News about Coronavirus is difficult to avoid at this time and whether your child is being home-schooled or one of only a few going into the school setting, they will be facing new and different challenges.
As a result, parents and carers may have noticed some changes in their child's behaviour:
increased anxiety and depression
increased sense of loss and fear (e.g. about going out for exercise, or uncertainty about what might happen when they go back to school)
increased mood swings or children becoming more emotional
children and young people finding it difficult to sleep or having nightmares
All of these feelings and emotions are valid and parents may require some support in helping their child work through their worries.
My child is tearful and anxious - how can I help?
Parents and carers can talk to their children in an honest and calm way about what is happening in the world without overloading them with too much detail.
Children look to the adults in their life for comfort when they are worried and they take their lead about how to view things from them.
You are not expected to have all the answers, but your child will be reassured to know that they can come to you and that you will listen.
Talking to them early about their worries means their anxieties don’t build-up and feel ‘too big’ to deal with.
What can I say to start the conversation?
You can ask your child what they know about Coronavirus, if their friends have talked about it or if they have any questions.
You know your child best – you know the signs to look out for that they are in the mood to talk or not.
Your child will let you know when they have had enough information and so you can be guided by them and limit the amount of detail you give them.
Let them know it’s okay to feel scared or worried and reassure them that this will pass.
Talk about some practical things you can all do such as washing hands properly and when to do this.
Share information coming from schools about what to expect when they arrive at school for their first day - what things will look different, what will be the same and reassure them that things will eventually get back to normal.
Practical things to read and do
Take a look at our Support for Families page for practical tips on how to encourage your child to communicate their feelings, especially during lockdowns.
No matter how old your child or young person, we all like to have a routine to keep us feeling safe and secure; it is useful to try to maintain this during this period.
Being distracted can give your child a rest from worries – do something positive with your child – a puzzle, some painting, cooking or reading.
There's a great website full of interactive resources called Storicise from the Department of Health and Social Care which will help parents and teachers of primary and secondary children to tackle questions - and answers - about all aspects of coronavirus.
Some activities to try
is important for a child to learn to express their thoughts and feelings, as
this promotes their emotional health and paves the way towards emotional literacy
and well-being as they mature.
It is often easier to start a conversation while doing something else and so the following activities have been designed by some of our professional team to help parents to talk to their child whilst enjoying each other’s company and having
This Feelings Scavenger Hunt is designed to help you and your child spend time together. It encourages your child to share their thoughts and is an important way of sharing memories as they gather various things from around the house.
The Dice Game is a simple way to chat about feelings, hopes and dreams.
Have fun with the Lego Challenge game - great for children who enjoy construction activities, this is a good project to come back to.
These Fortune Tellers are always popular with children. The first one will help your child with strategies to calm themselves if they are feeling anxious or worried while the second helps your child build their self-confidence.
Our Conversation Cards can be used to start conversations to take your child's mind off a worry or re-focus after an anxious moment.
These further activities allow you to talk to your child about things that are worrying them: Bottled Up Feelings
You could also try working through the Time Capsule resource which has been made available for families to do together and allows your child to record their feelings and the things they are doing during the lockdown period.
If you are finding your children are often arguing and fighting together, this link to Sibling Activitiesfrom Playtivities offers some ideas on how to strengthen sibling relationships, helping children play together with the aim of building a more positive relationship with each other, based on happier, more positive interactions.
How can I support my teenager?
Older children may have already read or seen a lot of information on social media or on-line and as a result, may be feeling overwhelmed.
It’s helpful to encourage them to acknowledge that they are finding things difficult and to reassure them that you understand how they are feeling.
Our young people need to realise that this is an exceptional time and that they should not judge themselves for any negative thoughts and feelings they may be experiencing.
Feeling connected is so important for young people and allows them to feel that they belong. Physical distancing and lockdown mean this need to ‘belong’ is not being met and can lead to feelings of doubt about ourselves and our relationships: we can tell them that it’s okay to feel this way and that these feelings will pass.
During times of stress, we tend to revert to coping mechanisms which may not be particularly healthy or useful: that is normal.
However, we can remind our young people that it’s good to be brave and acknowledge to others that we are feeling sad, alone, isolated or anxious. By putting into words how we are feeling, we allow ourselves to connect.
Having structure and familiar patterns in our life allow us to feel safe and know that our needs are being met. Without structure, we can feel lost and as a result, down or depressed. Young people need to be reassured that this is a moment in time which will pass and that they will be more resilient and better able to cope as a result.