Are your children anxious?
You might be noticing signs of increasing anxiety in your child as they’re spending more time indoors and isolated from their normal routine and social contact. These might include:
- Acting out such as picking fights with you or with siblings.
- Becoming afraid to leave the house.
- Distancing themselves from their friends and family.
- Exhibiting intense emotions but being unable to talk about what they’re feeling.
Younger children pick up bits of information from their friends, from the news and from listening to adults talking around them, but they can misunderstand what they’re hearing. Talk about the news openly and calmly, giving them age-appropriate information, visit BBC Newsround hub and the Children’s guide to coronavirus by the Children’s Commissioner.
Encourage them to ask you questions and be honest and reassuring when answering. Be open about your own feelings to let them know it’s normal.
Older children will have the same anxieties about their own health and their family’s and friends, but they’re also likely to feel socially isolated and worried about the result of school closures on their education and what life will be like after it’s all over. Reassure them when more guidance comes from the school you will let them know and encourage them to maintain social ties, while being safe online.
If you’re worried about your child’s anxiety Young Minds has tips, advice and guidance about coronavirus and mental health support for children. They’ve opened a parents’ helpline for confidential expert advice, call 0808 802 5544.
Back to school support
Here is some advice on how to create a positive learning environment at home:
- Be realistic about what you can do. You’re not expected to become teachers and your children aren’t expected to learn as they do in school. Simply providing your children with some structure at home will help them adapt.
- Share the load if there are two parents at home. You could try splitting the day into two to three hour slots, allowing you to focus on your own work as well.
- Keep to a timetable wherever possible. Following a set routine, which you can agree with your child, is what they’re used to. Try to eat breakfast at the same time every day and make sure they’re dressed before starting the ‘school’ day – avoid staying in pyjamas!
- Consider combining timetables if you have more than one child at home. For example, doing exercise or maths together might make it more enjoyable?
- Designate a workspace if possible, having a clear cut-off to signal when school time is over to separate ‘school’ and home life.
- Make time for exercise and breaks throughout the day. Perhaps start the day with a 9am PE lesson with Joe Wicks (other online fitness classes are available)! If you have a garden, use it regularly. If you don’t, try to get out once a day, sticking to the government social distancing guidelines.
- Record what your child has done each day. This can be a clear sign the ‘school’ day has ended.
The BBC has also launched its online education programme, Bitesize Daily, which offers 14 weeks of curriculum-based learning for kids across the UK. Lessons will be delivered by more than 200 teachers and a host of familiar faces including Professor Brian Cox, Sir David Attenborough and Sergio Aguero, a footballer who plays for Manchester City FC. Some online education resources are also available for teachers from Oak National Academy.
Take care of everyone’s health and wellbeing.
This situation is new for all of us, so give it time to settle. In addition to the exercise tips above, the NHS’s Every Mind Matters pages give advice on how to look after your mental health during this period. The Anna Freud Centre also provides advice on caring for the mental health and wellbeing of infants, children and their families.
Support for secondary school aged children
The Our Time Youth Agency is supporting secondary school aged children in the district by holding weekly Instagram sessions, which include:
- Influencer interviews.
- Live sessions exploring how young people are coping with the lockdown.
- Chats about music, movies, gaming, personal issues, sport and fitness.
There is also lots of information, support and light-hearted fun to keep you connected virtually and safely at home and when life returns to normal.
Keeping children safe
Organisations are working hard to be there for children. A range of help and support is available:
- Childline is a free online and phone support for children, phonelines are open from 9 am to midnight - call 0800 1111 or visit their website.
- NSPCC if you're worried about a child or young person, - call, for free, 0808 800 5000 or visit their website.
- If you’re concerned about the safety of a child or young person call 0300 470 9100 (01483 517898 out of office hours) to speak to the
specialist team at Surrey Children’s Single Point of Access.
Keeping children safe online
- Thinkuknow has online safety advice for children and parents.
- If young people see something criminal online (or offline) they can report it 100% anonymously at www.fearless.org.
- NSPCC has guidance on keeping children safe online.
- Childnet has support on keeping children under the age of five safe online.
There is also information and support on our 'Someone to talk to' page.
Inclusive activities for all ages and abilities
KEEN is a charity organisation working to promote inclusivity throughout the community. They have created a set of exciting inclusive online projects to get active, including movement, baking, crafts, drumming and so much more. If you're feeling isolated, bored, frustrated, or simply want to meet some new people and have some fun, then these sessions are absolutely for you! You can also engage in smaller groups before you join in with the regular sessions.