This week is Children’s Mental Health Week, and the theme is ‘Let’s Connect’.
Social connectedness is defined most succinctly as “ the social ties between people.” 
However, being socially connected to others is so much more than that. Social connectedness can be identified as having three core components: socialising, social support, and a sense of belonging.
As humans, we thrive in communities, and connections are vital for our wellbeing. Being part of a community can give us a purpose, increase our sense of belonging and can mean that we have a support network to help us when we feel low. All these benefits of having healthy connections with others can have a positive effect on our mental health too.
What happens when our need for social connections is not met?
When this need is unmet, it can leave us feeling isolated and lonely, which can have a negative impact on our mental health. We also know that children and young people with a probable mental disorder are more likely to experience feelings of loneliness. That is 1 in 6 children aged 7 to 16 years, according to the NHS. 
The Mental Health of Children and Young People (MHCYP) survey series provides England’s Official Statistics on trends in children’s mental health. The 2022 survey looked at data from “2,866 children and young people aged 7 to 24 years who took part in the 2017 survey, and 2022 follow up.” 
As part of the survey, “Children aged 11 to 16 years, and young people aged 17 to 24 years were asked how often they felt lonely. In 2022, 5.2% of children aged 11 to 16 years said they often or always felt lonely. This was similar for boys and girls.”
The survey showed that “Children with a probable mental disorder were more likely to feel lonely; 18.0% of those with a probable mental disorder said they felt lonely often or always, compared with 1.7% of those unlikely to have a mental disorder.” 
How can I help my child when they feel lonely?
It’s inevitable for your child to experience loneliness or sad emotions sometimes. You may realise they have become withdrawn or clingy or that they are exhibiting more challenging behaviour.
The first step is to tell them that it’s okay to be alone sometimes and that they are not a failure for doing so. You can also encourage them to build healthy connections with their peers by showing an interest and by asking how your child feels about them too.
Being there for your child is one of the most important things you can do for their mental wellbeing. Talking through their concerns or even just their day can benefit them and give you an insight into their mind. You can also use this conversation to help them to make friends if this is something they struggle with. There are lots of opportunities to encourage social interaction through hobbies, clubs and by helping to arrange meet-ups with their peers from school, for instance.
Where can I find mental health support for me or my child?
Find support services for you or your children’s mental health here: https://amhp.org.uk/resources/support-services/
For Children’s Mental Health Week, we want to encourage you to connect with others in healthy, rewarding, and meaningful ways.
To find out more about Children’s Mental Health Week, visit: https://www.childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk/