Balancing lockdown life whilst distanced learning
We have been hearing from many families that they are finding it hard to maintain a calm and settled household whilst balancing distanced learning, work, furlough, the needs of siblings or other family members and their own wellbeing. To regain balance, we can make small adjustments to help us to feel more resilient. If we are able to meet more of our emotional needs, it is easier to feel calm and be able to cope with difficulties. Our Children and Young People’s Facilitator, Louise Harris has some tips to help you to meet your emotional needs:
Meet your own needs as a parent/caregiver
If you are trying to do everything all at once, it may leave you feeling stressed, drained, unable to think clearly and running out of patience. Taking some time to focus on your own wellbeing can help you to feel well and more able to cope with pressures. Studies have found that even just ten minutes’ walk can help to regulate emotions and settle your thoughts, which can leave you better prepared to deal with challenges.
Including children in a daily walk can help them to feel more settled, or if you are able to walk alone or with a friend in the evening, it can allow time for privacy or connection, both of which can help you to feel more mentally well and able to feel ready for the next day. Movement helps to burn off cortisol caused by stress and releases endorphins which can help you to feel better. Movement can also be dancing round the kitchen, vigorous housework or hide and seek if you are staying at home.
Take small steps to meet the need for achievement
Schools are working hard to provide plenty of learning opportunities both on and off-line to support children. In addition, many extra-curricular facilities are providing online sessions and challenges. If you are feeling the pressure to keep up, remember that sometimes to get the best out of learning opportunities, it is better to lessen the amount of tasks you are trying to accomplish at a one time. Sometimes children feel this pressure, and their own emotional state, rather than their capability, can be a barrier to them being engaged in learning.
Instead of ticking every task off the list in one day, try taking small steps to complete one task well, to help children to meet their need for achievement and feel proud of their work. Writing about something they are interested in or learning about, drawing a picture or creating it from craft materials and sending back to their teachers can show that children are engaging with learning whilst helping children to meet their need for achievement and remaining in wellbeing.
Encourage better sleep for all
For children to have time to settle their thoughts and feel calm, they need some time away from screens which is difficult when most learning as well as entertainment is online. You may be finding that your children are finding it harder to settle to sleep or that they are getting out of bed many times during the night. Sometimes, if children haven’t had time for quiet reflection, or privacy, they can go to bed with thoughts, questions and worries that keep them feeling restless and awake. Try and balance this in your home by including some time each evening away from screens to do something that keeps hands busy but allows time to let thoughts settle such as drawing, building or creating something from crafts.
Maintaining the balance within your home at this time can be challenging, but by thinking about the emotional needs of both yourself and your children, you may be able to take small steps to help everybody to feel more towards wellbeing.
Author: Ellie Winch
Caring for others during the COVID-19 pandemic
Our Workplace Wellbeing Trainer, Jo Flack talks about the difficulties of caring for others during lockdown
In 2019, my mum was diagnosed with Dementia. From the start, I found it both a challenge and a steep learning curve caring for someone with an illness I previously knew little about. Then along came Covid 19 and that challenge has hugely increased in complexity.
I do not share a household with my mum and her primary carer is my dad, but he has a history of mental illness so needs to be well supported himself.
Trying to remotely look after both their needs during lockdown is proving to be very emotionally demanding. Practical support, such as trying to gain a slot for on-line food delivery, making sure mum remembers she can’t go out and ensuring they both take their prescription medication is hard enough. But supporting them to meet their emotional needs without being able to see them face to face, take them out and about, or give them a big hug, is seriously tough.
Whether you are caring for someone in your own household or outside it, and whether that loved one has a physical difficulty, mental health difficulty or substance misuse, the current situation may well be leaving you feeling overwhelmed.
And when we are overwhelmed it becomes harder to offer the care and support to those we look after. So it is really important to take some time for self-care, to be kind to ourselves and to look after our own needs as well as the needs of others.
