We are aware at the moment that families are under stress, and that children may be experiencing emotional difficulties as we all deal with this challenging time.
Below is some advice, activities and links that you can use at home to support your child/children.
Remember that if you need to get in contact with us please do email the office, however please bear in mind it may take longer than usual to reply.
Please find the first of the weekly newsletters attached from Bucks MIND. They have created one for pupils and another for parents.
This week’s theme is Spring and is packed with happy facts, videos, recipes and ideas. They will be following this up with further videos and newsletters every Wednesday so please look out for them.
Bucks Mind are also running a Peer Mascot competition and would love the children to get involved so please open the document attached to find out more!
Additionally, they are sharing the Action for Happiness April Calendar with daily actions to support feeling good along with top tips designed by mental health charity Young Minds for parents to help their children cope during this time. Please find these attached below.
Supporting children and young people with worries about COVID-19
Advice for parents, carers and people that work with children and young people
This is a time of uncertainty and a lot of children and young people will be feeling anxious and worried about what is going on. This is a normal response to the situation and below we offer some advice about what adults can do to help and support children and young people.
There is a lot of information becoming available - this is great but may also be confusing, so we have pulled together some advice and some of our favourite links in to one place. We hope this will be helpful.
Please see some top tips for looking after yourselves and supporting your children below:
Look after yourself- It is understandable if you are feeling anxious and worried yourself at the moment and you may have some very difficult challenges to negotiate. Do look out for things that help you to cope. This will make it much easier for you to be able to respond in the way that you want to when talking to children and young people.
Keeping healthy habits- Where it is possible to do so, try to maintain normal routines as much as possible- for example, in relation to eating, sleeping, studying and playing or downtime. Routines are key in helping children and young people to feel safe. Getting outside in nature can also bebeneficial. There is evidence that contact with nature boosts mood so, as long as medical advice permits, try to spend time outside with children and young people. If they are not able or do not want to leave the house,encourage them to get some exercise at home there are lots of free apps or videos available on YouTube.
Watch out for getting caught in vicious cycles- There are some behaviours that it might be easy to get in to at this time that can make
anxiety worse in the long run, such as: avoiding things (e.g., a parent sleeping in the bed with their child instead of them sleeping on their own), withdrawing from other people, constantly googling for information, spending a lot of time talking about worries, checking (e.g., looking at news updates a lot), thinking about things rather than fully doing things,washing hands at a level that goes well beyond the medical advice. Be on the lookout for these and other behaviours, and encourage children and young people to notice what helps (not just in the immediate short-term) and what ends up making them feel more anxious.
Responding to children and young people
Children and young people will also be looking to the adults around them for clues on how they should be responding and whether they should be worried so do try to keep your responses in check during conversations with children and young people. This is not to say that you need to hide your anxiety as it is important to help children recognise that a certain amount of anxiety and stress is normal and to see how to deal with it (e.g. “When I am worried about this I like to call my friend, shall we call your friend to talk to them?”, or “When I’m worried I like to watch a funny TV programme to take my mind off it, what TV programme would you like to watch”?). It is ok for them to know that adults worry too but they will feel more scared and find it harder to share their worries if they see adults feeling overwhelmed.
Talking about worries
It is good to talk about worries and listen to children and young people’s concerns. Here are some tips we hope you find helpful when talking to children and young people about their worries:
Try to make time and space for children and young people to talk to you. They won’t always let you know that they want to talk so look out for signs, such as them staying closer to you than usual.
When to talk; it is great if you can talk to children and young people at the time that they raise their worries with you, as clearly they are feeling able to talk at that time.
It is important to talk at a time when both you and they are not stressed, busy or tired.
It can also be helpful to try to avoid discussing worries immediately before bed as things often seem scarier and more worrying at bedtime. If children raise worries or concerns at these times let them know that you have heard their worry and that you definitely want to talk to them about it and agree another time to have the conversation (and stick to this plan). Then perhaps come up with some other things that they can switch to thinking about instead of engaging in worrying.
It is important for you to help children and young people understand that it is okay to feel anxious or worried but that you are there to listen if they need to speak to you about any concerns. Help children and young people to develop an accurate and realistic understanding of the situation and recognise simple, practical things that they can do, but also to be clear about the limits of their responsibility.
Gently correct any misunderstandings they may have by sharing the facts around the subject matter. Keep conversations fact based where you can.
If you don’t know or can’t find the answer, then it is fine to say that you don’t know. There is a lot of uncertainty at the moment and it is impossible to answer some of the questions that young people will ask.
For younger children
Nanogirl Live has produced a couple of videos explaining COVID-19 and why it is important to wash our hands/ sneeze and cough into our elbows:
For school aged children
BBC’s Newsround has a COVID-19 website featuring a range of stories and videos on the outbreak:
For older young people
The World Health Organisation has released this video containing facts about COVID-19 and ways in which the spread can be prevented:
The Centre for Disease Control has produced a 1-page COVID-19 fact sheet:
Useful tips in supporting children and young people
Helping children and young people feel in control where they can. Explain to children and young people there are lots of things we can do to protect ourselves and others e.g. washing hands, limiting social contact with others, offering to help others.
Be clear about the limits of children’s responsibilities. Let children know that the government, the health service, scientists and many others are working very hard to keep people safe and that is their job.
Highlight the good things. Whilst it is a genuinely challenging time, do help children to recognise the positive things that are happening in their own families, their local community or even the wider community around the UK and the world.
Find ways to deal with worries. Limit children’s unsupervised exposure to the news. For example, you could introduce a “news time” when you look at it or listen to it together and discuss what comes up.
For older children, if they are getting unhelpful information via social media, then could they experiment with limiting how much time they spend on it or what they look at? If they are talking to friends about it a lot, could they limit these conversations and instead try to talk about other things?
Help children and young people to think about whether the worry is something they can do anything about, or not. If it is not something that is under their control it will be important to gradually learn to tolerate that worry and focus on other things.
One way to help children feel confident that their worries will be dealt with, and also get in to practice of keeping them under control, is to introduce a “worry time” where you agree a time each day where you can sit down for a certain amount of time (max 30 minutes) and talk through the worries in turn. Your job is mostly to listen and empathise.
When children and young people start to worry outside of “worry time” ask them to record their worry and assure them it will be addressed at “worry time”. This can also help children notice that sometimes things that seem like big worries, don’t seem such a problem after some time has passed. Take practical steps to feel less worried.
Where anxiety is persistent and getting in the way of life
Inevitably some children and young people will find this more difficult to deal with than others. Some young people may already be struggling with anxiety difficulties and the current situation may have exacerbated preexisting worries. If you are concerned about a child or young person and their anxiety is persistent and getting in the way of their lives (e.g., their sleep, schoolwork, friendships or family life), then they might need some professional help. Your GP will be able to advise further.
Other helpful resources:
UNICEF’s 8 quick tips for talking to children about COVID-19
BBC Radio 4’s Women’s hour covered a discussion about how to talk to children about COVID-19
The Child’s Mind Institute has published a video providing advice on talking to children about COVID-19
Additude has published some advice for parents of children with ADHD
Social story about COVID-19