By Mette Nielsen, Counsellor
Life has suddenly been turned up-side down for all of us and not least our children and young people because of the outbreak of Covid-19. Schools, colleges and universities have closed early. There may not be any transition preparations for going to the next stage for primary school children nor proms which are the traditional way of ending secondary school. There will be no exams which many have been working towards. Children and young people may have to find other ways to say their goodbyes to friends and teachers.
You may also be having to home-school your children which can also bring new challenges to life at home.
This can leave many with a sense of loss and anxiety as nobody knows what comes next!
Anxiety may appear in different ways.
Emotionally, children and young people may appear upset, distressed, anxious, angry, and agitated or fearful. Behaviourally they may be clingy, withdrawn, they wet the bed or have problems sleeping. Physically they could be experiencing stomach ache or headache.
It is particularly important to let children and young people know what is going on as they are more aware than we may think.
You may want to consider certain points which will benefit both yourself and the children before talking:
- Choose a calm moment to talk
- Don’t be afraid to talk about Covid-19
- Make sure you know what you are talking about, find the facts
- Let them know that they can come to you when they need to talk
- Don’t dismiss anything they might bring up
- Try not to avoid difficult questions. You can suggest that you look it up or you can say you don’t know
- Think about and decide how much they need to know
- Talk about good news too!
- Limit exposure to news on TV and social media.
Children like to help and to get them involved you can explain the importance of washing hands with soap and water which helps to fight the virus: Wash hands for 20 seconds – the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.
If they have a cold tell them to use a tissue and follow the guidelines: Catch it, Bin it, Kill it!
We all function much better when we have a purpose in our day and therefore it is helpful to continue with a routine. You can make a plan or timetable together. Let the children help to decide what to put on it and what it should look like. Keep it where it is visible, for example on the fridge.
- Encourage them to play outside
- Free time- allow them to select things to do for themselves
- Talking with friends or family using things like video calls
- Try and keep bedtime routines in place, and limit screen time an hour before going to bed
- Try and spend time together doing something they enjoy such as baking or drawing or reading a story
The advice for older children and teenagers is very similar.
- Working with them, try and negotiate a rough routine that works. It may need changing as lockdown continues.
- Try and keep regular bedtimes, and avoid using devices in bed.
- Try to learn something new like gardening, cooking, learning to play an instrument or a new language.
- Homework- older children will have online platforms organised by schools for them to complete work and interact with their class and teacher.
- Make use of the daily allowed walk, run or cycle ride.
- Don’t forget to look after your mental health. Consider using mindfulness apps such as Headspace.
- Stay in contact with friends via messaging apps or online gaming platforms
- Do something creative- listen to music, sketch or read
- Talk to friends or someone who really listens
Talking to your kids about Coronavirus: https://www.parentclub.scot/articles/talking-to-your-kids-about-coronavirus
Advice, ideas and activities for young people: https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround
Activities to do while staying at home: https://www.nhs.uk/change4life
Guidance for parents and carers: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-supporting-children-and-young-peoples-mental-health-and-wellbeing/guidance-for-parents-and-carers-on-supporting-children-and-young-peoples-mental-health-and-wellbeing-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak
The Mix https://www.themix.org.uk/
Helping children cope with stress:
For more information about support available through The Coates Centre email email@example.com