To stay physically and mentally well, there are emotional needs we must all meet, needs that may be more challenging to tend to in this time of social distancing. Below are some coping tips to help you meet needs, stay well in the current climate and continue to offer support to the people you care for:
- Maintain emotional connection as much as you can with people in your life who are important to you: this includes people who can support you as well as those you support. My brother spent an arduous 2 hours on the phone to my dad setting up Skype for them, but is was well worth it. I can now have regular video chats with mum and dad, with my brother there for additional support, and they get to see the faces of their grandchildren.
- Join a support group to help meet your own need for community; hearing the experiences of other carers and being able to share your own will also help meet the need for status – the need to be recognised for the role you do.
- Pay attention to the good things, notice what has gone well each day and recognise your achievements.
- Look after your physical needs. Don’t underestimate the importance of a good night’s sleep, get your need for movement met to encourage your body’s natural release of endorphins and consume food/drink in a healthy, balanced way.
- Those you care for, particularly if they have cognitive difficulties, may become more distressed/agitated etc during this time, so sharing simple facts about what’s going on and finding ways to help them relax may ease stressful situations.
- We could all find ourselves experiencing higher levels of worry and anxiety during these uncertain times, so we need to find ways to keep calm and to feel in control of our daily lives. Making a plan for each day or keeping to a routine can be really helpful.
- Find ways that you can unwind and do what you can to you meet your own need for privacy; self-care is not selfish, it is needed.
- Being there for someone who needs you gives your life meaning and purpose; therefore allow yourself to recognise what a good job you are doing.
Author: Ellie Winch
Meeting Our Children’s Need for Sleep During Lockdown
Our Children and Young People’s Facilitator, Louise Harris talks about the importance of sleep and how she has helped her five-year-old to get better sleep during the current pandemic.
Lockdown life and the ‘Corona Coaster’ of the ups and downs of the past few months has affected us all. Our children have also been finding it tricky, but as they don’t always have the words or ability to express this, it has been displaying in other ways.
My daughter has struggled to sleep
Since the schools have been closed, I have noticed a huge increase in the amount of support my five year old needs to be ready for sleep and her ability to stay asleep through the night. I have questioned how much exercise she was having throughout the day compared to pre-lockdown times, but even taking her on bike rides and inventing high-energy trampoline obstacle courses in the garden did not seem to have any effect on her waking up in the night or being able to get to sleep.
Why is sleep so important?
Periods of REM and deep sleep throughout the night allow us to wake feeling motivated, refreshed, fit and rested, feeling happy and healthy and ready to start the day. Different periods of sleep are needed: 20% REM sleep to calm strong emotions and 20% deep sleep to allow the brain to switch off and the body to restore itself. To achieve this level of deep sleep, good sleep routines need to start earlier in the day, not just at bedtime.
Exploring the root cause of the issue
When a child goes to bed with unmet emotional needs, they can struggle to fall asleep. When they do fall asleep, their dreams can be intense and vivid, which means that they are unable to self-soothe back to sleep if they wake. The needs of emotional connection and privacy are particularly key to feeling settled at the moment, as children need to have quality connections with families as well as quiet time to discharge their own thoughts and emotions.
How to meet children’s need for privacy
Encouraging ‘action to relax’ types of activities often throughout the day that can be done independently gives children time to have quiet space to settle their thoughts before bedtime. Activities that allow this to happen include:
- Colouring and drawing
- Building blocks and jigsaw puzzles
- Sewing, loom bands bracelets to weave
- Books set up to look at in a cosy space- We call this a ‘story snuggle’ in our house!
Our sleep experiment – What did we change?
As well as thinking about my daughter’s activities throughout the day, I considered her bedtime routine during lockdown. Not only had she had more screen-time than usual, but our day was more fluid, meaning that we were not sticking to a predictable routine as we usually would.
