Updated January 2021
Coronavirus is affecting everyone’s daily lives, whether that be staying inside more; working from home; or having your children at home rather than at school.
Times like this can be especially difficult for children or young people. Each child or young person may react differently depending on their age, their previous experiences, how they communicate and understand information, or how they would usually cope with stress.
Therefore, it’s important during this time to understand some little steps that you can take to help support the mental health and wellbeing of not only your children but your whole family. Based on the government’s guidelines, we’ve put together a few small tips for parents.
1. Look after your own Mental Health and Wellbeing
Although you may feel like you want to prioritise your children, it’s key that you look after your own mental health and wellbeing first.
Doing this places you in the best frame of mind to look after your children and family. Not only this, but as children and young people react similarly to the adults around them, by looking after yourself first you are more likely to be calm and confident, meaning that they are more likely to act in the same way. Some of the strategies below will apply to you as much as your children.
2. Create a New Routine
Nearly everyone’s routine has been altered in some way or another, whether that be working from home or having your children at home during the week rather than at school. This can feel overwhelming and hard to adjust to, which may result in things getting out of control, losing routine or at least feeling that way. Sometimes, this lack of routine can be difficult for children and young people as routine helps give them an increased feeling of safety in times of uncertainty. To help overcome this, try to develop a new routine for them at home that contains a mixture of activities in order to keep them engaged.
- Exercise – Children and young people ideally need to be active for at least 60 minutes a day. Obviously, this can be difficult to achieve with the government guidelines. If you have one and it’s safe to do so, try to utilise your garden as much as possible. If you can’t, think about what indoor games and activities you could plan. Change4Life has some ideas of activities that you can do inside. There are lots of free online classes such as PE with Joe Wicks and Cosmic Kids Yoga that can be built into your routine.
- Education – Whilst, it is important that children continue to do some educational activities whilst at home, there is no need for you to become a full-time teacher overnight! Educational activities can be found in many places and can go beyond the more obvious English and Maths. You can learn in the garden, when playing games, puzzles or quizzes, or doing drawing or crafts.
Supporting your child engage in something they find interesting and engaging is good for their wellbeing. There are plenty of online resources and activities that you can find for them that they will love without them realising that they’re learning! Examples include Carol Vorderman’s Maths Factor and David Walliams’ daily short stories.
- Diet – Although it may be tempting to give your children treats to compensate for being inside, this is not good for their health as they are not likely to be as active as usual. Change4Life has some healthy treat ideas that you can use.
Another way that you can make healthy treats more interesting is by making them together. Cooking together is a great form of learning and a great way to build positive relationships essential for maintaining family wellbeing.
- Sleep – Sleep is really important for both mental and physical health. Your children are unlikely to be using as much energy as normal and therefore they are unlikely to feel as tired on an evening. Even though this may be the case, try to stick to a normal sleeping schedule as much as possible as it’ll benefit both them and you in the long run.
On top of this, it’s good for parents to have a bit of time to themselves in the evening after bedtime for younger children.
Also, remember that it is natural for teenagers to want to stay awake later and sleep in in the morning, this is due to changes in sleep cycles that take place during adolescence. They may want to spend some time in their room alone, this is also normal.
3. Limit Media Exposure and Talk About it
Media coverage on the current situation can be found 24 hours a day. Even if the television isn’t on, children and young people are likely to come into contact with it through their laptops, tablets and/or mobile phones.
Like adults, children and young people can become more distressed if they see repeated media coverage about Covid-19. If you can, rather than ban them from viewing it, try to limit their exposure to the media and talk about it with them. Doing this will decrease the chances that their imaginations will take over and create situations that are likely to be more stressful. This can also help keep your own anxiety levels under control.
4. Listen, Acknowledge and Provide Clear Information about the Situation
Everyone responds to stress differently, and this is no different for children and young people. Look out for any changes in their behaviour. They could be emotional, behavioural, and/or physical. Ask them how they are feeling, if they can’t express their feelings they may want to draw or use play to get their feelings out. Let them know that it’s okay to be confused about what is happening, but explain that we are doing these things to keep them and other people safe and healthy. Acknowledge their feelings, they might be angry, frustrated, missing their friends, disappointed at all the things that they can’t do at the moment but not know how to express or understand these feelings.
Children and young people are likely to have questions about the situation. If your child comes to you to talk or express how they feel, the key thing is to make time to listen. Don’t feel you have to know all the answers or ‘fix the problem’, listening is enough to make a difference to their wellbeing, and if you’re doing that you’re doing a good job!
Answer any questions they may have openly and honestly, using language that they will understand and from trustworthy sources like the government or NHS websites. You may want to look at these resources together. It’s a great way to learn together and can also provide reassurance that you’re ‘in it together’ with them. You may not be able to answer every question they have, but by listening and acknowledging them you are creating a safe and supportive environment where they can express and communicate their feelings.
5. Make Time to Play, Laugh and Experience Joy
Look for the positives in the situation, this is a chance to get to know and understand your children that we don’t always have in our busy lives. Learning to spot and savour the moments of joy, fun, laughter amusement and love are key to developing family wellbeing. A simple activity like as making a den or playing in the garden, cooking together, learning together is a chance for you to build micro moments of wellbeing through the experience of these feelings. It’s these micro moments that build up and maintain your levels of wellbeing even during challenging times. You can even make a memory jar to write down all the good things that happen and switch your focus on to the positives, something to keep and reflect on in years to come when coronavirus is a distant memory!
We hope that you enjoyed reading this and that you learnt something new to help you support the mental health and wellbeing of the children and young people in your home.
Worth-it work directly with schools to provide Whole School approaches to Wellbeing and Positive Mental Health. This includes working with schools to provide parents with strategies that enabling them to support their children to develop positive mental health and wellbeing.
Click here for more information about the support we provide for schools.
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Contact us to discuss how we can help you support your children’s mental health.
*This blog was created and adapted in line with government guidelines.