Ten ways to improve your child's wellbeing during times of crisis

This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is from May 18 with the theme being kindness.

At this time, when our worlds have been turned upside down, acts of kindness are so important.

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Former primary school teacher Catherine Lynch, of education resource experts PlanBee, has ten tips to help parents boost the mental health of their children.

She advises parents and carers to ...

1 Create a nurturing environment where everyone feels valued and safe

Even during lockdown, we need connection with others. The skill of developing and maintaining connections is learned.  You can help with this by working as a team, sharing responsibilities and making sure all efforts are appreciated.

2 Adjust your expectations

Both adults and children have been affected by current changes. We all have something called a window of tolerance. If your window is smaller than usual at present, go easy on yourself. Allow yourselves to be less productive than normal, and have time to process what you are feeling.

3 Allow everyone to have a voice

It is totally normal to hold on tightly to things we can control. Whether your child breaks down over the ‘wrong’ colour socks or something else, see what practical choices can help them feel they have some control. If transitions are hard for your child, focus on when the current activity ends. Give them time warnings or a timer if they are old enough, and again give them choices. For example, ‘When this TV show ends you need to do some school work. Will you do it at the kitchen table, in your room or somewhere else?’

4 Be playful and have fun

Play fosters creativity, collaboration and problem solving, all of which are important. Playing is a fantastic way to develop relationships and resilience. It also releases feel-good hormones. Children often explore areas they find challenging through play.

5 Create an atmosphere where all feelings are allowed

Name feelings and emotions as they arise. This gives children and adults a language to describe how they are feeling.Set aside a calm time to talk about feelings, you could show your children Emoticon Emotions Cards and ask them to pick one to explore. Talk about the physical sensations the emotion has. Put boundaries in place around behaviours to keep everyone safe and develop strategies to help reinforce these. For example, you are allowed to feel happy, angry or sad, but you are not allowed to break things or hit.

6 Read stories together

Spend time together, act out stories and make up your own narratives. Use your imagination or add props. Let books take you where you cannot physically go.

7. Keep some level of structure in the day

Use activities to break up time and bring some structure. For example, agree times that you will come together as a family. Agree a time that is for quiet activities, work, going outdoors.

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8. Take learning outside

Go on ‘I spy challenge walks’, notice how exercise changes the heart rate, explore shadows, find mini-beasts, identify plants and birds. The list is endless.

9. Give your child a safe space they can go to

Being at home together all the time can be quite intense. Create a den or similar for your child to play in, and retreat to when they want to be alone.

10. Prioritise family time

Designate time with no screens and no distractions. Work on something together. This might be den building, cooking, painting, or a walk. Focus on being together.

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