Making positive associations for bedtime is very important, so I decided to create an environment that she would want to spend time and be relaxed in:
- Making sure her bedroom is relatively clear and uncluttered
- Ensuring her favourite cuddly toys were within reach
- Ensuring screens were left off after dinner time
- Spending time reading , telling stories or doing yoga together and talking about the happy things we can do together in the following days.
- Spraying child-safe pillow mist with soft music to fall asleep to.
But what if my child worries before bed?
If your child has worries at bedtime, try talking about putting their worries down, so they know you are not brushing them aside but you will address them when it is the right time. Telling them that you will talk about them after breakfast the next day gives them time to relax knowing that you have not forgotten, but they also do not need to wake up worrying about them.
Did it work?
We have noticed a huge improvement in the quality of our five year old’s sleep, her ability to stay asleep and her happiness in going to sleep since we started thinking about meeting her emotional needs and improving her sleep hygiene habits. Little changes have made a big difference, and although she still sometimes wakes and needs my reassurance, we are having many more restful bedtimes and happier, more settled days.
Author: Ellie Winch
Lockdown 3: Helping your children to meet emotional needs over the next six weeks
With the announcement of school closures, our Children and Young People’s Facilitator, Louise Harris has this advice to help you to maintain mental wellbeing in your home.
With the challenges and changes of schools being closed to most pupils for this term, parents are looking for ways to balance home learning again with work, making sure everyone stays well physically and mentally and maintain some sense of normal family life. Our research has given us valuable information on the emotional needs that are not being met and what we can do as a family to meet them. Here are four key ones:
Find time to connect
Connection within your home is important to allow children to feel they have your attention, even for a short while. Find time to give them your attention doing something they enjoy together so that they feel happier to do independent tasks after your time together.
Whilst it may be difficult to stay connected to others outside the home in person, focus attention away from the ways it is difficult to connect by allowing connections in other ways. Send thank you notes, letters, cards connect over video calls, play online games with friends or just phone someone for a chat. We need relationships in our lives to help us to feel well.
Make time to move
Movement affects how we feel and can change our mood. This is especially true if you can get outside. Join in with Suffolk Mind’s 100 miles challenge with your family. Take a mile walk a day around your local area, or extend the challenge to 100 skips, 100 karate katas, 100 dance routines or 100 yoga sequences!
Let go and being in control
Our research shows that one of our key emotional needs is to have control over our lives. This can be difficult to meet when living under restrictions. Think about what you can control and focus on that. Make a list as a family of things you can not control, and let it go. Then make a list of things that you can control. Include silly things as well as sensible ones: Which odd socks will I choose today? How will I arrange the fruit on my breakfast? Can I choose my clothes to look like a character from a book or a film?
A routine to feel secure
Setting a basic daily routine as a family that allows you to feel secure and have a predictable start, middle and end to your day helps everyone to settle. Allow time for learning, time for exercise and time for connection. Also allow time for privacy; time alone doing a calming activity such as drawing, listening to music or keeping up with non-screen hobbies allows thoughts to settle and aids a restful sleep. This may help us to feel more well and able to cope with the challenges of this time.
Author: Ellie Winch
How to make good decisions which help you follow the rules
One of the biggest challenges in the new post-Covid world is knowing what the rules are, and keeping up when they seem to change on a daily basis. How on earth are we supposed to stick to the rules when we can’t always work out what they are? Our Workplace Wellbeing Trainer Penny Tyndale-Hardy explains how we can make good decisions.
The rules seem to be written in such a way that it’s not always clear how they apply to a particular situation.
For example, ‘work from home if possible’ is easy enough if you can work from home. But if you can’t, does that mean you are allowed to go to work, whatever your job is? ‘Stay local’ seems pretty clear, but what is local? One mile from home? Five? Twenty? And what are ‘exceptional circumstances’?
This ambiguity means it’s easy to look for – and find – loopholes that justify what we want to do, even if it breaks the rules.
