Looking after your children’s wellbeing through lockdown 2.0
The nights have drawn in, Halloween and Bonfire Night have been cancelled and now we’re in another lockdown. The novelty of the first lockdown has definitely worn off. The warm weather of Spring and time spent outside in the sun made the first lockdown more manageable. But the prospect of a lockdown Christmas is enough to have the most optimistic of us reaching to pull the duvet over our heads and refuse to get out of bed. You might, like many people across the country, be feeling thoroughly fed up.
It’s not just adults who are feeling this way – our children are experiencing it too. With less daylight hours, children are playing outside less now. There’s no grandparents’ visits, playdates, sleepovers and birthday parties now. Our children’s happiness, confidence and wellbeing are being knocked by this terrible pandemic.
Children are resilient in many ways – they get used to new routines and accept disappointing but necessary rules to keep them safe. They can be fabulously adaptable and flexible. But this wonderful resilience doesn’t mean they’re not suffering all the same. They may be feeling sad, disappointed and just as fed up as we adults are. The good news is we can help our children to get through these tough times by having a pro-active approach. By recognising that it is going to be hard and planning for it, we can give our kids, and ourselves, a good chance to get through the lockdown together.
Here are some ideas:
1. Watch out for the signs of stress/anxiety – tell tale signs of emotional distress in children is a change in behaviour e.g. usually talkative children being quiet, confident children becoming clingy or perhaps your child has started to burst into tears over nothing. The NHS website has some great advice about children’s stress and anxiety. If your child wants to talk make sure you are Active Listening. Often, we’re busy and our kids don’t always pick the best moment to open up to us. It’s all to easy to seem to be listening, but to not be really engaged. Children are very good at spotting this and if it happens often enough, they stop trying to talk to us. Make sure you’re giving your child you full attention – make eye contact, show in your body language that you’re listening by nodding as they talk and ask questions to find out more.
2. Encourage a new hobby/interest – being stuck indoors is the perfect time to learn something new with your child. Getting stuck into something together is bonding, stimulating to the mind and good for your mental health. You could learn a new language together using a free app. Youtube is an amazing source or instructional videos – we’ve tried crocheting and yoga so far. I’ve bought my son a wood whittling kit from Amazon which has been a big hit. It’s a double hitter – it gets him out of the house for walks in the wood looking for sticks then keeps him off the Playstation for a few hours when we get home. KiwiCo is a great idea – they are a subscription service sending out monthly crates of projects for children from 0-16. You can choose art, craft, science or engineering boxes.
3. Get outside – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, nature and the outdoors is a great healer for mental health. Studies have proven the positive effect on human health – both physical and mental – of breathing in the fresh air in the woods and countryside. Autumn and Winter are my favourite times of year to get outside. I love the Autumn colours, noticing the robins and wintery beach walks. If you notice your child has a low mood, is lethargic or has been glued to a screen all day, get togged up and get outside for an hour. Even if it has to be with the lure of a hot chocolate when you get back home – you can’t beat the feeling of coming back into a warm house from a freezing walk to marshmallow-topped cocoa.
4. Embrace Hygge! – I’m always sceptical of fads but I will admit to being a Hygge convert in recent years. I know that going full-Hygge is going to get me and my family through these dark, dismal months. The Danish concept of Hygge is about embracing all things cosy for the feeling of wellbeing they bring. That means blankets, slippers, comfy big jumpers, hot drinks, tasty treats and snuggling up on the sofa to watch movies together. I have already broken out the Christmas films but hey, it’s national emergency, needs must. (I’ll also admit to having bought matching pyjamas and matching mugs for when things get really desperate.)
5. Read together – I wouldn’t be much of a teacher if I didn’t promote the joy of reading. My son is not much of a reader anymore. He’s thirteen and hasn’t picked up a book, voluntarily, in a year. But he will still cuddle up and let me read to him. Last winter we read Northern Lights as we were watching the TV version, His Dark Materials, on BBC 1. The next series has just started so we’re embarking on the second book now. Losing yourself in a good book, entering another world that is far from the one we’re in right now, is a great way to uplift your child’s spirits. Often, the chat that follows reading a story together, can provide you with opportunities to talk about what may be on your child’s mind, as they use the story-world to help them deal with their own feelings.
So, hopefully we’ll be out of lockdown in a few weeks and looking forward to Christmas. In the meantime, try to see the light at the end of tunnel and plan some activities for the nights and weekends ahead that will keep your spirits up.