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Three in four parents of under-fives anxious about their child’s mental health

29 Jan 2024 5 minute read
Image: NSPCC

Most parents of very young children are anxious about their child’s mental health and emotional wellbeing and their learning development, a new survey commissioned by the NSPCC has revealed.

The survey reveals top parenting concerns across the UK with issues such as mental health, bullying and social media use ranking highly. 

It comes as the NSPCC launches a new campaign and refreshed advice for parents to help with many of the everyday challenges they face when raising children. 

Across the UK, the issue that parents of children and babies aged five and under were most likely to be concerned about was their child’s emotional wellbeing and/or mental health, with 75% saying it was a worry. More than two thirds (67%) also cited learning development as a cause for concern.


For parents of six to 11-year-olds, 56% said they were anxious about their child’s mental health and 47% of parents of children between 12 – 17 also expressed the same concern. 

The charity has also revealed that contacts to its helpline from UK adults with concerns about children’s mental health increased by a fifth last year.

Between April 2023 and December 2023, the NSPCC Helpline dealt with 2,499 child welfare contacts about child mental and emotional health. This is a 21% increase compared to the same time frame in 2022.

These statistics show that children’s emotional and mental wellbeing is especially worrying for parents with children under 5. Parents with very young children are thirsty for information about infant mental health and support with early childhood development which is why it is so important that free, expert advice is available online.

Everyone has a role to play to look after each other and keep children safe. From members of the community supporting families in their area, to local services and governments across the UK offering crucial support for new parents.  

The NSPCC knows that being a parent is not easy. In fact, most parents across the UK (57%) said that parenting is harder now than when they were children. Many parents say they do not always know where to go for expert support, with half (53%) relying on advice from family members and two in five (41%) relying on friends.


That is why the charity wants all parents to know that everyone has options, and the NSPCC is always there when it comes to helping keep children safe and healthy on the phone and online.

The survey also revealed that more than twice as many parents across the UK think growing up is harder for girls than boys.

The new campaign, supported by TV presenter and author Anna Williamson, focusses on the NSPCC’s refreshed parenting pages on its website which help make the expertise and guidance they offer at every stage of parenting more accessible and user-friendly. Available here is advice about babies and toddlers, family life, friends and relationships, health and wellbeing or navigating the digital world. 

NSPCC Ambassador Anna Williamson said: “We live in a world where parents feel more anxious than ever which is why I’m so proud to support this campaign that is all about giving them free, non-judgement expert advice. As a mum myself, I too have worried about the impact of things like bullying, mental wellbeing and social media on my children so it’s great to see charities like the NSPCC taking positive steps to help give parents the tools they need to navigate tricky topics together.”

Actor and Director, Samantha Morton said: “Parents feel so much pressure to get things ‘right’ for their children – but parenting doesn’t look the same for everyone. It’s concerning to see that many parents don’t know where to turn for expert advice which is why I’m keen to support the NSPCC’ new campaign to give straightforward tips and help for every stage of parenting.”

The NSPCC has also launched a national TV ad campaign, in which actor T’Nia Miller, star of Years and Years, The Haunting of Bly Manor and Sex Education, reads a poem all about the many anxieties of parenthood. The 60 second video is called ‘Not Letting Go’ and includes a graphic series of stills and animations from award-winning artist Martina Lang.

T’Nia Miller said: “It was such an honour to be a very small part of the really important work that the NSPCC does. When I first read the poem I was so moved and as a parent of two I related in many ways. Parenting isn’t easy. It’s the hardest job on earth – so it’s important that we start with parents so that children can grow and flourish.”


Sir Peter Wanless, CEO at the NSPCC, said: “Parents and carers tell us that raising their families is becoming increasingly difficult. With a cost-of-living crisis, new online threats to children and increasing mental health concerns among young people, there are a rising number of challenges in childhood today.  

“We know that parents can be a vital positive influence in young children’s lives. I hope that our advice will help provide easy to understand support and help parents feel less anxious as they navigate family life.

“Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you are worried about a child or your ability to help. We must all work together to ensure that our children have happy and healthy futures.”

Free NSPCC parenting advice is only a click away and is designed to help families feel empowered to support their children before problems escalate. Visit it now on the NSPCC website.

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5 months ago

Get off their phones, reading crap and start spend time with the kids then. Oh and don’t drive them everywhere, thats awful for all forms of health. It’s a short time childhood, stop the worry and find ways to enjoy them and show them that social media isn’t everything its made out to be. The algorithms are not clever at all and the real world will lawyas exist. Worry when problems form, don’t create them.

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