Children’s behaviour can change at different stages in their life. Sometimes this is normal development, or it can be a sign of mental health. The last year has been a year of uncertainty and bad news, especially if you’re a parent. And 2021 has put us straight into another lockdown, so it’s normal and entirely understandable that many of us are struggling. Your child may be finding things overwhelming, confusing, frustrating, and they may be worried about hearing the continuous bad news.
Expert child counsellor, Nicole Henry gives us her advice and tips on how best to recognise and look after your child’s mental health and wellbeing. If you’re struggling, you are not alone.
Recognising Signs That A Child Is Struggling In Lockdown
It is normal behaviour to change behaviours at different stages of life. However It would lean more towards mental health when behaviours are not following the standard developmental outline. Children pick up habits and will go through phases just like adults. When behaviours remain in one state for a long time, parents should start to assess if the child requires support. Signs can vary as all children respond to things differently but common signs are;
Isolation – Some children will just want to be alone, sheltered away from the family as they process their thoughts and feelings.
Loss of appetite – Eating one meal a day, or choosing to snack on sugary foods for the sake of comfort.
Extreme mood changes – They may be happy one day and really sensitive or frustrated the next.
These signs will vary depending on the age of the child. Younger children will display signs quite directly as they are not at the age where they can take full control of their emotions.
Approaching A Child Struggling Emotionally
It is important to create a safe space for your children to communicate their feelings. Due to the lockdown children’s safe space may have felt invaded as they are in this atmosphere all the time. Recreating that safe space will help to remind them why it’s there safe space, then it gives room for them to speak about their struggles. Recreate the safe space by cooking together, playing games and/ or listening to music. It is important to change the atmosphere in the home to remind them why they like their home.
Listen to what your child has to say. Listen with an empathetic ear, ready to support and comfort.
For those that struggle to speak, I would encourage them to journal. Journaling allows you to write with no interruptions as well as having no limits on what they can say.
Encourage your children to get some fresh air daily, take a stroll round the park or in your neighbourhood. A change of scenery will help to refocus the children’s minds.
Suggest speaking with a professional that can support them through at this time.
How Can Parents Help Address Concerns Regarding Homeschooling
Many children are finding homeschooling difficult to adjust to from being in their normal educational environment. So it is important to firstly have a discussion to understand what they are finding difficult then work with them to come up with a solution.
Ask questions like: What did you like about school that you miss? How can we incorporate what you like in the home? What are you finding challenging with homeschooling?
For some they may miss the routine of getting up, getting dressed then walking/ taking a bus to school. I would encourage you to return to those routines with the exception of travelling to school. This may help them to focus their minds and be present. When finding a solution to their difficulties come up with a few options for them to choose the most suitable plan going forward for them. Review this after one/two weeks, this shows you are concerned and have an interest in wanting them to feel better.
Recommendations On Ways To Speak To Children About Corona and Lockdown
I would encourage speaking to your child at the level of their understanding. You know your child. You will know what they are capable of understanding. Parents should know and understand that when children attend school the virus will be a topic of discussion so they will share knowledge and their own understanding with each other. In saying this, I say its really important to be honest about it, you are not trying to scare but to educate them. I am aware some parents have changed the word ‘virus’ to ‘germs’ to make it child friendly. Other parents have explained there is a virus, but changed the focus to be more about hygiene, ie. no hands in your mouth, making sure the children wash their hands frequently.
It is also beneficial for parents to find ways to connect that may be helpful for their children’s mental health. This could be to join a community with other parents to talk about their challenges of life in lockdown with children. They can also join a community called Tea & Talk, this community is for parents and carers to share thoughts/ experience and ask questions. Counsellors and other parents are there to support you throughout.
https://www.teaoftherapy.com/tea-talk or join Tea & Talk on clubhouse every Tuesday at 9 pm for weekly topic discussions.
DISCLAIMER: We endeavour to always credit the correct original source of every image we use. If you think a credit may be incorrect, please contact us at: email@example.com