One reason people break the rules is because they infringe our control, our choices, our freedom. Having a sense of control is really important for our wellbeing and when that is taken away it can make us feel unsettled, anxious and stressed, and we may respond to that by rejecting those rules.
Our sense of community is important and our need to belong can make us go along with things that on our own we might not do. For example, if the group around us rejects the rules – maybe breaks social distance advice or doesn’t wear a mask – evidence shows that we are more likely to do this too.
However, there are equally strong drives that help us keep the rules. Our need for security will actively encourage us to follow rules that help us stay safe. When we understand and agree with the rules – if they seem to have meaning and purpose to us – then we are also more likely to obey them.
So when trying to decide what we do, maybe it’s more useful to start by looking at why there are rules. What are they there for?
The rules are there to stop the spread of coronavirus. The more human contact we have with others, the easier it is for the virus to spread. Science isn’t absolute, but all scientific advice will be based on data and evidence. This is then filtered through the politicians, who decide how to use the science, alongside other considerations, such as the economy and people’s wellbeing.
When we are anxious, it affects our ability to think clearly about things and can mean we make emotional decisions rather than rational decisions.
If our anxiety is about how the rules are negatively affecting us – anxiety about not seeing a loved one, for example – we may be more likely to break them; if that anxiety is more about the virus itself it might make us frustrated by others who break the rules. However, it’s important to remember that we cannot control other people’s decisions – we can only control what we do ourselves.
Good decisions come from our rational thinking rather than our emotional thinking. We need to come at it with a clear head, which doesn’t happen when we are emotionally aroused.
So if you are having anxiety around interpreting and sticking to the rules – whether because you find it difficult to keep to them, or are worried about staying safe – make sure you calm that anxiety before making a decision. Try some mindful breathing or read our other resources on coping.
When we are calm, we can clearly assess the rules and make good choices. Respecting each other and bringing compassion and understanding will help us make decisions that work for the whole community.
Author: Ellie Winch
Are you feeling alone right now? Here’s some helpful advice to tackle loneliness
Loneliness is the feeling we get when our need to connect with others is not met. The Covid-19 outbreak has made it a lot harder for many of us to meet our need for social contact; both with those we care about and the wider community. Our Workplace Wellbeing Trainer Jo Flack gives us some helpful tips to tackle loneliness.
If you are feeling lonely at this time, understand that it is natural to feel like this, because those everyday connections with friends, family and community are key to keeping us emotionally well. And take hope from the fact these changes will not last forever and there are things we can do to meet our need for emotional connection and community even at during these challenging times.
Here, we will explore some tips and ideas to help us tackle feelings of loneliness. Different things will work for different people at different times, so have a go at the suggestions that you feel will work best for you. And if some of them don’t feel possible for you right now, then try something else or come back to them at a time when it does feel right for you.
Tips to tackle loneliness
- Spend some time with friends or family members in accordance with current guidelines, such as going for a walk or arranging to have a catch up on a park bench.
- Even if you are staying at home, you can explore different ways to spend time with others: try a video call – perhaps over dinner to create a sense of shared enjoyment; invite people to join an online quiz; connect through online games such as Scrabble, Cluedo or video games; or if you are unable to access technology, then schedule in a weekly telephone call to someone you care about.
- Now may also be a good time to check in with people you have lost contact with, whether through social media, text chat, by picking up the phone or even writing a letter/sending a greetings card. Many of us love having contact with people we have lost touch with and this could be the perfect time to re-connect.
- You could also do things you enjoy that help create a sense of being in company, such as listening to the radio, tuning into podcasts or taking a walk in a public space (whilst still keeping to social distancing guidelines.) Or join in as an audience member at one of the many online broadcasts that allow you to indulge in a night at the ballet, take in a show or laugh along to a comedy act. And with Christmas just round the corner, you will find several charities and other organisations offering online carol services to attend.
- There is also a wide variety of online classes and courses available that can help you link in with others whilst also getting a sense of achievement and purpose. Maybe start by thinking about activities you have enjoyed in the past and research any local courses and classes you could give a go.
