Supporting your children with change in strange times.
Hmmmm, tough times eh?! I don’t know about you, but the news that schools will be reopening has possibly been more stressful than any of the other stuff we’ve had to deal with since the outbreak and subsequent lockdown.
But the fact is, that’s not necessarily true for everyone. Some people will have found having the children at home absolutely horrendous for any number of reasons. Some will be totally stressed out and at the end of their tether from trying to balance myriad responsibilities. Some will be noticing a terrible downward spiral in their children who desperately want and need to be back in some sort of social setting. Others still, will be desperately concerned at the prospect of returning their child to school. Every family out there at the moment is wrestling with a new and unknown situation, some struggling to make a decision, others having no choice, all probably feeling a whole new level of guilt. Every family will be doing their best to make the right decision for them, just as it should be, but there are things we can all do to support our children’s mental health and wellbeing no matter what will be happening come June 1st.
Ø Try not to panic!
This is often much easier said than done, but our children are like miniature thermometers for picking up on emotions. They have a sixth sense, so if they can feel us panicking, it will put them on edge. Super simple things like getting the age old lavender going, or getting out in some fresh air can help bring all those emotions down a level. If any of you enjoy reading, a top tip is to get a book out. Just 10 minutes of reading can reduce stress levels by up to 68%!
Ø Talk to your children.
Children respond really well when we’re honest with them. Discuss what is going on for them and any changes that may be coming. This will help them to feel prepared. If your children are returning to school talk about how different it will look and the things they will and will not be able to do. If they are continuing to be at home, discuss why that is, and why they need to continue doing this. Most children are keen to be back with their friends, but that is going to be very different to what they are used to. Helping them to be prepared can reduce anxiety and help them to stay and feel safe.
Ø Keep to a routine.
The chances are that some sort of routine has helped you keep going over the last 7 weeks or so. This could change now, but try to get settled into a new routine. Once things are settled it will help everyone to feel a little more in control and will make sure there is space for special time together, work, play and general day-to-day responsibilities.
Ø Make some ‘special time’.
With that in mind try to make space in your day for some ‘special time’ – time dedicated to just ‘being’ with your children. This closeness is important for decompressing and promotes positive attachment.
Ø Address any worries they might have.
Give your child opportunities every day to talk about how things are going for them. Particularly early on, they may feel ‘wrong-footed’ and unsure. Give them chance to ask questions or talk about what is going on. They’ll feel safe and reassured.
Ø Be kind – to yourself and to the children!
There is no denying just how difficult all this for everyone! You’re likely frustrated, worried (about many things), tired and maybe feeling like you have even less time than usual. Your children are probably worried, out of sorts, bored and frustrated too. It’s so easy to butt heads and lose the plot! And that’s ok, but try to let things go. Have a cuddle when you feel like shouting. Take a breather to reset yourself.
Ø Be ready to accept regression!
You may already have noticed that your children are going ‘backwards’. If you have seen your child reverting to old or babyish behaviours, try and take it easy on them. They are trying to protect themselves and the easiest way for them to do this is to rely on you. Regression is their coping strategy. Whether their behaviour has become more ‘needy’ or more challenging, they are trying to find the best way to have you there to help them. You can support them to come out of it when the timing feels appropriate.
Ø Chill out
Try to make regular time to come together and chill out. Maybe a picnic in the garden, or a film night once a week. This time will bring you together and remind you that not everything is about the virus, no matter how it feels at the moment!
Below I have shared some really useful sites from The Blurt Foundation – my personal favourites for when times are tough (and when they’re not!). If you feel like youre struggling with your own mental health at this time The Blurt Foundation have a wealth of support and resources, and have even set up a coronavirus helpful hub.
o Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families – supporting young people’s mental health during periods of disruption.
o Children & Young People’s Mental Health Coalition – useful resources.
o Forward Thinking Birmingham: Self-Isolation Survival Guide
o Government Guidance for parents and carers on supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak.
o National Autistic Society – an article sharing advice on how to cope with the current situation
o Place2Be – helpful information to answer questions from children.
o Self-Care Kit For Children from Sheffield Childen’s NHS.
o The Big Alone – a free downloadable book to help kids around the world cope with social distancing.
FB: Blurt Foundation