strategies and skills they need to thrive in a rapidly changing world.

If you have a client or know of someone struggling with anything you have read in this blog, reach out to us at Khiron Clinics. We believe that we can improve therapeutic outcomes and avoid misdiagnosis by providing an effective residential programme and outpatient therapies addressing underlying psychological trauma. Allow us to help you find the path to realistic, long-lasting recovery. For more information, call us today. UK: 020 3811 2575 (24 hours). USA: (866) 801 6184 (24 hours).


[1] Princes Trust (2019) The Prince’s Trust eBay Youth Index 2019 [Online]. Available: [Accessed 21 March 2023].

[2] NHS Digital (2017) Mental Health of Children and Young People in England, 2017. Summary of Key Findings [Online]. Available: [Accessed 21 March 2023].

[3] Brand, B. L., Loewenstein, R. J., & Lanius, R. A. (2014). Dissociative identity disorder. In G. O. Gabbard (Ed.), Gabbard’s treatments of psychiatric disorders (pp. 439–458). American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc.

[4] Felitti, V. J., Anda, R. F., Nordenberg, D., Williamson, D. F., Spitz, A. M., Edwards, V., Koss, M. P., & Marks, J. S. (1998). Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. American journal of preventive medicine, 14(4), 245–258.

[5] Bowlby J. (1982). Attachment and loss: retrospect and prospect. The American journal of orthopsychiatry, 52(4), 664–678.

Cognitive development: Positive early relationships promote cognitive development, including language acquisition, problem-solving skills, and academic achievement.