- Another way to stay connected is to try some volunteering, there are now a variety of volunteering opportunities out there that you can do from home.
- And remember that if you are struggling with a sense of loneliness, you are not alone. Maybe you have a neighbour who is also feeling isolated that you could chat to over the garden fence, or bake a cake for, or help out with shopping. And you can always reach out for support via an online community such as Mind’s Side by Side, or by calling a Coronavirus Support helpline.
Author: Ellie Winch
How to prepare our children and ourselves for the return to school
Charlie Green our Senior Emotional Needs and Resources Trainer offers some helpful tips and advice to help you and your children get back into the school routine.
As the date for schools re-opening is approaching, we will be in the process of preparing our children for their return to school following the coronavirus pandemic. It is a good opportunity to consider how your child is feeling and how we can prepare them emotionally and psychologically for the transition.
If you are feeling concerned or a little overwhelmed by the up-coming changes, that is completely natural. However, it’s helpful to remember that this pandemic has given you lots of experience of change and skills you can use to help your child. Below are some tips and advice about how you might help your child through this transition.
Top tips for parents and carers to help you prepare for returning to school
• Talk to your child about happy things that they remember from school or nursery
• Re-connect with school friends before the start of term
• Keep up-to-date with information on the school website, social media and emails and share it with your child(ren).
• Look back through school work, crafts or snap shots of things you did during lockdown so your child can talk about them when back in school (remember the small stuff – not everyone had the opportunity to do amazing things).
• Walk or drive past the school building – practicing the journey to school can be a really helpful preparation.
• Find out from the school or other parents about transition arrangements and social distancing. Talk to your child about what to expect, even if the answer is you are not sure yet, but you will find out soon or be guided on the day.
• Check if there are any virtual tours and video opportunities from the school that your child(ren) can watch
• Begin to bring the name of your child’s new teacher into everyday conversations and build positive anticipation. If you don’t know much about them, find a photo on the school website or ask previous students for something positive about them
• Re-establish routines around mealtimes and bed times if necessary. Many routines have slid during lockdown – bring the timings back into school routines by changing gradually over a few days.
• Talk with employers about the opportunity for flexible hours for the first few weeks of term to allow for the unexpected. This can help manage expectations and prevent anxiety.
• It’s important to be aware of your own emotions so that you don’t transmit your anxiety to your child. Talk to family and friends and remember it is natural some uncertainty in such unusual times.
• Follow your child’s lead during the transition and respond to their emotions as they happen
• Be positive but honest; acknowledge your child’s emotional behaviour, they are showing you how they feel.
• Be prepared – pack their school bag a few days before, lay out their uniform, and break in new school shoes!
• Have a few trial runs of getting up and ready in the morning, eating from pack lunch boxes or getting into PE kit – this will help build confidence and esteem. Make it fun!
Remember the staff at your school have been working hard to make the environment safe and positive for your children. This is new for them too. Seek to be in partnership with them to make your child’s experience as relaxing and enjoyable as possible.
Author: Ellie Winch
Supporting your team when they return to work
Our Head of Mental Health Education at Suffolk Mind, Ezra Hewing offers some advice on how to support your team after lockdown
As lockdown lifts you may have concerns and questions about members of your team returning to work. Are members of your team anxious about coming back to the office? Are they worried about increased risk of infection? Are they juggling work and childcare? Have some of your team been furloughed and perhaps feel that their job skills are bit rusty?
Everyone’s situation and concerns will be different and so it’s worth having a conversation with each team individually. To handle conversations sensitively, at Suffolk Mind we teach and use a framework called RIGAAR. Participants learn the skills to use RIGAAR on our Workplace Wellbeing course Supporting Staff Mental Health for Managers, but you can use some of the same principles when supporting staff who are returning to work after lockdown.
RIGAAR is acronym which stands for the elements of a supportive conversation: Rapport, Information, Goals, Accessing resources, Agreeing a strategy and Review.
