The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has brought many new and unexpected challenges to children’s mental health and wellbeing. As a result, it is more important than ever that we support children’s mental health.
The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns may impact on children’s mental health in many different ways and children may be experiencing increased anxiety, behavioural problems, or increased conflict at home. The disruption to a routine may be stressful for children, and they may be bored, lonely or confused.
This page will provide some information and strategies to support you and your child/ren with their mental health and wellbeing.
What is wellbeing?
- Wellbeing involves your body and mind
- Wellbeing is about living in a healthy way that is positive for you and those around you
The NHS have relaunched the 5 ways to wellbeing to improve mental health. It has actually been around since 2008 and was researched and developed by the New Economics Foundation; providing evidence to suggest that these 5 ways to well-being improve mental health and happiness.
Please have a look at the website below for more useful information:
How do I try to stay mentally and physically healthy?
Here are some suggestions which may help families to stay fit and healthy
Royal Society of Psychiatrists inform us that it is important to try and create a routine for yourself while you’re at home and stick to it as much as you can. Your routine should be different for weekdays and weekends, and could include things like school or study time, exercise, catching up with friends, or doing other things you like such as art or watching TV. Setting a daily routine can help give structure and balance to your day.
Focus on activities you enjoy:
Focus on doing activities that you enjoy and make you feel calm, making sure you fit some of those into your daily routine. Find a relaxing activity, like yoga, mindfulness, meditation, listening to music or art. You might even want to think about learning something new – there are lots of opportunities online for learning new things.
Take care of yourself :
Try and eat a balanced diet, stick to a regular sleep pattern (getting up and going to sleep at the same time each day), and get some regular exercise, including going out once a day for fresh air.
Keep in touch with friends and family :
Make sure you keep in touch regularly with friends and family, through messaging, video calls or phone calls. You can be creative with others by doing things like quizzes, cooking or artwork at the same time, even if you’re not with them in person.
This is a good way to catch up with people you might not see as much, and to reach out to those you think might be feeling lonely or who live on their own, like grandparents or older neighbours.
Use social media positively:
Social media can be a great way of keeping in touch during the COVID-19 pandemic, but if you are finding that some of what you are seeing or reading is getting you down, then you may need to change what you are doing. Find sites and online communities that make you feel better and share your interests.
Get support :
You may need more emotional support during this time. Many people are worrying about their friends and families, particularly when they can’t be near them. Keep in touch with people you are close to and let them know if you are worried or feeling down.
If you child is feeling anxious, they may show some of the following symptoms:
- headaches and stomach aches or just feeling unwell
- dizziness/faintness/palpitations/ breathlessness/sweating
- not sleeping
- not eating properly
- being clingy/feeling panicky/tearful
- seeming to be worried or anxious and needing lots of reassurance
- feeling down or depressed
- having difficulty concentrating
- wanting things to be perfect and getting frustrated if they are not
- lashing out at others
- hyper-alertness and difficulty keeping still
The following tips may also help children cope with worries:
- Try working together to test out fears gradually – setting small, specific goals (for example, walking to the classroom door with their teacher, then with a friend instead).
- Stay calm, supportive and practical. Try not to get drawn into your child’s emotions. Praise and reward small (and big) successes when a child faces their fears. It can help them if you remain positive and encouraging, without forcing them into anything. Meditation or relaxation activities can support your child to unwind. There are a number of apps you might want to explore or, if you prefer, there are six different relaxations on the website.
- Focus on what helps. Instead of trying to reassure a child that nothing bad will happen, focus on what helped them cope when they faced a similar situation. Help a child think through what they have learned about their fears and about themselves. Did their worry come true? Did they cope?
If your child is worried or anxious you may wish to help them to calm those uncomfortable feelings by using 5-star breathing. Breathing slowly in and out deeply and rhythmically has been shown to reduce stress.
They will get the most benefit if you do it regularly as part of their daily routine. Find somewhere they can just concentrate on their breathing. They can do it standing up, sitting in a chair that supports their back or lying on a bed or yoga mat on the floor.
If they’re lying down, they should place their arms a little bit away from their side with the palms up, legs can be straight or bend their knees so their feet are flat on the floor.
If they are sitting, place their arms on the chair arms if possible. Both feet should be flat on the ground and roughly hip-width apart. Make sure they are sitting comfortably, if possible loosen any tight clothing before you start.
Draw a five-point star on a piece of paper, help your child to use their finger to trace around it whilst concentrating on their breathing as per the following:
Start by breathing in slowly and deeply through the nose tracing the line to the top of the first point on the star, then hold your breath for a count of three, then breathe out gently to the count of three tracing back down to the bottom, hold your breath for three, then back up to the next point. Repeat until your finger has traced all the way around the star back to your starting point.
Discuss calming strategies with your child and decide which ones they think will help them to calm down when they are feeling anxious. We are all different and no one idea will appeal to everyone:
The 3,2,1 mindfulness exercise
Ask your child to sit comfortably and then ask them to concentrate and say three things they can see, then three things they can hear and then three things they can feel. Then two things they can see, hear and feel and then one thing they can see, hear, and feel.
Tensing and relaxing muscles
Ask your child to sit comfortably, then to tense and relax their muscles from their head down starting with their face. See who can make the silliest face. Then tense and relax their shoulders, then put their arms out straight in front of them, clench their fists and tense their arms, then relax them. Check arms by lifting the wrist a couple of inches and seeing if it falls back down. Demonstrate this yourself if necessary. Then move on to tensing and relaxing bottoms, legs and feet.
If you have time, take some exercise, either in the playground or if at home go for a walk with your child, run or discuss joining a local sport club (football, netball)
Green spaces – woods, fields, etc. can have a calming effect on our bodies.
Hide behind an imaginary shield of positive images
Draw a shield, divide it into four, and then ask your child to draw four things they are proud of, good at or that mean a lot to them; think of a motto to go on their shield. Children can think of this shield when they first begin to feel worried to remind them of how brave they are.
Stress balls can be useful if combined with breathing in and out slowly whilst squeezing and releasing the ball.
Useful resources for children, parents and carers: