As pupils prepare to return to schools, Thrive has put together a list of easy-to-follow, practical suggestions to help parents and children get ready to return to ‘normal’ education.
Although some year groups returned to school in June, for many it will be the first time they have been back since lockdown started in March. While the Government and its scientific advisers have repeatedly said that going back is safe for children, some parents remain concerned about the health risks and how their children will react after such a long time away from the classroom.
Thrive, a leading provider of training and tools which support children’s mental health and wellbeing, has put together the following suggestions to help parents and their children.
1) To be able to support children and young people’s social and emotional development, the most important strategy for parents is to take care of your own wellbeing first, so that you have the mental and emotional resources to support children who are displaying anxious or fearful feelings. Getting plenty of sleep, eating well, exercising, and talking about your own feelings will help your children to experience an environment of emotional safety.
2) Try to spend time with your children each day taking part in fun activities you both enjoy. Focus on enjoying your relationship in the moment, rather than trying to achieve a particular goal. Being alongside children and talking to them about your experience of the activity will help them to see the world through your eyes, to feel safe enough to explore, develop language and share feelings.
3) Make sure that children know what’s happening and the reasons behind it. Covid-19 restrictions are changing all the time and this can feel confusing, so children need to understand that there is a reason for all the changes. For example, if a local lockdown means that older children are asked to wear face masks at school, explain how masks can protect others from illness and prevent the spread of coronavirus. The key to talking about this to children and young people is for you to be calm and open. If you are displaying fears and anxieties about the return to school or wearing face masks, you could unintentionally transfer this feeling to your children.
4) Make sure you celebrate the positives each day. Make a conscious effort to focus on things that have gone well, praise children for their achievements and talk openly about what made that thing work well. Meal times are a great opportunity to sit together as a family to talk about the day, so don’t forget to focus on what has gone well, as well as providing reassurance for any worries.
5) Think about putting time aside each day to practise calming and soothing activities. Things like breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques can be really helpful in dealing with anxiety as they help to settle stress chemicals in our systems. Making this a daily, shared practice will also help to strengthen the relationship and connection between you and your child.
6) Remember that some children will have enjoyed spending more time at home. They may fear that they will lose this as life starts to return to ‘normal’. Try to maintain any new family activities that you may have started during lockdown such as walks or trips to the beach.
7) A lovely way to maintain connection during the school day is to sew a ‘love you’ button on the inside of your child’s jumper or shirt. When they touch the button, they will remember that you love them and will see them at the end of the day.
Earlier this summer, Thrive launched a free Parent Toolkit as part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic, enabling parents and carers of children aged 4 to 11 to access practical guidance and information to help them support their children’s mental health and wellbeing. Parents who would like further information should click here and then scroll down.
Thrive is also releasing a series of webinars aimed at exploring issues that can impact on children and young people’s social and emotional development. The first of these is called Reconnecting After Lockdown and focuses on how adults can help children to respond to the dramatic changes they have experienced this year as a result of lockdown, school closures and social distancing. For more information click here .