- Always build rapport and reconnect with team members as an essential first step. Remember that they may feel disconnected from the workplace
- Before asking about their concerns or talking about work, take time to find out how they have been and what has happened since you last spoke
- Ask follow up questions to express empathy and encourage them to talk more
- Ask open questions to allow your team member to talk about how they are feeling and what concerns they might have
- You could encourage them to complete an Emotional Needs Survey which will identify emotional needs which might be better met
- If you feel comfortable and confident doing so, you might ask about how lockdown has affected their ability to exercise or sleep. You might mention that many people have found it difficult to get decent sleep during lockdown, which can help to normalise their experiences
- Agree small, achievable goals to help them meet emotional needs. If they need privacy and ‘time out’, encourage regular breaks; if they have told you they feel better after taking exercise, encourage walking during lunch time
- Give your team member as much control as is reasonable over how they manage conflicting concerns; when they return to the office and whether they can work from home some of the time; how they manage the conflicting demands of childcare and work. Letting people decide for themselves empowers them to meet the need for control – especially when so much is out of our control at the moment!
- Ask questions to identify what has helped your team member cope during lockdown
- Ask them about what they have learnt during lockdown and if there are good habits they want to keep for the future
- Mention their past work achievements and what they bring to the team and the wider workplace
Agreeing a strategy
- Agree the steps they will take to achieve goals which meet their needs
- Make sure they draw upon the resources you have identified, including coping skills, good habits and previous work successes
- Make sure they have time and space to achieve those goals. This may include time to take breaks and walks, and to manage the demands of childcare and home life
Finally, review what has been discussed and agree a regular check in time to see how the strategy is going. Discuss what they have learned, and make any adjustments which better support meeting needs as your team returns to the workplace. Keep a record of what has been agreed and return to it the next time you meet – always taking time to connect and build rapport first!
Author: Ellie Winch
Young people riding the “coronacoaster”
Are you noticing your child’s moods changing more rapidly than usual? Then maybe they are riding the ‘Corona Coaster’
By Charlie Green, Senior Emotional Needs and Resources Trainer
We are hearing from many parents who are concerned about their children’s rapid mood changes and poor sleep while in lockdown so I was moved to bring together some information and ideas that I hope will reassure and help you.
Here are some of the concerns we have heard:
“We are all exhausted because my daughter can’t sleep in her own room anymore and wakes in the night.”
“I’m worried because my child gets really angry over really small things.”
“My son doesn’t want to talk to his friends online anymore.”
“I can see there is something wrong with my son, but he won’t talk about it.”
“It’s my daughter’s birthday coming up and whenever we talk about it, she cries.”
“I keep reassuring my son that this won’t affect his chances of passing future exams, but it doesn’t make a difference.”
“I can’t keep up with her mood changes. I feel like I am walking on egg shells every day.”
We know that mood changes are a natural part of a young person’s development and experience, but it seems that the ‘roller coaster’ of emotions has been much more dramatic during lockdown. This has made communication within families much more challenging, putting a strain on relationships and causing parents and carers to worry about the wellbeing of their young person(s).
First of all, please don’t assume the worst if you see more extreme moods and mood changes at home – you may well be experiencing the same yourself! This ‘corona-coaster’ is a normal response as we navigate a very different world from the one we were all used to.
Understanding the adolescent brain
Young people have the same needs as adults but the skills needed to be able to meet those needs are still developing, particularly the ability to calm strong emotions and be able to reflect and learn from experiences.
The adolescent brain is constantly evolving and learning while driving for autonomy. It is a time of immense growth, self-discovery as well as physical, moral and intellectual development.
As adults and carers it is important to remember how intelligent and capable they can be, and help them develop the skills they need for life. This will continue through lockdown and beyond.
So, what is happening for our young people right now?
