Our children are fascinating little beings. Their ability to adapt, create, imagine, and discover never ceases to amaze us, not to mention their abundance of energy!
From the rainbow drawings displayed in windows to the overnight switch to online learning, our children’s resilience during Covid-19 has been nothing short of inspirational. And although recent times have proven challenging for everyone, we mustn’t forget how it must feel for a child to suddenly be told to “put a halt to hugs”, or that “fist bumps are forbidden”. Having been forced to change their normal methods of socialisation due to Covid-19 restrictions, it is important that parents provide children with the social support they may be missing or may now require. The following article provides parents with recommendations for alternative methods of communication with children, how to manage the use of technology, and information on the importance of open dialogue. Alternative Methods of Communicating with your Child Remember that communication doesn’t always have to be face-to-face. A ‘feelings box’ is a great way to encourage your child to nonverbally communicate their feelings. You and your child can both put your feelings in the box and then talk about them at the end of the day. For younger children, play is a great way to help them to express their worries or provide a good distraction when they’re upset. Being unable to socialise with their friends means that they are missing out on this vital opportunity to play. Make sure you set aside time to play together and have fun. You might even enjoy it more than your child! How to Manage Use of Technology During Covid-19 With most socialisation moving online, it is important to have conversations with your child on how an increase in screen-time can have a negative impact on mental health and self-esteem. It’s good to let your child know that if social media is making them feel nervous, unhappy or stressed, these are normal responses to an abnormal situation. Finding the balance between encouraging your child to socialise and limiting their screen-time can be difficult these days. Talk together and discuss how you can manage your screen-time as a family. Try to encourage “tech-free” downtime, such as reading books, artwork, cooking/baking, Lego, playing sports, experiments, or going for walks in order to save screen-time for your child’s socialisation with friends and family. The benefits of alleviating anxiety by staying connected cannot be underestimated. The Importance of Open Dialogue Open dialogue involves openly discussing your child’s thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and experiences in a safe and caring environment. By means of open dialogue, a parent can gauge their child’s mood, understand their world, and appreciate the pressures they experience. As a result, the child feels comfortable opening up to their parents and has a sense of security and belonging. This supportive framework facilitates the child’s ability to cope with the world around them. With World Suicide Prevention Day taking place on September 10th, we must remember the importance of communicating openly from a young age. The right timing and the state of the child greatly influence the success of the dialogue. Try to find a convenient time and create a positive atmosphere. Encourage your children to read advice and information that is tailored to them. Childline have advice on coronavirus and lots of tools to alleviate anxiety and a ‘Calm Zone’ that provides a unique space for children and young people filled with breathing exercises, activities, games, and videos to help reduce stress. (See the links in the reference list to access Childline and Calm Zone). References: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-supporting-children-and-young-peoples-mental-health-and-wellbeing/guidance-for-parents-and-carers-on-supporting-children-and-young-peoples-mental-health-and-wellbeing-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak https://www.nspcc.org.uk/keeping-children-safe/childrens-mental-health/depression-anxiety-mental-health/ https://www.netivei-reshet.org/en/node/89 https://www.childline.org.uk/info-advice/your-feelings/anxiety-stress-panic/worries-about-the-world/coronavirus/ https://www.childline.org.uk/toolbox/calm-zone/ Article contributed by Louise Nixon, Assistant Psychologist and MSc Candidate in Health & Social Psychology