How to ease your child's worries around school
In line with the UK Government guidelines, millions of pupils have started to return to class over the last couple of weeks. While teachers set to work on making classrooms socially distanced and parents try to prepare their children for their return, West Midlands mental health charity Living Well UK's Emma Lee offers her tips on easing your child's worries about returning to a 'new normal' at school.
Finding ways to educate children on mental health and wellbeing surrounding COVID-19 can be a challenge in itself, but Living Well UK is highlighting the importance of an open dialogue between parent and child to discuss their feelings.
As a qualified children and young people IAPT therapist at Living Well UK, Emma Lee wants to ensure that children are taking care of their mental health and wellbeing in these ever-changing and confusing circumstances as they return to education. These are her essential tips that could be helpful in giving young people extra support and guidance:
Recognise that another change in routine can be unsettling
COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the mental health of adults in ways which no one has experienced before, but for children and teenagers, the pandemic presents a whole new challenge that will likely be outside their range of understanding. As a result, many may find it difficult to recognise and deal with the accompanying emotions that are completely new to them, leading to a change in routine or habits.
Emma explains: “Going back to school will be a huge change for them with the introduction of social distancing, so try to avoid stressful situations before leaving for the day. If you do find that your child is upset in the mornings, try to encourage them to go to school, as avoiding it for a longer period of time could only further increase their stresses and worries.
“You might find that your child is expressing feelings of anxiety or worry, which could also lead to them becoming more irritable or angry quicker than normal. This can also present additional issues, including a broken sleeping pattern that could see them waking on multiple occasions during the night.
“There are various ways in which you can help your child to navigate these emotions, but keeping a calm approach in both your body language and tone of voice is essential, as well as ensuring that they have a routine to give them a sense of normality.”
Teach your child to recognise and accept their feelings
With this new range of emotions during these troubling times, educating your children about what they are can help normalise these feelings. There are plenty of resources from books to apps to help children and young adults deal with their feelings.
Emma outlines some ideas: “Some adults heavily rely on meditation apps like Headspace and Mindfulness when they’re feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed, and these can also be incredibly helpful to teenagers who might find themselves returning to schools.
"For younger children, there are books available that your child might find comfort in, including ‘The Huge Bag of Worries’ and ‘How Big Are Your Worries Little Bear’.
“It’s just as important that you’re learning as a parent too, so you can also educate yourself on how to support your child, by reading books filled with top tips. And, if you’re looking for a different approach, you could also treat your child to a Worry Monster, which acts as a comforter and even has a zip pocket for them to conceal their worries and fears.”
Seek extra support if needed
As mentioned earlier, you may experience some behavioural changes in your child, which are all part and parcel of them making sense of this new phase.
Emma expands on this further: “Your child could become upset or angry about things that might not bother them normally, resulting in them crying, shouting or snapping at others. If you have a younger child, you might find that they begin to regress, for example, they begin to behave in ways they have outgrown – talking or wanting to play in a ‘baby’ manner or wetting the bed again.
“If you feel like your child might need extra support, there’s always the option of seeking out specialist help if the methods that you’ve already tried haven’t had the desired effect, and your child is continuing to experience these emotions after being back at school for some time. Equally, you could also talk to your GP or seek guidance from the school nurse or counsellor.”
To find out more about how Living Well UK is supporting those struggling with their mental health during COVID-19, including dedicated support lines for key-workers and the general public, visit https://livingwellconsortium.com/.