Coronavirus crisis: advice and guidance for children from mental health awareness campaign It’s OK To Say

PUBLISHED: 06:00 23 April 2020

It's OK To Say artwork by Helena Mackevych.

It's OK To Say artwork by Helena Mackevych.

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Are your children experiencing anxiety during the coronavirus lockdown? Expert Stacey Turner, founder of mental health awareness charity It’s OK To Say, offers some practical advice to help parents manage their youngsters’ trauma...

It’s helpful to find a way for your child to non-verbally express their worries. Children cannot always verbalise or feel comfortable doing so, yet it’s important to find a way to lift the worry out and into something else.

You might want to cut out our anxiety teddy and it into glue on a book for writing in or a box for popping the worry in? With your child’s permission, it becomes a worry to discuss and create solutions together or the worry simply goes away after being acknowledged. Reflecting over the week’s worries might also prove helpful?

Children need order and control too, so it is helpful to distinguish between avoidable and unavoidable losses, and making sense of these. Encourage them to talk about how it’s OK to feel what they feel and about living with the unavoidable losses by leading by example. Turn the avoidable ones into something amazing for you all for now and in the future.

It’s OK To Say’s clinical psychologist Dr Rebecca Adlington has pinpointed some essential advice.

Establish a good routine

While it might seem boring, and somewhat unnecessary while we are on lockdown, it can be really helpful to ensure that you keep your children to some sort of routine while schools are closed. Not only will this help them to cope with the transition back into school when this does eventually happen, it also has lots of benefits for their emotional and physical wellbeing in the here and now.

In these unpredictable times, having a stable routine provides a level of predictability and containment that helps your child to know what to expect. This can mean less anxiety, but also fewer anger outbursts also as they get a clearer idea of what is expected of them and what is to come next.

Having regular times for meals and snacks will help avoid ‘hangry’ periods, while having a good bedtime routine will ensure that your child is well-rested and has the energy and emotional resources needed to cope with what each day brings.

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Whatever routine you put in place, allow for some flexibility and choice to give your child some sense of control as this is something they may feel like they have lost. This could be around choice of snack or what activities they do each day

Again, you will know your child and how much support they will need to make a choice, for younger children it might be about giving a couple of options for them to select from, while older children may be able to choose from a greater variety of options. 

Create spaces to talk about worry

It doesn’t matter how young or old your child is, even the smallest child has very big inquisitive ears. That means that even if you are choosing not to let them see media coverage of coronavirus, they will still know something is going on and will likely have lots of questions.

As such, it’s important to let your child know that they can talk to you about what is happening and their fears at this time. This doesn’t mean you need to have all the answers, though there are some really helpful resources now available for talking about the pandemic with children of various ages which you might find useful.

The most important thing you can do is acknowledge their fears, worries, and frustrations and really show that you are paying attention to them. Let your child know it’s understandable that they might have concerns and reassure them that this situation will pass.

Talk about the worry, but also make time to notice the positives

If you are aware that your child is struggling with worry, this can very quickly become the focus of all conversations. While it is important to make space to talk about your child’s concerns, it’s important not to become fixated on them, and to try to find some balance.

Make time also to reflect on the more positives aspects of this situation; the fun things you might be doing each day, what you and your children are grateful for, how proud you are of how well they might be handling the situation etc. Where conversations switch to what your child wishes they could be doing, write them down and make a list or put ideas in a jar for what they can do when lockdown is over.

Find the children’s anxiety pulse button with further support at www.itsoktosay.org.uk


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