At St. Francis we recognise that children's emotional well being is essential in order to learn and be the best they can be. During times of great uncertainty, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic we are facing, we understand that both your children's emotional well being, as well as your own mental health as a parent, will be put under great pressure, due to the disruption this has caused to our every day lives.
Amidst the current pandemic, our normal, day to day lives have greatly changed for most people, often with very little notice! Both children and adults are likely to struggle with these adjustments (school closures, social distancing, home confinement), which may interfere with our sense of self and structure.
Children are keen observers of those around them, and they notice and react to stress in their parents and other primary caregivers. They may ask difficult questions about what is happening now or what will happen in the future and may experience feelings of worry, sadness and fear. Children also may worry about their own safety and the safety of their loved ones.
As a result of this, at St. Francis we recognise that it is essential to promote good emotional health and mindfulness. Not only for our children during this period of great uncertainty, but also as parents, we must ensure to look after our minds, as well as our physical health. Below are some useful resources we have put together to help support you and your children.
Supporting Your Child During The Corona Virus Pandemic
It’s normal for children to feel worried or sad at the moment. We’ve all experienced drastic changes in our lives and routines – and we’re living with lots of uncertainty about the coming weeks.
Here are five things you can do to support your child:
15 Well Being top tips for Parents and Children
1. One of the best things you can do to help improve your child's mental well being and create a healthier environment for your child is to take care of your own mental health. As a parent, try to find time to exercise, get some outdoor time, stay connected to your social support systems and get a good night of sleep if you can.
2. Practise the "3 R's" - Reassure children about their safety and the safety of their loved ones. Maintain Routines to provide a sense of predictability for your children. Finally, support your children's development of Reguation by validating their feelings (e.g. "I know this might feel scary") and encourage them to engage in self-regulating activities such as deep breathing, mindfulness (see our mindfulness activities page below) and exercise.
3. Try to keep your children busy and active. When children are bored their levels of worry and disruptive behaviour might increase. Whilst keeping up with your children's home learning is important, engaging in play and joyful activities like art, music, games and outside play can ease anxiety.
4. Develop your children's self-efficacy. This means allowing your child to have some control by playing an active role in helping their families. For example, helping to cook and carry out household chores or even helping their community by making art or letters for older, vulnerable adults.
5. Emotional and behavioral changes in children are to be expected during a pandemic. If you have concerns for you or your child's mental health, seek professional help. See our section on "useful links" in which we have contact numbers of professional teams and agencies who can offer you further support.
6. Children need to feel safe, secure, and positive about their present and future. Help your child to focus on the positives by creating a journal or diary with your children in which you can record thoughts, feelings or even writing down what we are grateful for.
7. Encourage your child to develop new skills or hobbies at home. Help your child explore their talents and interests. Get involved in activities and encourage your child to work hard to get better.
8. A child who is healthy—both physically and mentally—needs to play. Truthfully, adults need play, too! This is the time to put aside work, household chores and other obligations and focus solely on your children.
9. Communication is key! A problem shared is a problem halved. Speak to your children about their worries, fears and feelings. Promote good communication and allow your child to share their emotions with you. Listen to your child and give them a safe space where they can "offload" their emotions. Don't be afraid to talk openly about your mental wellbeing.
10. Help your children to reognise the physical symptoms of their feelings. Sometimes, children (and sometimes even adults!) will not realise that an uncomfortable feeling in our tummy, a fast beating heart and sweaty hands can be caused by anxiety and worry. Help your child to understand this to ease their stress and worry.
11. Promote a healthy sleep routine for you and your child. Encourage your child to "put down their worries" at night time, to allow them to be able to sleep better. You could do this by writing worries down in a journal, scribbling them down on a sticky note or drawing them out before bed time. You can deal with them in the morning after a good night of sleep.
12. Help your children to challenge their unhelpful thoughts and worries. Ask the questions of, "what is the worst that can happen?", "what usually happens?", "what happened the last time I worried about this?" to come up with practical solutions to ease anxiety and worry.
13. Find time away from social media and technology. This is really challenging when practising social distancing, but stepping away from the screen is a healthy way to manage our mental well being. This is something all of us need to think about, even adults. Limiting the time we spend on social media apps can ease anxiety and stress, allowing us to be more present and in the moment.
14. Actively listen to your child before offering your advice or trying to solve their problems. This can be very hard when your child is struggling, emotionally. Try to use open-ended questions and be patient.
15. See your children's behaviour as a window to their feelings and emotions. What they show you on the outside is usually a reflection of what they want and what they need on the inside to feel emotionally secure.