As parents and caregivers, we are the first port of call when a child has any experience of fear and anxiety.
With England now in a second national lockdown and Covid-19 still as prevalent as we feared it might be, it’s a time that no parent can really prepared for.
With fears of illness, uncertainty over whether schools will open and close and the limitations being set on our lives, we, as grown-ups, are feeling the pressure.
So it stands to reason that our children are too.
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A recent study by MyTutor revealed that over two million parents agree that since Covid-19, their child’s mental health is the worst it has ever been, with 41% of parents asked agreeing that their own mental health has suffered because of the increased pressure and responsibility of helping their child with their home schooling.
First of all, this is okay. This is entirely normal and expected and, honestly, you’d have to be supernatural not to have felt the impact. So the first important thing is not punish yourself or doubt yourself as a parent.
Mental health is a huge impact of both coronavirus and lockdown and will likely stick with us for a long time moving forwards, reshaping our lives into new directions.
But there are ways we can manage this and ensure we retain positivity, as much normality as possible and create safe spaces for our children to speak to us and continue to thrive in what is a very uncertain environment.
Keep an open dialogue and always tell the truth
Children are a lot smarter than many of us give them credit for. Be honest with them. Inform them but don’t bombard them with too many facts or worries – just the key information.
Ask your children what worries them. A lot of change is taking place around them.
Lead by example – for instance when shopping, wear a mask and let your little one pick out or design their own. They may find comfort in something they have designed from there own imagination.
Make hand washing fun by singing a song and let them have their own little hand gel on the go. Normalising these routines (like you do brushing teeth) makes them eventually seem less alien and less associated with the fear of what they are for.
How do I broach the school issue?
In this second lockdown, for the moment, schools are still going to be open in England. Again, open a dialogue with your child about how they feel about going and if they are suffering from any anxiety, speak to the school to see what measures they have in place.
If your child is still displaying symptoms of stress and if you have any doubts, consider what is best above all else for their mental health and if home schooling would be a better option. A child can always catch up on academic work but toxic stress can stay with a child forever.
That said, school may be a routine that keeps your child happy as there is the social aspect as well. Encourage your child to be themselves, enjoy school, and ensure they listen to teachers.
Keep to a routine
No doubt before all this happened, your family had a pretty good routine that your little one was used to. A break in routine can disrupt your child’s wellbeing so it is vital to keep some sort of normality and positivity within your day to day lives.
Every little one is different include check-ins with your children regularly, just in a chatty way, and adapt the routine as you see fit.
It’s important to maintain play, for Covid-19 not to be the overruling topic of the house and for fun and laughter to be a dominant force. It’s easier said than done right now, but seeing your children smile will do wonders for you too – and bonding through play couldn’t be a better distraction.
Manage your own wellbeing and teach your children their feelings are valid
Children will feed off there carers’ vibes and take cues from your reaction. Obviously we are all starting to feel emotions we have never felt before so together as a family in your safety bubble, come up with coping strategies for your whole family to get through this pandemic.
This could include cues or signals that your child can give when they want to talk or they feel worried, reassurance you are always there to listen and you are all in this together and potentially a family notebook where you can all note down your thoughts and feelings.
All feelings are valid so ensure your child knows they aren’t being ‘naughty’ by being distressed or playing up. Allow them to know that the adults feel a bit of stress too and it will pass as you are all looking after each other – and these times will pass.
Find the positives and switch off
For years, western society had seen it a norm for us to work more and relax less, resulting in us spending less time with our loved ones. Let us take this time to change this way of thinking, giving us all a better work-life balance.
Use the time to do things that bring you all closer together and do things that usually you all would be too tired or too busy to do.
Build memories, cherish the time and find the positives in what is a challenging time – as far as possible, if you show your children that the pandemic isn’t stopping you all living your lives and is certainly not stopping you loving them, then some of their anxieties should alleviate.
Parents are facing some of the toughest challenges and no matter what your situation or how hard you are having to fight or how little you have got, you are doing an amazing job against a battle you never knew you’d be expected to fight.
You’re doing your children proud – and you will get them through this. If you are in need of any support, seek out parenting forums, families you know who you can Zoom, and remind yourself that there will be an end to this.
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