10 Affordable Ways to Support Your Child’s Mental Wellbeing in a Cost of Living Crisis


During this cost of living crisis, we’re all juggling caring for our families with skyrocketing bills. But, even when the budget’s tight, your children’s wellbeing is still priority number one. 

So, if you suspect that your child is struggling with their mental or emotional health, but pricey private therapy sessions are out of reach, what are you supposed to do? 

Relying on overburdened free mental healthcare services like the NHS’s CAHMs (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) can feel disappointing given the agonisingly long waiting lists. Fear not, though; there are ways you can support your child’s mental well-being yourself without breaking the bank.

In this article, we’ll explore 10 affordable ways you can nurture your child’s well-being even during these financially challenging times.

#1: Look out for free resources

If only we had unlimited funds, we’d all have a squad of psychologists and private counsellors at our disposal to support our children 24/7. But, especially in today’s financial crisis, that’s just a pipe dream for most of us. 

However, there are plenty of resources out there that are specifically designed to support children’s mental health and won’t cost you a penny. Firstly, we strongly recommend that you check out our free online course, The Horizon Plan. It provides in-depth, practical and experience-driven guidance on how you can support your child to heal from their mental health challenges, and it’s totally free! We will be launching Module 2 of The Horizon Plan on 15th March, so this is a perfect time to start the first module of the course.

You could also check out your local library for useful books. For example, Dr Alex George, a mental health campaigner, recently wrote ‘A Better Day: Your Positive Mental Health Handbook’ which is a toolkit teaching young people how to look after their mental and emotional wellbeing. And don’t forget the many free mental health apps like Headspace, TellMi, and Calm, which help your child regulate their moods, think about their emotional wellbeing, and tackle anxiety and stress. 


#2: Make sure that they get good sleep

A secret weapon that’s free but will really support your child’s wellbeing is sleep. Never underestimate the importance of some quality shut-eye for your child. Not only is sleep crucial for their brain development and alertness, but it’s also an integral part of nurturing their mental health. 

Try to establish a rock-solid nighttime routine for them so that they’re in a restful mood before bed. Tackle bath and shower time early enough that there’s still plenty of time for them to wind down. Focus on creating a peaceful sleeping environment by reading them a bedtime story or, if they’re a little older, make them a hot water bottle as a predictable feature of their evenings. By prioritising sleep, you’ll give your child a solid foundation for their mental and emotional wellbeing. 


#3: Make sure that their diet is healthy

At the minute, our supermarket receipt totals are soaring just as much as our energy bills. But keeping family meals healthy and nourishing should still be a priority. 

Promoting a balanced diet and healthy nutrition for your child is another simple way of supporting their mental well-being. Excuse the cliche, but we need to channel the whole ‘healthy body, healthy mind’ mantra here. 

By ensuring that your child’s diet is full of a good balance of proteins, fats, carbs, fruits, and vegetables, as well as all the vitamins, you can boost their energy levels and brain function. For some good and cheap ideas for nutritious kid-friendly recipes, you can look at resources like the NHS’s Better Health ‘Healthy Recipes’. Supporting your child’s nutrition doesn’t need to involve raiding the bank for exotic ingredients. It can be as simple as making sure there are always apples in the fruit bowl as a quick snack, and encouraging them to drink enough water.


#4: Spend Quality Time With Them: 

Another easy way you can support your child’s emotional wellbeing for free is to spend more quality time with them. By dedicating some time to hanging out with them and giving them your undivided attention, you give them the opportunity to chat with you about their worries if they want to. Knowing that they have you as an unwavering pillar of support will make them feel loved and secure. You can make this quality time something fun that they enjoy doing. 

Playing is proven to reduce children’s stress levels, build their confidence, and teach them how to cope with emotions like anger and excitement. And even though it might no longer be ‘playing’ exactly with older children, the effects of spending quality time with them doing something fun are equally beneficial. 

Need some cost-free hangout ideas? How about watching a film, starting a board game marathon, or going on a leisurely walk? If you feel like you don’t always have time to do these things, you could weave quality time around the other things you need to do. For instance, my mum used to enlist our help with cooking, and looking back, those hours spent chopping vegetables were very happy examples of quality time. We talk more about spending quality time with your child in Module 3 of the Horizon Plan, which we are excited to be filming this year.


#5: Facilitate good relationships for them

As well as nurturing your own bond with your child, it’s important to also encourage their healthy relationships with others. For children, their small circle of loved ones forms their support system. They need to know who loves and cares about them so that they know where to turn when they’re struggling. 

You can facilitate healthy relationships for younger children by organising playdates with their friends and keeping them connected with family members like grandparents, aunts, and uncles. This doesn’t need to involve expensive activities like having meals out, it can be simple things like playing Scrabble with family at home or arranging a fun-filled sleepover for your child and their friends. And don’t forget those who live a little further away too. It costs nothing to arrange a Skype call with the grandparents. It’s all about keeping your children emotionally connected to those who will be there for them.


#6: Encourage their hobbies 

Hobbies offer a lot more than pure fun for children. Engaging in activities that they’re passionate about can help relax their minds, provide an escape from worries, allow them to make friends and boost their self-esteem. 

