The world has changed, and we are adjusting to new ways of living without any sense of how long this will go on. Throughout this pandemic and the latest lockdown, parents themselves are confused about the current situation, are often having difficulty to process their own emotions, whilst at the same time trying to coach and support their children.
Deliberating on the impacts of changes in daily routine of our children and young people whose lives have been tipped upside down to being home schooled, once the choice of a very small percentage of parents, to practically everyone being home schooled. How social interactions have drastically been reduced with friends & family, the former an activity which for all children is a part of schooling and the joy of going to school to see their mates. No doubt this uncertainty has affected children in different ways. Some coping well with the challenge and others possibly overcome with anxiety and fear. As parents our antenna are trained on spotting changes in behaviour of our children that we feel might be damaging their school performance and their mental health. I don't need to tell you that it is important for parents to pay attention to the feelings of their children and to help them cope with these challenges and help balance their mental and emotional stability.
How can you, as the parent who is working from home, helping school your children also from home whilst keeping up with the other aspects of home life, relieve the routine to keep the interest and excitement of your children? Letting them be children and do everything that children are supposed to do as a part of growing up that they would normally do with their friends both in and out of school, to form those necessary early life experiences.
How can you take this as an opportunity?
Potentially here is an opportunity. An opportunity to be present and connect with your children in a way that is deeper than ever before. Now is the time to create a fulfilling experience in parenting for both you and your family, and to build a stronger bond with your children. The most important thing you can do for your family especially your children at this time is to cultivate a sense of calm and happiness within yourself so that you can create a peaceful home of love and connection. There is one step to creating happiness through the expression of love. When you express love you create happiness and joy within yourself, naturally expressing this outward to those around you. Happiness is not just a state of mind, it is a state of emotion.
Kids, certainly those under 10, want to be with their parents. Spend time together as a family. For example, make it a point to have dinner together at the kitchen or dining room table at least a few nights a week and make a rule that no technology is allowed during meal times, so that you can talk, share information and get a gauge of how your kids are feeling during lockdown. Engage with them and ask about what they learned today from their teacher or build stories around their learning. Ask about the time they spent chatting with their friends on line in “golden time”. During breaks from lessons, spend time talking to your kids, sharing and enjoying some short conversation or playing in some way.
Children generally are creative when given the opportunity. Creativity is also an avenue for children to share their feelings, thoughts and ideas helping them feel good about themselves and who they are. It’s really important to remember that being able to express yourself is not about being the best at something or putting on a performance for others. It is about finding a way to show who you are, and how you see the world that helps you feel good about yourself. Therefore, encourage and inspire your children to build their self-esteem through creativity, helping them express their inner thoughts and to feel good about themselves.
Children can do this through different activities which engage them. For example, art, music, writing and poetry, dance and drama, photography and film, and other activities that they really enjoy or have never tried before. Now is a perfect time for trying something new. For example, treasure pirate sensory bottles and slime making. There are some useful links below for different activities that engage younger children and create fun.
Teach science through gardening! Yes, you can garden indoors. As we are now moving towards spring, growing seeds that can later be planted outside or into larger containers can be educational and inspiring. Below are a few ideas for indoor gardening activities for children.
- Plant Misting
- Indoor Root Vegetable Garden
- Planting Paperwhites
- Regrowing vegetable scraps
- Indoor plant race with pantry items
Simple ways you can encourage your child to express themselves
- Encourage your child to build on their unique interests and praise their efforts in whatever they choose, for example dancing, art & craft, baking, fashion, drawing, constructing with the use of tools such as Lego if indoors, or with nature’s treasure chest when outdoors.
- Some children may not think of themselves as being creative, but you as a parent can help them to focus on the importance of the process and the way it can make them feel, rather than the end result. Do not judge their efforts, infact encourage them for trying rather than for doing something well.
- Give your full attention by listening carefully to your children, this helps them to feel more comfortable and confident when expressing themselves. Summarise what they have shared and acknowledge their feelings.
- Children try to express their feelings through different avenues of their behaviour, through play and sometimes even by being silent. Pay attention to what your children are trying to tell you.
- Take time to validate your child’s feelings. Don’t be dismissive and act like their feelings are not important. If you do not validate your child’s feelings, they will think that their feelings are unimportant and learn not to share them at all. You don’t want that, of course. Listen and communicate with compassion.
- There are lot of online videos and tutorials that you and your child can access. Trying something new together can inspire you both to start new projects, try out something different or enhance already existing hobbies.
- Take time to get outside and play. If your children are too young to walk far, introduce some kind of activity such as hide and seek, a game that requires them to find certain items that are readily available in nature, or activities that require them to spot things that might begin with a certain letter, for example the letter C.
You are your child’s first and most important teacher! Whilst this is an opportunity for you to be more connected with your children and provide your fullest efforts to support their mental health and wellbeing, it is also an avenue for you to learn from them as they remind you how to play. Seeing and feeling that both you and your children can thrive and grow in these difficult times is a reward that any parent would and should be proud of.
Useful resources for children
Improving children’s mental health in schools – Place2Be (Launching BAFTA Kids at Home with Place2Be)
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