The impact on kids and on family life
During many of our recent training sessions, parents have often expressed that they are now looking after or are concerned about the mental health of their children. We’ve compiled some ideas from these sessions that we find work for us. Whilst we are looking forward to things getting back to normal, the reality is that we may find ourselves in and out of lockdown type of scenarios for some time to come.
Here we are in 2021, and many children are starting back at school, some full-time, some part-time. However, another pressure has sneaked in, that of catching up with learning that has been missed. Students, teachers, and parents alike feel the impact of this disruption.
Along with missing the school environment, some children have also missed out on the regular physical activity that P.E. sessions at school normally encourage. The NHS advises that children from the ages of 5 to 18 should be aiming for at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day. “Fitting physical activities in during the day for your children is hard when you have to work, when the weather isn’t great and when you don’t feel so good yourself…and then you feel guilty,” says mother of three, Sandra, who is homeschooling while working in a full-time job.
Other children may have thrived in the home environment, especially children who normally find social activities stressful or who have previously been bullied at school. For these children, going back into the busy hubbub of the school environment brings its own challenges.
Family time – while it’s easy for the days to run together and lose track of time, try to make time to do things together as a family, for instance, movie nights, family hikes, and any other activities that you can do that allow a bit of an escape.
Limit internet time – while the internet is a great conduit for learning and staying in touch with friends, kids can end up spending more time on it than we are aware of when we ourselves are busy working. Put some limits on the internet during the evening so that kids get a break, too much time online can lead to anxiety in kids and teens, as can the never ending stream of messages in Whatsapp groups that kids set up themselves. Let your child know it’s ok to switch off from their friend’s chat groups and even from the internet sometimes.
Staying in touch with friends – conversely, organise Facetime meet-ups for your child and yourself with other parents and kids in your friend group, or relatives that you have been missing. Coordinate pizza and quiz nights. Try and make this a regular part of the week, so that both you and your child have something to look forward to that connects all of you with family and friends in a more social way than just chat groups.
Mindful parenting during times of crisis – slowing down ourselves as soon as we feel stress will help us fight overwhelm. As both parent and step-parent, I notice that if I consciously try to relax instead of reacting to whatever situation I am faced with, I’m better equipped to handle the kids’ anxieties instead of getting dragged down by them.
Managing kids anxiety
When kids do get anxious about school, remind them that everyone else across the world is in a similar position. Classes of 2020 and 2021 are a unique world cohort of young people who have had to overcome immense challenges and should be praised for that. Reassure them that there will be time to recover and catch up after this is over and that their teachers know the challenges that students are facing and are creating work plans that take this into account. If your child is overwhelmed by the work from school, don’t hesitate to let their teacher know so adjustments can be made sooner rather than later.
Have realistic expectations about what is possible
You are not expected to provide a replacement for the whole school day. Work with your child to come up with a schedule that also gives them some space to relax during the day in the same way they would have lunch and breaks at school.
Mental health support resources for young people
If your child is dealing with anxiety about school, talk to their teacher, or the school counselor who can refer you to support resources. You can also speak to your GP or health visitor.