Children’s Mental Health During Lockdown
Many families across the UK are now adapting their normal routines (for a second time) and staying at home in order to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19). Now that schools are closed for most, particular challenges are presented for parents and children who find themselves learning and working from home.
We are all different and respond to uncertainty in different ways. When things feel out of our control, it is normal for your children (and you) to experience feelings of worry, anxiety or fear.
Here are a few tips to stay positive and motivated throughout the third lockdown:
Stay on schedule
Just because your child isn’t at school, it doesn’t have to mean the end of routine. As much as we like to think a break in routine can be good for us, it can sometimes add to our stress levels and uncertainty. Having some structure to the day can help children feel more secure. Try having a weekday routine in place and keep some familiar routines going, such as morning and evening routines.
Routines don’t need to be rigid and don’t think you have to replicate the exact school day, but perhaps try making a list of the activities you’d like to do each day. If you don’t manage to achieve them all, then simply add them on to the next day’s tasks.
Some children, especially younger children or those with additional learning or language needs, might respond to a picture timetable of the day, and older children might prefer the day to be broken into some 30- 45-minute slots.
Plan in time for lots of different activities, including things your children already enjoy. For example, if they like being creative, they could write a new song or choreograph a dance. Or perhaps they could try switching off by reading a favourite book or challenge themselves with daily puzzles and quizzes.
Staying physically active is a key part of looking after our mental wellbeing. Fresh air and being outdoors can work wonders for our mental wellbeing so if you can, try to schedule in some time outside, like school ‘rec time’.
Now that the weather isn’t as nice (or warm) as it was back in the Summer it is still beneficial to go for a short walk to explore a local park with your family or kick a ball around in the garden (if you have one).
If getting outside isn’t an option or if it’s too cold or icy, you could schedule in some indoor exercise time. You could challenge your children to make up their own exercise routine. Make it fun with your own choice of music, or maybe just have a dance around the living room!
Don’t forget, Joe Wicks is returning with his ‘PE with Joe’ sessions three times a week at 9am. You can find these sessions live on YouTube and they can also be viewed at a later date if your child is already in a lesson at this particular time. You can find the schedule here.
As well as encouraging children to keep up the hobbies that they already love, this could be a good opportunity to try something new in-between lessons or at the weekend.
Anything lying around the house could become a project: old boxes; toilet paper rolls; or even scrap paper can be transformed with a little imagination. Encourage your children to grab some paints, felt tips or pencils and find a space at home where they can make a little bit of mess.
For older children, activities like cooking can be a good distraction from difficult feelings. Try researching some new recipes or teach them how to cook their favourite meal. Activities with an outcome or ‘final product’ give an activity added purpose and brings a sense of achievement.
When you’re working or learning from home it’s easy to skip regular meals if you don’t consciously structure your environment to promote healthy habits. Eating a balanced lunch is essential for maintaining concentration and energy levels in the afternoon.
Try to plan what you will eat a week in advance and buy, or make, healthy snacks and have them ready at your work station. Ensure to drink lots of water to ensure you are hydrated and feeling positive and ready for the day ahead.
At lunch time, try to get away from your desk and take a well-deserved break. If you are ‘time poor’, try meal prepping and create a variation of different meals for you and your children to ensure you have a quick and healthy meal readily available.
It’s natural to want to reach for the left over Christmas chocolates but try to balance your snacks and meals as too much sugar could leave you feeling groggy and demotivated.
Stay in touch
While you and your children are at home, it’s important that you find time to stay in touch with your friends. For younger children, you may be able to contact other parents and arrange a phone call or ‘virtual playdate’ over a video calling service like FaceTime or Zoom, giving your children a chance to see the friends they would normally see at school.
For Stonyhurst College pupils, you can keep up-to-date with year group news via the Playroom Facebook groups, each Head of Playroom will aim to communicate with pupils and parents to ensure everyone remains up-beat and part of the Stonyhurst community.
Try to limit the amount you and your children are exposed to the news online. Regularly viewing negative stories can make you or your child feel down or unhappy which could affect school work and productivity. When viewing the news, make sure you only look at reliable sources.
Keep it simple and clear when talking to children with information that is relevant to their age and ability. And although Stonyhurst is not open as usual for day pupils, remember that lessons are still going ahead virtually and staff are still available for you to contact.
We will also continue to send our weekly newsletter to parents every Friday to keep the Stonyhurst community updated with the latest news surrounding virtual learning.
Looking for more support?
If you or your children are struggling, it’s really important to talk to someone. If this can’t be face-to-face, Stonyhurst College pupils can contact their Head of Playroom here or our accredited BACP Person-centred Counsellor using the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. St Mary’s Hall pupils can contact their tutor here or our Mental Health First Aider: email@example.com
As parents and carers, it is equally as important for you to look after your own mental health. For more information on how to support your children, you can find further advice from Mind here.