Covid-19, and the resulting lockdowns, has made the last thirteen months difficult for everyone, especially our children. Not only have they had to contend with the worry and confusion of the pandemic, they have also been separated from their friends, some family members and the reliability of school for much of this time.
Mental health is an essential factor in ensuring our children’s happiness, their confidence in both learning and themselves, and the development of the social skills, so important for forming relationships in both a personal and, later, professional capacity.
The lifestyle changes enforced by the lockdowns will have affected all of us in different ways and so it is important to take a moment to address any issues which might have arisen because of them. Anxiety and lost learning issues will have manifested in all school children, to varying degrees. The important thing to remember is that there is lots you can do as a parent to reduce your own child’s anxiety, improve their wellbeing, and get them back on track with their learning and confidence.
To help, we’ve put together this guide for the key things to consider as a parent.
Listen to them
One of the best, and simplest, things you can do is listen. Let your child tell you of their concerns or their worries, both with school and with their interrupted social life. Not only will it help them voice their anxieties, it’ll help you to better manage their school / home workloads.
Talk to them
Whilst it can sometimes feel that you are the last person your child wants to talk to, the opposite is in fact often the case, particularly regarding problems with education and anxiety around school.
The important thing is not to press specific questions, but ask questions which are fairly broad and open to allow your child to answer how they want and at a level they feel comfortable. Once engaged, you can enquire more closely, but always be mindful of the fact that your responses matter. So never show alarm or concern, rather be measured and impartial in your replies, offering your opinion gently and with common sense.
Pick your moment
Every child is different in how they like to interact with their parent and you’ll know better than anyone when it is right to engage in conversation with them. Identify that moment, perhaps whilst watching a film, or maybe whilst out shopping. What’s important is that they never feel cornered or under pressure to talk if they don’t want to. Let the talking happen on their terms.
Let them know you’re there for them
Mental health, and its importance to overall health, is a relatively new thing in terms of acknowledging and understanding it. So many people are still reluctant or unable to talk about it confidently with their children. And that is absolutely fine. The important thing is for your children to know you are there for them. And once they know that, you can start helping them in many different ways.
Set a routine
Sometimes we are demoralised or put off from tackling a project because the task in question looks too big and cumbersome to manage. This can lead to feelings of dejection and anxiety, so leading to the detriment of mental health.
This is where a routine is so important. What a routine does is it breaks down a task into small individual pieces and allows us to tackle those pieces at short regular intervals. You wouldn’t tackle an entire school syllabus in one go. This is why we go to school and learn in manageable chunks.
The routine of doing little and often and repeating aids learning, but also sparks creativity, energy and enthusiasm. Being ‘bored’ is often because there’s been a break in routine.
This same process should be applied to your child’s wider educational endeavours. Homework has increased since the lockdowns, in order to try and catch up. Your child is working longer and doing more than ever before. Reward this achievement with social treats, a favourite meal, an extra half an hour before bed on a weekend or maybe a little extra time in front of the game console!
We’ve spent a lot of time stuck indoors during this pandemic! Now we’re being allowed outside more, and now that the weather is improving, it’s important to make sure you and your children make the most of the fresh air and exercise.
Exercise is not just good for the body, but it’s also very good for mental health. It helps combat anxiety, improve brain function and helps you sleep better at night – all things which contribute to good mental health.
What kind of exercise you do is down to you and your child. Some might like a run about in the park, enjoy a kick about or just go for a walk. There are loads of sporting facilities which are now reopening. Why not start playing a new sport together, such as tennis or dance?
We all need space
We’ve all been living on top of each other courtesy of lockdown for a long time. The natural thing to do as a parent is to check that your children are okay. However, sometimes it’s better to just step back and let them re-find their feet for a while, now that they have the space to climb back up on to them. If they know you are there to talk, they will when they are ready and feel the need to.