Nurturing Our Children's Mental Health During Lockdown

It may not be easy to nurture our children’s mental health alongside our own during lockdown, but we are not alone in our efforts to try.

Our daily lives have changed beyond all recognition. It’s natural to want to feel in control, but the reality is an inevitable ‘fight or flight’ response. It is difficult not to be hyperaware that there is something for us to fear. Our children fear it too.

Nurturing our children’s mental health need not be yet another worry on our ‘to do’ lists though. It is easy to overthink at the moment, but our children will, in this time of crisis, do as they always do. They’ll take their lead from us, their parents. It’s easy to focus on what we’ve lost, on what we lack, but the elements of our day-to-day lives which remain constant will future-proof our children’s mental health (not to mention our own).

Our world is still our world…

We can… focus on all of the things that have stayed the same. The sun in the sky, a moonlit night, legs that carry us outside (if we are lucky) and the beauty, variety and comfort we can find in nature (a buzzy bee collecting her pollen, a shy woodlouse discovered under a log, a furry cuddle with a pet). These are touchstones in a world which feels like it has shifted on its axis.

It’s human nature to want to belong…

We can… remind our children that they continue to have a place in a world which needs them as much as ever. They can leave wildflowers on neighbours’ doorsteps, embark on fundraising challenges for charities close to their hearts (sponsored silence, anyone?), create window displays thanking our postmen, delivery drivers and refuse collectors. We can help them to practise kindness by experiencing what being kind feels like. They can know what it is to be useful, by helping us sweep the floor while we are cleaning the kitchen or peel potatoes whilst preparing dinner together. We can remind them that they are a part of something bigger, that they have the power to make contributions which make a difference to others, for which they may be thanked.

Learning is good for us…

We can… make concrete learning (there are already plenty of ‘soft’ skills being learned) easier by giving a structure or rhythm to our children’s days. That said, we do also need to stand ready to change our plans on the days when these just aren’t working (I know that this is so much easier said than done, I do). School-educated children are used to learning in collaborative, interactive environments and are generally unaccustomed to extended periods of independent learning without the benefit of feedback. With technology, we can connect our children with their classmates, perhaps support them to join forces on a school project. We can offer them assistance ourselves or find them the support that they need. We can make each day a little different and we can balance a BBC Bitesize SPaG lesson with the promise of climbing a tree, a bedroom picnic, a crazy hairstyle, a keepie-uppie contest.

We need levity right now…

We can… show that we love our children’s company (whether or not they love learning fractions with us), by having a lounge sleepover as a family, some one-to-one time (this is undeniably harder to manage for single parents), spent playing a board game or challenging them to an X-box battle. We can show interest in their interests, invite them to take us on a tour of their favourite YouTube Kids videos, record them singing their favourite song on our ever-present smartphones, or help them to move the furniture around in their bedrooms for a literal change of scene.

We are made to move…

We can… demonstrate how important it is to stay active, walk every day if we can, even on our own if (when) youngsters opt out of joining family outings (they inevitably will). We can let our children see us taking opportunities to try out new skills, from a Strictly dance routine to a Joe Wicks workout or a Gareth Malone singalong. We can lead by example and show them it doesn’t matter if we ‘fail’, building growth mindset in baby steps. By literally walking our walk, our children will understand how important physical activity is.

We crave connection…

We can… connect our young people with their friends with good old-fashioned letter writing, a collaborative quiz, a virtual playdate if we have the technology. We can be alongside them in our daily routines. Giving children our presence is powerful, whether or not logistics dictate that this needs to happen at weekends. Preferred go-to activities for each family will vary for each household, but ring-fencing time for our kids to bake with us (however successful), to share a book or a movie (however repetitive) or to belt out their favourite hit together in a family karaoke session (however ear-splitting) are easy wins. They will provide the reassurance that our young people need in these strange, strange times, a sure sense that they matter, that they do still have everything they need, and that they need never be in doubt.

We need to hear, “It’s going to be OK.”

We can reassure our youngsters (and ourselves) that we do still have some control. We can take care of ourselves and others by practising social distancing, we can wash our hands, learn not to touch our faces. We can allow our children to call the shots; they might like to choose tonight’s dinner or Sunday’s family movie. We can protect them from constant radio and television newsfeeds. We can offer them the comfort that this time is not forever, that they are allowed to feel overwhelmed, that all feelings, positive or (so-called) negative, are normal, are OK. Especially now.

It may not be easy to nurture our children’s mental health alongside our own during lockdown, but we are not alone in our efforts to try. While our world turns upside down, we can provide our children with the safe harbour that they need until it rights itself again. We may not get it right every day and we may be challenged, but we can.

If you would like to learn more about how our virtual classroom, educational resources and tailored tuition could help with your children’s education, please call 01924 829477.

Stay well, stay connected, stay informed, Siobhan.

#children #homeschooling #parenting #family #mentalhealth

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