Five practical ways to help boost your child's mental health in lockdown
THERE'S no denying the lockdown is having an impact on mental health. As adults, we can try and address that as best we can – but what about children?
A poll of 2,007 adults, who spoke to children's media company Azoomee (azoomee.com), which builds educational games and apps, recently found that 43 per cent of parents are seriously concerned that their children's emotional wellbeing is being negatively impacted by the disruption the crisis is causing. Meanwhile, just under 60 per cent of those polled confessed their kids are not adapting well to the situation.
"While there are positives to this situation, the reality is that kids' and parents' mental health is going to be impacted. It is absolutely crucial that families are supported as much as possible during this period," says Douglas Lloyd, CEO of Azoomee.
If you're worried, it might feel like a hopeless situation. But here's what you can do to help them cope...
1. Try and keep some structure to the day
Kids and young people are used to a routine, and it'll help you focus, too. "Try to structure the day with timetabled online school work as well as space for having fun, relaxing and getting some fresh air and exercising," says Dr Jon Goldin, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist at Great Ormond Street Hospital.
You could try a timetable on the wall, mapping out what times you'll do things so you don't forget to take a break, eat a snack, or just have a moment together.
2. Pause – together
Talking of 'together moments', they need to be a big part of that timetable. "Make time for one-on-one time with your child or children, even if it's just for 20 minutes or so," says Goldin.
"Ask your child what they would like to do and if it's not compatible with the physical distancing rule, it's a chance to talk to them about this. Avoid excessive news coverage and try to do something fun and relaxing every day."
That could be building a den, messy play, singing, or even a walk together. Just try to avoid TV time, and keep away from the news and social media. Just you, together.
3. Get scribbling – you can join in
Put the pens, pencils and crayons in your home to good use with some word and art 'therapy'.
"Encourage them to draw and write about their feelings," advises psychologist Dr Martina Paglia, founder of The International Psychology Clinic (theinternationalpsychologyclinic.com).
"Drawing and writing about feelings can help your child understand more about themselves and in turn, can help you support them at this time of crisis."
4. Give their worries airtime
"Make space to answer their questions about what is happening and answer honestly and openly. Be reassuring while at the same time validating understandable feelings of anxiety," adds Goldin.
Telling them it'll all be OK is one thing, but it's also fine to listen to their worries and, depending on their age, be honest about the situation.
"Ask them if they have any specific questions about Covid-19. Remember you do not need to have all the answers; however, talking through the issues help children feel contained," says Paglia.
5. Seek professional help
If you're really worried, it might be time to seek out a child psychologist to speak to, advises Paglia.
"The coronavirus has taken the world by storm, affecting the lives of many children and young people. For some children and young people, [dealing with the pandemic] may also worsen symptoms of preexisting mental health conditions," she says.
"A child psychologist can help you by designing a plan to maintain your child's mental health, tailored to your child's needs."