With the closure of schools and the changes to daily life, the coronavirus lockdown may be having a big impact on the mental health of children.

Families are currently unable to see friends and loved ones in the same way as they used to, and entertainment and leisure venues have had to shut up shop.

But how can parents tell if their child is distressed and what can they do to help?

Here, we have rounded up advice from the Government, which explains what to look out for in children and how youngsters' reactions can vary according to their age.

A spokesperson said: "All children and young people are different, but there are some common ways in which different age groups may react to a situation like the Covid-19 pandemic.

"The common reactions to distress will fade over time for most children and young people, though could return if they see or hear reminders of what happened. Understanding these may help you to support your family."

Below is more information on the signs to watch out for. More advice can be found here.

For infants to 2-year-olds

Infants may become more easily distressed. They may cry more than usual or want to be held and cuddled more.

For 3 to 6-year-olds

Preschool and nursery children may return to behaviours they have outgrown, such as toileting accidents, bedwetting or being frightened about being separated from their parents. They may also have tantrums or difficulty sleeping.

For 7 to 10-year-olds

Older children may feel sad, angry, or afraid. Peers may share false information but parents or carers can correct the misinformation. Older children may focus on details of the situation and want to talk about it all the time, or not want to talk about it at all. They may have trouble concentrating.

For preteens and teenagers

Some preteens and teenagers respond to worrying situations by acting out. This could include reckless driving, and alcohol or drug use. Others may become afraid to leave the home and may cut back on how much time they connect with their friends.

They can feel overwhelmed by their intense emotions and feel unable to talk about them. Their emotions may lead to increased arguing and even fighting with siblings, parents, carers or other adults.

They may have concerns about how the school closures and exam cancellations will affect them.

What you can do to help

There are a number of things you can do to help children cope with stress during the pandemic. These include:

Listening to and acknowledging their concerns

Youngsters may respond to stress in different ways. Signs may be emotional (for example, they may be upset, distressed, anxious, angry or agitated), behavioural (for example, they may become more clingy or more withdrawn, or they may wet the bed), or physical (for example, they may experience stomach aches).

Look out for any changes in their behaviour. Children may feel less anxious if they are able to express and communicate their feelings in a safe and supportive environment. Youngsters who communicate differently to their peers may rely on you to interpret their feelings. Listen to them, acknowledge their concerns and give them extra love and attention if they need it.

Providing clear information about the situation

Young people want to feel assured that their parents and carers can keep them safe. One of the best ways to achieve this is by talking openly about what is happening and providing honest answers to any questions they have, using words and explanations that they can understand. Explain what is being done to keep them and their loved ones safe, including any actions they can take to help, such as washing their hands more often than usual.

Being aware of your own reactions

Remember that children often take their emotional cues from the important adults in their lives, so how you respond to the situation is very important. It is important to manage your own emotions and remain calm, speak kindly to them, and answer any questions they have honestly.

Connecting regularly

If it is necessary for you and your children to be in different locations to normal, make sure you still have regular and frequent contact via the phone or video calls with them. Try to help your child understand what arrangements are being made for them and why in simple terms.

Support safe ways for them to connect with their friends

When it isn’t possible for them to meet in person, they can connect online or via phone or video calls.

Creating a new routine

Life is changing for all of us for a while. Routine gives youngsters an increased feeling of safety in the context of uncertainty, so think about how to develop a new routine, especially if they are not at school:

A five-year-old girl learning at home on a laptop during lockdown

Limiting exposure to media and talking more about what they have seen and heard

Like adults, young people may become more distressed if they see repeated coverage about the Covid-19 pandemic in the media. A complete news blackout is also rarely helpful as they are likely to find information from other sources, such as online or through friends.

Try to avoid turning the television off or closing web pages when children come into the room. This can pique their interest to find out what is happening and their imagination can take over. Instead, consider limiting the amount of exposure you and your family have to media coverage.

Young people will also hear things from friends and get information from social media. Talk to them about what is happening and ask them what they have heard. Try to answer their questions honestly but reassure where you can.