Covid-19, and the resulting lockdowns, has made the last thirteen months difficult for everyone, especially our children. Not only have children 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 that are 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. All school age children will confront anxiety and the challenges associated with learning loss, to varying degrees. The important thing to remember is that there are many things 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 about 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 support them to manage their school / home workloads.
Talk to them
While 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 inquire 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 understanding.
Pick your moment
Every child is unique and you’ll know better than anyone when it is the right time to engage in conversation with them. Identify that moment, perhaps while watching a film, or maybe while out shopping. What’s important is that they never feel cornered or under pressure to talk if they don’t want to. Let the discussion happen on their terms.
Let them know you’re there for them
Mental health and socio-emotional support are increasingly being recognized as critical to student learning, and to children’s overall well-being. Nevertheless many families may still have questions about how 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 demoralized 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.
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 year of schoolwork in one go. This is why we go to school and learn in manageable chunks.
The routine of successfully completing little actions creates a sense of progress and not only aids learning, but also sparks creativity, energy and enthusiasm. Being ‘bored’ is often because there’s been a break in routine.
This same process can be applied to your child’s wider educational efforts. Homework has increased since the lockdowns, in order to support students to catch up. Your child is working longer hours and doing more than ever before. Consider rewarding their achievement with social treats, a favorite 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 as the weather is improving, there are new opportunities for 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 us sleep better at night – all things which contribute to good mental health.
What kind of exercise you do is up to you and your child. Some might like a run in the park, enjoy kicking around a soccer ball, or just going for a walk. There are many parks and athletic facilities which are now reopening. Why not try out a new sport together, such as basketball, 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 open up when they are ready and feel the need to.