We all know that change and panic can make children more anxious than they would normally be and at this uniquely difficult time for the whole country it can be easy to forget the impact that this maybe having on our children and young people.
Add to this the decision to close schools, nurseries and childminders, the cancellation of exams and the uncertainty of when they might go back to school and/or see their friends again which may create additional concern.
For many Friday 20th will have become their last ever day at school with very little notice. They will effectively be grieving for the loss of their friends, routines, familiar space, and the chance to complete much anticipated exams, and this can cause a great deal of upset.
Many of those who were due to complete exams will be angry, feel they have wasted time studying, will be anxious about how the grades will be decided and worried about their future. Remember they have been building up to this moment for as long as 5 years and most will not be emotionally ready for this to be taken from them. The end of school rituals, parties and proms are unlikely to take place this year and therefore they have also lost out on this too. This may be very challenging for some of them to deal with, particularly if they have already been suffering from stress or anxiety.
With everything else that is happening it would be easy to think that this is a minor issue and as already stressed out parents to not be as receptive as we should be to their concerns. Please if your child or young person feels like this, try and do the following;
- Take the time to listen to them, hard as it is to concentrate on anything other than the news, try and give your children 15/20 minutes to say what they need to say, and really listen. No phones, tv or other distractions, make them feel they are being heard.
- Validate their feelings, "it is ok to feel like that" "I am not surprised you are upset" etc. Please don't try and dismiss it is as unimportant considering everything else, remember for these children and young people this has been their world for a long time.
- Try and help them create a new routine over the next few weeks, many children will be asked to use virtual apps to study online whilst the schools remain closed. This should be encouraged but be sure to factor in break times, outside exercise if possible and some downtime too.
- Be age appropriate in your discussion of events, smaller children will be confused as to why they cannot attend preschool etc, make sure you are not using language which may frighten them. Older children need to understand the impact of their actions on other people and should be encouraged to stay away from social gatherings of any sort.
- Many parents will feel guilt about having said that "mocks don't matter" earlier in the year. Some children may even be angry with you that you said this, remember they are fine to feel anger, and this is a natural emotion. Calmly explain that this was not a scenario any of us could have forseen and that they will add a natural improvement from mock to final grade as that is what is expected. Try not to feel additional pressure from their frustration.
- Many of us will now be working from home whilst attempting to look after children and this will prove very challenging. Try and coordinate it so that you can work whilst they have some tv or internet time, or if you have a partner at home, work on a rota basis. Try not to let the children see that you are cross or frustrated that they are home as this may cause greater upset and anxiety.
- If it is all too much speak to your employer, they are all aware that these are difficult times and there will be some flexibility to most people.
- Keep an eye on our website and social media channels to see what we are up to and for regular suggestions about how to do different things through the coming weeks.
- Parents do not put too much pressure on yourselves to be everything all the time, there will be lots of things going on and you need to look after yourselves as well as your children. As hard as it is, try and factor in a little time for yourself every day, this will help you to be able to look after everyone else too.
Most importantly listen to all the advice about staying safe and make sure you do as much as possible.