Children are under more pressure than we might think, and having hobbies as an outlet has never been so important. Young people today have lived through the pandemic and suffered all the social isolation and anxieties that it brought. Also, school academic expectations and the focus on exams have reached new heights. So, as parents, you can help your child unwind and create emotional and mental space by encouraging them to take breaks and release stress through a hobby. 

Now, you might be thinking “But those gymnastics lessons cost me a fortune!”. And yes, it’s true, many extracurricular activities do cost an arm and a leg. However, there are plenty of budget-friendly hobbies you can encourage them to explore. If they’ve already got a bike, why not encourage them to go cycling? If they love arts and crafts, set up simple creative projects using materials you’ve already got at home, like newspaper, cardboard, and sellotape. Don’t forget to check out any after school clubs, as a lot of these are cheaper than private clubs.


#7: Keep them moving

Keeping your child physically active can work wonders for their mental health too. Exercise not only improves attention and memory but also reduces their risk of depression and fosters confidence. According to Public Health England “children and young people who are more active have… higher self-esteem, less anxiety and stress and better social skills”, all factors that better equip children to “deal with the challenges they face in daily life”

Now, if your children aren’t naturally sporty, don’t panic! There are plenty of free ways that you can keep your kids active that don’t require them to be the next football superstar. For example, simple things like going on a family bike ride are perfect. Even certain video games you’ve got on your shelves, like Wii’s Just Dance, offer great aerobic workouts. Another fun idea is what my family used to call ‘balloon tennis’. We’d inflate a single balloon and set up a line, hitting it back and forth over the line just like tennis. You’d be surprised how physically and mentally beneficial these fun and cost-free activities can be for children.


#8: Look after yourself too

Another thing you can do, which will cost you nothing, but is a crucial building block of your child’s mental wellbeing, is to look after yourself too. It’s all too easy to forget about ourselves when our children need so much from us. 

But never underestimate how good it is for them if you’re at your best. By nurturing your own physical and mental health, you’ll be able to be a more consistent, reliable, and stable parent for your child. If your child feels like you’ll be able to cope no matter what comes your way, then they’ll feel more secure at home and more inclined to talk to you about their worries, knowing that you’ll handle them. 

Right now, financial strain may be making you feel anxious, stressed, and overwhelmed. For your children’s sake, it’s important that you find whatever ways will help keep you mentally stable. Maybe that’s going on a bike ride with your mates, or maybe it’s just finding peace to read your book. Looking after yourself need not cost you anything at all, but the mental benefits of your stability will be immense for your child.


#9: Teach them coping strategies

One of the challenges children face is learning to handle intense emotions. Finding ways to self-regulate when confronted with unpleasant or extreme emotions is a skill we all have to develop. But you can lend your child a helping hand by talking to them about how they’re feeling and teaching them coping strategies for when things get too overwhelming. 

You could start by showing them how you yourself cope with tricky feelings. Or you can sit down with them and discuss what they think might make them feel better. Perhaps you’ll find that it helps them to write in a diary when they’re feeling stressed. Or maybe you’ll encourage them to see a friend when they’re feeling sad. Maybe it helps them to listen to calming music when they’re really angry. Each child will have their unique coping mechanisms, and, as parents, you’re in the perfect position to guide them towards discovering what these are.


#10: Teach them self-worth and self-esteem

Positive self-esteem and self-worth are crucial to children’s mental wellbeing. If they believe in themselves, they’re more likely to form secure and healthy relationships, be resilient, and feel in control of their daily lives. 

You can help them to build a strong sense of both of these by being generous with praise and teaching them that failure is a normal part of life. Giving genuine praise to a child when they try hard at something, like their first time attempting to swim a full length, will instil a sense of pride in themselves. To be mentally secure, children need to have this confidence in their own ability and value. 

Also, it’s important to teach your child that if they fail at something, like a recent school test, it doesn’t mean that they’re ‘rubbish’. In order to have positive feelings about the future, children need to be able to get back up after failing, knowing that it’s not the end of the world. You can’t put a price on these kinds of life lessons.



Hopefully, this has reassured you that there are plenty of ways that you can support your child’s mental health without breaking the bank. All of these tips are relatively simple, but they will all help by building a positive and healthy mindset for your child. 

Just as a disclaimer, I’d like to say that if your child is seriously struggling with their mental and emotional health, and especially if this is causing them to put themselves in danger, then you will need to see a professional as well as doing all these things to support them as parents. 

This still doesn’t need to cost the earth, though. Despite the long waiting lists, it’s still worth getting in touch with your GP, MD or healthcare professional, especially in serious cases, because they do prioritise. Also, don’t forget to check out The Horizon Plan, our free online course guiding parents to support the recovery of a young person struggling with mental health. It’s really in-depth, full of practical advice and delivered by parents who’ve experienced what you’re trying to cope with.


The Youth Mental Health Foundation C.I.C. is a Devon-based not-for-profit organisation working with young people, families, and the wider community to address the crisis in youth mental health. We have provided support to thousands of parents via our free, online course ‘The Horizon Plan’, which teaches our clinical process to support young people struggling with mental health. Find out more by CLICKING HERE.

If you are a parent/carer supporting a young person in Torbay, CLICK HERE to sign up for an information session about our free Zoom Parents Support Programme for 2024.


Written and illustrated by Asha Sullivan



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