In such confusing times for our little ones, how do we make sure we support their mental health and wellbeing?
Children’s emotional wellbeing is so important right now – they’ve amazed us all with how well they have adapted to lockdown life and now we ask of them a new challenge as we prepare to start returning to the ‘new normal’ and back to nursery and school life. In this article we’ll explore 3 key ways to support children’s wellbeing during this time and create emotional resilience for life.
1.It’s ok to have feelings
It’s easy for our imaginations to run away with us when we are feeling unsure – both as children and adults. It’s important that we listen to children’s concerns and thoughts and acknowledge the way they feel.
By doing this we teach our children that it is ok to have feelings and to talk about them – a valuable skill for managing these feelings when they are older. Try to:
- Practice active listening and encourage children to talk about it
- Label the feeling to help them identify it in the future
- Acknowledge the way they feel before responding so we don’t dismiss it
Your little one is throwing their toys and shouting because they can’t go to their Grandma’s house to see her. Give them time to explore the feeling and say what they need to say. You could say: ‘I understand that you feel angry and sad right now because you can’t see Grandma, but throwing your toys is not going to make that feeling go away. Remember we can’t see Grandma because we are keeping her safe from the germs. Why don’t we video call Grandma so you can see her and feel happy again?’It’s easy for our imaginations to run away with us when we are feeling unsure – both as children and adults. It’s important that we listen to children’s concerns and thoughts and acknowledge the way they feel. Click To Tweet
2.Use stories to explore
Stories and books provide a really good starting point for talking about an issue. They can often put into words and pictures thoughts and feelings that a child is not able to and provide a ‘distance’ from the topic to make it easier to explore. A good example is the story about a little elf who misses his birthday party which explores feelings of resilience and hope through a time or worry and provides some great questions for discussion afterwards.
There are lots of stories about Coronavirus that are written with children in mind, including ones explaining about the virus to help talk about the topic of the pandemic. Some of the changes the children have experienced, such as people wearing face masks and not being able to hug their family and friends, can be scary for children and it is vital that we keep open communication for them to be able to talk about these. The British Psychological Society give some great advice around talking about the coronavirus with young children.
Recent events around the world have caused a huge strain on us as adults, particularly as parents, and it is important we settle our own anxieties too. Children can easily sense your feelings and this can lead to feelings of anxiety and unrest in them if we forget to tend to our own self-care needs too.
Mind gives some great ideas such as:
- Try to stick to a routine – get up at your usual time and try to go to bed on time. If you’re not happy with your normal routine now could be a great opportunity to develop a new one
- Stay active – enjoy being outside and move as much as possible
- Be careful with the news – it is important to stay up to date, but too much news can be overwhelming. Try to limit how much you view the news each day.
If you would like to read more about looking after your health and wellbeing or would like support, there are some useful links at the end of this post.
So much in our worlds are unrecognisable at the moment and this has been and emotional challenge for us all. But by being more aware of our own self-care and supporting our little ones to understand, express and process their feelings we can turn this into an opportunity to nurture resilient, communicative and secure children in this generation.
What have you found the most challenging aspect of lockdown parenting? Let us know in the comments below!