During this difficult time, we wanted to let you know that, even though our school is currently closed to all but a few children, we are still here to support your child and your family in whatever way we can.
You may be noticing signs of increasing anxiety in your child as they are spending more time indoors and outside of their normal routines. In order to support you, we have put together some resources to help support you and your child. This includes websites and contact numbers for the following:
- Taking Care of yourself
- How to talk to your child about what’s happening
- Home Learning and helpful websites
- Who you can contact for support
We hope you find this information helpful.
We are extremely grateful for all the support you have shown us as we adapted to these new circumstances, and we want to reassure you that we are still here to support you.
Take care of yourself
It is really important to take care of your own physical and mental health. Children are very perceptive, and they react to what they sense from the adults around them.
Here are some things that can help:
- Connect with others – maintain relationships with people you care about through phone and video calls;
- Exercise – take some time every day to move. You could go for a walk or run. You will also find lots of fitness videos online for everything from yoga to dance. Find something you enjoy and that makes you feel good;
- Eat healthy meals – try to keep a well-balanced diet and drink enough water;
- Get some sleep – being anxious or worried can have a big impact on your sleep. If you are struggling to get a good night’s sleep, try to develop a calming bedtime routine – for example, do 10 minutes of yoga or listen to calming music. There are also apps you can download that provide guided meditation to help you get to sleep more quickly;
- Turn off the news – it is important to keep up to date, but the 24-hour news cycle can make you more anxious. Limit your exposure to the news to only a small amount of time, just enough to know what the latest government guidance is;
- Do things you enjoy – now that we are all spending more time at home, we can finally take up that hobby we have always meant to learn. Try baking or gardening or learning to knit. These are also great activities we can share with our children;
- Set goals – it is easy to lose track of the days in our current situation, so it can be helpful to set daily and weekly goals to give us a sense of control and purpose. Examples might be setting a goal of walking for half an hour at least 3 times this week or reading a new book;
- Connect with the outdoors – depending on where you live, it may not be possible to spend time outside. If you do not have a garden or terrace, you can still open a window to let some fresh air and sunlight in. Put a comfortable chair by the window so you can look outside and get some air as you read a book;
- Talk to someone – during this difficult time, sharing with family and friends how you are feeling and what you are doing to cope. This can be helpful for both you and them, there are also helplines you can call for support.
How to talk to your child about what’s happening
No matter how calmly you manage the current environment, children are likely to be anxious, so it is important to talk to them about what is happening.
For younger children
Children pick up bits of information from their friends, from the news and from listening to adults talking around them – but they can misunderstand what is being said.
Deal with the news head-on and talk about it openly and calmly, giving them the facts
- BBC Newsround hub – regularly updated with information and advice.
- #covibook – for under 7s.
- Children’s guide to coronavirus – a download from the Children’s Commissioner to help explain the situation to children.
- Teach them how to know if information they find on the internet is reliable. Explain how some stories on social media may be based on rumours or inaccurate information.
- Encourage them to take breaks from listening to or reading the news – overexposure isn't helpful.
- This will give them the confidence to reach out, if they have anything to ask.
- Be reassuring but honest when answering questions – it is ok if you don't have all the answers.
- Be ready to answer the same question over and over – children tend to repeat themselves when they're feeling uncertain or worried, so you might have to answer the same questions more than once as they seek extra reassurance.
Be a role model
- Recognise and manage your own worries first.
- Be open about your own feelings and let them know it is normal to be concerned – for example, let them know you are also finding the news a bit worrying and what you are doing to stay calm.
Explain how our body's immune system protects us
- It is constantly working against germs without us knowing.
- Explain that we are taking precautions against this particular germ because it is a new one which our bodies have not come across before.
- Remind them how important it is that they eat healthy food, sleep and exercise, as this helps to fight germs.
- If it helps, reassure them that the effects of this virus on healthy young people are very mild.
Keep doing your bit to help children reduce the spread of germs
- Remind them to maintain good hygiene like bathing daily and wearing fresh clothes.
- Encourage them to sing 'happy birthday' twice when they're washing their hands.
For older children
Older children will have the same anxieties about their own health and that of their family and friends as younger children. But they are also likely to feel socially isolated, and worried about the result of school closures on their education and what life will be like after the pandemic is over.
Reassure them that when more guidance comes from the school about how grades will be awarded, you will share this with them as soon as you have it.
Encourage them to maintain social ties – relationships are especially important for older children, so give them room to keep in touch with their friends.
Equip them with accurate information – for example:
- Mythbusters from the World Health Organization.
- Data visualisation pack from Information is Beautiful (regularly updated).
Share tools to help them manage anxiety
- YoungMinds: practical steps to take if you're anxious about coronavirus
- Mind: how to take care of your wellbeing when staying home
If your child struggles with higher levels of anxiety
Some children are naturally more anxious, such as those with existing phobias or obsessive-compulsive disorders. The current situation can make those anxieties worse.
- Get them to do activities such as counting, ordering and sorting tasks which can help them calm down.
- Encourage them to use relaxation techniques such as controlled breathing.
- Look out for obsessive or compulsive behaviours and try to get ahead of them early by challenging unhelpful thoughts and assumptions.
If you are worried about your child’s anxiety, YoungMinds is a charity dedicated to children’s mental health. They have opened a parents’ helpline for confidential, expert advice. You can reach them at 0808 802 5544.