Their lives as they knew them ended abruptly and they are now living with a great deal of uncertainty and loss of control. They are likely to feel socially isolated from their peers, who are a vital part of their lives as they grow in independence.
Not only can ‘now’ feel unfamiliar to them, which is unsettling it itself, but there is also no clear path back to ‘normal’ nor a certain ‘new normal’ to work towards.
Parents and significant adults who previously provided clear boundaries also do not have the answers. Added to this, news reports blast through all forms of media, announcing death rates, political conflict, uncertainty and fear, generating more unrest.
Most people’s daily routines have been turned upside down. Just consider how different your days are now, compared to how they were in February. Our brains are no longer able to glide along in autopilot, understanding the rules and rhythms of the day. Instead we are faced with decisions and new ways of doing things. It is tiring for the brain.
There is a limit to how much uncertainty we can tolerate without it having an impact on our emotional wellbeing. Then just as we are adjusting, everything changes and we have to discover another ‘new normal’ as lockdown begins to ease.
We are all riding the ‘corona coaster’ of emotions, adults and young people alike and
lockdown has made it more challenging for us to meet our emotional needs in order to feel mentally and emotionally well and free from worry.
So, what can we do to support and talk to our young people?
- Be mindful of their exposure to news and information
– It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the news, which tends to focus on the extreme and scary.
– It’s not that we should completely cut them off from what is happening. Instead we need to limit what they hear and have conversations with them about what they have heard and how they feel about it.
- Find a common activity you can do together and allow the conversations to start naturally
– Have conversations while doing something else – like walking, or a game, or cooking together. This sets up a more casual and relaxing atmosphere. Let them steer the conversation, build rapport and where appropriate ask the questions you need to.
- Accept their model of the world – go along with what they want to talk about to build rapport and trust. Rather than trying to tell or teach them, listen and seek understanding. You will be amazed at what you learn about them and how interesting young brains are.
- Avoid starting conversations with “when I was your age …”. it is a conversation killer!
- Lower your expectations while increasing your desire to connect and accept
– Focus on being together rather than needing it/them to do it ‘right’.
– As long as they hit their non-negotiable markers for the day, then let the rest slide. For example, in our house there is far more screen time for our 16 year old than I would like, but as long as he is up by midday, does 1 household chore each day, plays a game with his younger sister and eats dinner with us round the table and clears up after the meal, we let the rest go. The reality is, if he wasn’t in lockdown he would be out with his friends having finished his GCSE’s so being online is his place to be with them socialising.
- Become a master of “letting go” so you can hold the boundaries that really matter
– Choose your battles carefully. The most important thing right now is for them to feel connected and safe and to maintain a healthy relationship
– That doesn’t mean letting them do as they please – clear boundaries are good for them and you – but within the restrictions of lockdown, letting some things go can be helpful
- Create certainty within the home using gentle but reassuring routines
– By creating a predictable daily routine that includes encouraging online time with friends, relaxation time, movement, time to chill as well as school work, you are helping everyone meet the need for certainty. It is good to get them involved in creating the routine and review it regularly to check it’s working for everyone, especially as the government guidelines change
- Encourage them to get involved with food for the family – preparing, sharing or clearing up.
– This will help them feel valued and also gives a structure to their day and a focused opportunity to come together as a family.
- Find ways to have fun – get creative and find activities where you can relax and have a laugh. It will be as good for you as it is for them!
- Allow them privacy – everyone needs time to digest what they are learning and daydream, including our children. Help them find space each day to let the brain rest. Colouring, playing music, kicking a ball around in the garden on their own and writing in a notebook are some examples of how they can get privacy.
- Accept ‘I don’t know’ as a valid answer – it’s sometimes hard to name the emotions we are experiencing, we just know we don’t feel OK, and its good for them to be able to tell you how they feel without needing to articulate why. The most important thing is to acknowledge they don’t feel OK and reassure them that you are there for them and that the feelings will pass.
