In a series of four blogs, Educational Psychologist Dr Dan O’Hare talks to us about promoting children’s wellbeing during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Dan is currently joint chair-elect of the Division of Educational and Child Psychology (part of the British Psychological Society) and runs edpsy.org.uk, a space for Educational Psychologists to share information across boundaries to develop and improve the lives of children and young people.
In the last of his blogs, he gives tips for adults, children and young people.
It’s a time of uncertainty right now. Schools are closed, and there’s not much clarity around when they’ll reopen again. Some children and families will be experiencing higher levels of stress, while other children may be feeling happier and more relaxed than they have for a while.
Tips for parents/carers
- Seek advice and support if your work has been affected by Covid-19 and you have concerns about your finances. Step Change has some specific advice if you’re concerned about your finances or debt
- Take some time when it’s quiet to connect and talk to a partner, family member and friend. It’s important to have some child-free time during lockdown.
- Make time, when it’s quiet or children have gone to bed, to watch that movie, read that book or any other activity that you have been talking about but not got round to doing. Even if you do it in incremental stages – watching a movie over three days is still a success.
- Plan daily fun activities together with your children, so that everyone has a chance to be involved in the planning. Setting up the idea that it will be a fun and relaxed time.
- Involve the family in cooking tasks and households chores to keep them active, increase a sense of responsibility and reduce the load.
- Many employers recognise that parents/carers will be juggling work and childcare. Where possible, have boundaries with communications and working patterns whilst also being mindful that this may be different on different days. If you can, avoid looking at work emails if you’ve taken annual leave.
- Monitor your responses to stressful/difficult things at home and note the times and triggers that made you feel overwhelmed. Take note of specific factors like the time, activity, location in home etc. so that you can reflect and be aware for the next time.
- Try not to be too hard on yourself – give yourself credit for coping with lots of things (family/home/work/self) at a challenging and uncertain time.
Tips for children
- Daily exercise is really important. Indoors or outdoors – it doesn’t matter. If you have the internet there are lots of exercise classes that loads of other children are doing every day. If not how many star jumps can you do in one minute? Can you run up and down the stairs 20 times? Can you dance to your favourite song?
- Draw a picture or write a letter to a friend, family member, teacher or other special people in your life. Younger children can ask an adult to help them scan and email it or take a picture on a phone and text it.
- Look through the games and toys that you might have at home. Play with the ones that you really love but also try ones that you may have forgotten about and get the rest of the family and people that you live with to join in if you can
- Make up a play/game or dance and present it to the rest of the family and people that you live with. You can ask adults to help you with writing a script and finding props around the house.
- Read a favourite book or ask an adult or older brother or sister to read a book with you. If you prefer you can make up your own story!
- Think of all your favourite activities and write them down or ask someone to help you, then make a plan of how and when you can do them, at home, over the next few weeks.
Tips for young people
- Eat well and sleep! Research shows that the teenage brain needs more sleep to develop.
- Try relaxation techniques like mindful breathing or creative visualisations. Many of the gym chains are offering free online classes – sign up and get active, starting off at the right level so you don’t get an injury.
- Stay connected to friends by communicating regularly and keeping up to date with their news and sharing yours.
- Take some time out from social media and spend time with family members and also on your own.
- With all the talk about exams, school, new schools… it’s easy to become overwhelmed or stressed. Music can be therapeutic and relaxing – try listening to your favourite artists or creating your own music playlist.
Dr Dan O’Hare. Educational psychologist and lecturer at the University of Bristol, joint chair-elect of the Division of Educational and Child Psychology (part of the British Psychological Society).