Are you a parent worried about a child’s mental health during lockdown? You’re not alone. This is a scary time for us all, and it could be having an effect on our children’s well-being. Know that you are doing everything you can by just being there for them, but here are a few of our tips to help you.
- Talk to them about what is happening
Talk to your children about the global situation in an age appropriate way. They know what is happening in a way, so make sure COVID-19 or the lockdown is not a taboo subject, never to be mentioned. This could be making it more scary for them.
We recommend picking a good time to talk, if they’re younger kids, get the Lego or a jigsaw out and bring up the topic. The distraction and relaxed nature of the chat will allow them to talk more freely. If you have teens, suggest going for a walk and ask them if they’re doing OK or need to ask any questions.
Try to avoid facts and figures or going into too much detail, but always be honest with them. If they ask, for example, how many people have died – tell them something like ‘quite a few, which is very sad. But luckily, everyone staying inside is making a big difference, and less people are catching the virus. It’s like we are superheroes!’
Ask them if they have any questions, and make sure they know if they have any concerns you’re always there for them.
2. Validate their emotions
When you’re talking to your child and they explain how they are feeling, be sure to validate all emotions they are expressing.
Use phrases like ‘it’s normal to feel worried/angry/sad, and this feeling will pass.’ Where possible, try to avoid phrases like ‘don’t be silly’ and offer them practical ways to work through their emotions.
3. Provide a feeling of safety
The world feels quite unsafe to us all at the moment, so try to create a sense of safety for your family at home
Allow open conversation, lots of physical and emotional affection like cuddles and words of reassurance.
4. Stick to a familiar routine where possible
Practically, try to ensure they have a daily routine for structure. Children thrive in routines, and will be missing theirs from school. Routine = safety, so this will also help children feel safe.
A great way to do this is to have a rough timetable on the wall or fridge, so they know at 1pm they will be doing some school work, 2pm will be walk-time and they can watch TV at 3pm. It might also stop them driving you mad with constant questions of what’s happening next!
5. Spend lots of time outdoors if you can
If you feel safe to, try to get your children outside as much as possible. They will be missing their sunshine and Vitamin D, as well as that crucial time in nature. If you have a garden, perfect. Make bee and bug hotels, plant some wild flowers or try some classic garden games.
We know having a garden is a luxury not everyone has access to, so if you’re near to a park or woodland, make a plan to go for a little stroll each day with your kids. They will probably protest, but it will be great for them – and you.
6. Look after yourself
Children will pick up on your behaviour, conversations and emotions. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be happy 24/7, but be present and aware of how you are feeling throughout the day.
If you are finding it difficult, don’t be afraid to be honest with your child. They will know anyway! Give them a hug, admit you aren’t feeling your best and explain how you are going to help yourself feel better. This not only proves to them that it’s OK to not be OK, but shows that being open about their feelings is welcome.
Most importantly – remember you cannot pour from an empty cup. You need to look after yourself, too. Meditate, take time for self-care or even just a 10 minute break with a hot drink. Ensure you’re getting plenty of rest and open up if you are struggling.
By the way, in case nobody has told you today, you are a wonderful care giver to your children. You should be proud knowing you’re doing your absolute best during these strange circumstances to give your family normality and security. To us, you are a true hero.
There is a fantastic helpline for parents from YoungMinds – call 0808 802 5544 for parental advice about your child’s mental health.
Check out our page Stay Home Stay Well, dedicated to mental health tips for coping during the COVID-19 lockdown.
If you are struggling to cope, text HECTOR to 85258 for free 24/7 support to help you through a mental health crisis moment.