There is lots we can do to support ourselves and our young people. In fact, it’s not all bad news and lockdown can also provide us with opportunities. Many parents and carers are sharing stories of how lockdown has unexpectedly helped young people meet needs better, so there are lots of reasons to feel hopeful.
“My son has started making me a cup of tea each morning which I am so grateful for.”
(meeting his need for achievement, status and meaning & purpose)
“I came home to a meal on my birthday cooked by my 16 year old.”
(meeting his need for control, achievement, status)
“My daughter has started reading to herself at bedtimes for the first time.”
(meeting her need for control, achievement and privacy)
“At the start of lockdown, we all went for our one hour walk together as a family.”
(meeting our need for movement, community, achievement and meaning & purpose)
“My kids created a daily timetable themselves that included some school work, lots of breaks and screen-time and they have used a timer to stick to it … mostly!”
(meeting their need for security, control, status, community, achievement and meaning & purpose)
“We started playing a card game together a few times a week as we have been home so much more.”
(meeting our need for attention, emotional connection, community and achievement)
Visit our website for more information on how to support yourself and your family.
Listen to the recording below from BBC Radio Suffolk from May 20th of Charlie Green talking with presenter Georgy Jamieson (@Georgy Jamieson) all about ‘Riding the Corona Coaster’ and ‘coming out of the corona bubble’.
(with acknowledgements to Sue Saunders author of Navigating The Teenage Years, MSC Cognitive Science, MA Human Givens Psychotherapy)
Author: Ellie Winch
Adjusting to change and life after lockdown
Our Head of Mental Health Education, Ezra Hewing issues some advice to help those worried about returning to work.
If some of us are feeling a bit anxious about adjusting to life after lockdown, this is completely natural. Anxiety is nature telling us that we need new ways to meet emotional needs when situations are about to change.
Our emotional needs include the need to feel safe and in control of our lives; to share attention with people who make us feel valued and respected; to feel connected to others and the wider community; to have private time and space to reflect; and to feel that we achieving and that our lives have meaning & purpose.
The good news is that our brains are especially good at learning new patterns to adapt quickly. And, even better news is that we already know a lot of what we will need – we just need to gently reconnect and remember old patterns.
It may also be that lockdown has allowed us to give better attention to the people we live with, and to learn from hobbies and interests. And we want to keep the positive learning from lockdown.
Here are 4 things we can do to help meet emotional needs:
Take note of what you learnt during lockdown
- What did you really miss? Which people and activities do you value more as a result?
- What has given you a sense of meaning & purpose? This may have come as a surprise…
- What are the benefits from lockdown that you want to keep?
Keep the positive new patterns
To keep the benefits of lockdown, plan time which allows you to:
- Share emotional connection with the people you have become closer to
- Share meaning & purpose by playing and learning with your children
- Take control of screen time by only using screens when they’re really needed. Limiting screen time saves your attention for learning and loved ones
Who did you really miss?
- Put some time aside to think about how you will reconnect with people you have missed
- Are their people at the gym or in activity groups you have missed? Note down your favourite memories of being around other people who share the same interests and activities
- Think about how you will reconnect. This could be by phone, email or messaging, but some people have taken to writing letters and postcards to give things a personal touch
Reconnect, one step at a time
If the thought of returning to work, dropping your children off at school or being around groups of people feels daunting, here are some strategies to gently reconnect with these patterns:
- Choose one familiar thing you can do first. This may be a familiar journey you haven’t taken for a while, perhaps a walk in a park, the journey to your place of work or to the shops. If there are a few things you need to reconnect with, do them one at a time
- Try and recall how it felt the first time you left your children at nursery or school. And then remember how quickly those difficult feelings passed as you got used to the routine
- Take time to notice how you feel as you adjust to old routines. It may feel just like picking up a conversation easily with an old friend you haven’t seen for awhile
- It’s often easier to do things with other people. So arrange to take a walk or a journey with a friend and then a small group of people, while keeping safe distances
Author: Ellie Winch