The recent government announcement regarding the continuation of school closures until 8th March at the earliest has left a considerable amount of uncertainty amongst both parents and children.
Families have had to engage in remote learning for nearly a year now, and the toll it's caused is starting to show. Home-schooling can be challenging for all; it's difficult to concentrate; there are high levels of emotional exhaustion and a general feeling of boredom. Not only that, but the pandemic is also having a profound psychological impact on children, often leaving them feeling unmotivated and anxious about the situation and their future.
In October 2020, the Office for National Statistics conducted a survey that identified one in six children aged 5 to 16 years as having a probable mental disorder. To put this into context, that is five children in a class of 30 children. This has increased significantly since 2017, where the same survey identified only one in nine children. Whilst it's not possible to say this increase is wholly due to the pandemic, the research also found four in ten 11 to 16-year-olds felt that lockdown had made their life worse.
At the close of 'Children's Mental Health Week', Quintessentially Education spoke to Nathalie Costa, award-winning confidence coach and founder of Power Thoughts, about her strategies and advice on how to support yourself and your children when it comes to managing worry and anxiety in these uncertain times.
In addition to taking care of your mental health, parents must create an environment where children feel they can cope; some strategies can help.
Allow your child the space to talk about their concerns
Parents are often reluctant to bring up certain difficult and challenging subjects with their children, out of fear of upsetting them. They protect them and don't want them to feel worried when the very best thing we can do as parents is to talk openly and allow a space for them to let out what is on their mind.
When it comes to younger children, encouraging them to draw pictures about what makes them feel worried will help them recognise their worries and mean they are getting them out of their head and onto paper – making it easier to talk through what they might be thinking.
For older children, journaling or writing about their worries is a great way to get thoughts out of their heads and into the open. When we give our children a space to open up and talk through their concerns, they can suddenly appear a lot less daunting.
Be mindful of how much news you are consuming and search for the positive
Watching news, particularly at the moment, can become a little addictive, and not necessarily in a good way. It is essential to be mindful of how much news you consume daily and how this might impact your children. It is necessary to stay informed, but you should also not let this negatively impact your thoughts and worries.
When talking to your children about the news, it can be useful to reference some good news stories to counter all the negativity – who are the helpers and what are new and exciting inventions that are taking place that is perhaps not as frequently reported. This will help children shift that spotlight to the positive.
Remind your children of the challenges they have already overcome during periods of change
Your children might (understandably) feel worried about what life will look like when they finally go back to school. Whilst there are many uncertainties, it is crucial to acknowledge these feelings with your children. As parents, you can talk about times you've previously gone through a change, the accompanying challenges and how they were overcome. What lessons can be learnt from this, and what new skills did they acquire?
Again, with little children, drawing pictures of these new skills is a useful exercise to help them. They can then refer back to their draws and remind themselves that they are resilient and overcome difficult challenges.
For more information on ‘Children’s Mental Health Week’ and to listen to Royal Patron HRH The Duchess of Cambridge's video message to mark the start of the week, go to Children's Mental Health Week 2021.
If you are interested in enlisting the help of Nathalie Costa to better your child’s education environment, or for any other education related enquiries, please contact Quintessentially Education.