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Protecting children's mental health during lockdown

April 24th, 2020
Protecting children's mental health during lockdown
The coronavirus lockdown has increased the amount of stress in many families with worries about the risks of catching the virus, jobs, money and spending hour after hour within the same four walls. As many countries have announced an extension to their lockdown period, concerns have been raised about the impact on the mental health of our children….

As a parent, it is important to think about how the lockdown is affecting your children and also ways in which you can adjust family life so that your children cope well with the situation and importantly, maintain good mental health.

Understanding coronavirus

For many children, coronavirus is very frightening and younger children can certainly get scared watching or hearing the news broadcasts as they can pick up on the anxiety in the presenters’ voices, but do not necessarily understand what they are saying.

The best thing to do is to discuss the pandemic with your children. Be totally honest with them and tell them that no one knows exactly how the situation will develop. Ask your children if they have any fears or worries and if they have, discuss them. Try and get them to realise that there is much fake news around and also that newspapers sell because of their dramatic headlines. If your children are older, watch the news programmes on television together and then discuss what has been said. If your children are younger, it could be best to not watch these programmes until they are in bed.

Financial stresses it is causing

Uncertainty about job security, parents being furloughed and a shortage of money are all stresses that children will pick up on – even if you have not talked about them! It is best to tell your children exactly what the situation is and if money is short, get them involved in menu planning so you can all see how thrifty you can be. Children love challenges and will
be very enthusiastic about plans to live cheaply.

Coping with parents working from home

Trying to work at home with children is tricky! By now you have probably worked out a daily timetable with your partner, but is it working? If you are finding it really hard to get your work completed, can you be flexible with your hours? Have you discussed the difficulties with your boss? Can you start work early in the morning or work in the evenings to ease things? Can you block together your client calls so that you can make them whilst your children watch a film or enjoy the activities on the new Harry Potter at Home website? Explain to your children what you are doing whilst they are enjoying the film and explain the importance of your work. Try to split your work into ‘chunks’ so that in between you can read a story or enjoy some craft work with your children.

If you are in the situation where you are worrying about how much television your children are watching or the time they are spending playing games on their Ipads – please don’t beat yourself up about this; children everywhere are doing the same because of the lockdown situation.

When someone dies…

Unfortunately, many, many families will lose someone they love during this pandemic and dealing with grief during lockdown will be especially hard. It is very important to talk to your children about the person and for them to be able to tell you how they feel and to share special stories about the person together. Don’t hide your emotions, let your children see you are grieving and share your feelings with them.

Relaxing together

Moments of tension are inevitable in a household where no one can go out to work or school. There will be sibling rivalry too – but the best thing to do is to let them sort it out themselves and try not to get involved.

Why not try some yoga or other exercise together? There are plenty of websites that introduce the basic movements.

If you are all missing having a takeaway why not plan a ‘fakeaway’! Choose whether you would like Indian, Chinese, Greek or another cuisine and get out your cookbooks or look online for inspiration. Plan your menu and choose your Fakeaway Night – everyone has to dress up in the national costume of the chosen country! Get plenty of photos! Fakeaways can become a weekly event!

Spend time as a family simply relaxing. Reading, stretched out in the garden or on the balcony or playing a game. Why not plan a regular movie night and share the fun of watching a classic film together? Plan a music night and introduce older children to the different genres, with information about such composers as Mozart or take a virtual tour of one of the world’s museums or art galleries. Snuggling up for a bedtime story is always fun – whatever age your children are! All these fun family moments can definitely be continued once the lockdown has eased….

Missing friends and family

Your children will definitely be missing their friends and members of your family that they saw regularly. Interaction with other people is very important for both the social and emotional development of your children.

Ensure that they have plenty of time talking to their friends and that they can send messages to them whenever they want. If you have Skype, Zoom or a similar program, it is fun to organise a virtual Teddy Bears’ picnic – complete with games and quizzes! Older family members will definitely be missing seeing you all so regular telephone calls will boost everyone’s morale. If you are already doing this, the next step is sharing a virtual Sunday lunch together or for grandparents to watch your children baking online! This will be fun for everyone and has the added bonus of giving your older relatives something to chuckle about for days afterwards!

Adjusting to home schooling

How are your children coping with home schooling – and importantly how are you doing? Whilst it is good to have a daily routine, there can be some flexibility. It is important to remember that life skills are just as important for your children to learn and being at home is the perfect environment to develop these.

Children need self confidence and one of the best ways to develop this, is to give them lots of praise and to value what they do. Get them involved in domestic chores! Children of all ages can be given tasks to complete and enjoy cooking. If you have teenagers, why not teach them such things as ironing? It will prove invaluable for when they go to uni or have their own flat – preparing simple meals and changing bed linen are other skills they should acquire!

Regular family discussions are a great way to boost confidence too as your children will feel that their opinions are being appreciated.

Chrissie x

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