Category Archives: Coronavirus

The Kids are alright, aren’t they?

Parenting in a pandemic!

Home-schooling more Miss Hannigan than Mary Poppins?

More walks and talks and quality time or just too much screentime?!

How has living La Vida Lockdown affected our children and young people? H

ow well did our homes and lives hold up to the school/work/life collide of lockdown and what can we learn from these times, our children and how can we support them better beyond? J

Guest Speakers

Leah and Ricky Boleto Leah and Ricky Boleto are best known for their roles as presenters on BBC Newsround. As well as wrestling with how to share the story of Coronavirus with young people, their experiences of the last 12 months have been life changing. From welcoming a baby girl during a global pandemic, moving house, working from home and even building a BBC studio in their garden shed.

Jon Ford & Jez Belas – Life on Time Passionate about young people’s wellbeing, Jon and Jez are part of the team working on LifeonTime. – a student and teacher wellbeing resource for schools and colleges. Jon is a performance and wellbeing coach and the founder of Life on Time and Become Inspired coaching. A qualified sport and exercise scientist, trained in psychotherapy and hypnotherapy, he has a passion for empowering people with the skills so they can achieve their potential and live healthy, fulfilled and meaningful lives. Jez is a qualified sport and exercise scientist and strength and conditioning coach. He is also the current head of wellbeing at Leighton Park school and a Parkour Fitness.

& me!

Post-Covid: Easing the Transition

As lockdown eases and we commence the road back to our more familiar lives, we have devised a brand new series of talks to support employees successfully through that transition.

Click on the title of each talk for a more detailed outline.

ADULTS

Social Interaction Matters

How to manage mixing again in work and social settings, considering new conscious and unconscious taboos we have created, what should we keep and what should be adjusted.

Success Planning Matters

Use reflection and planning to define how we access our work and each other. Focus on finding the best process to define the ‘new normal’.

Resilience Matters

Defining what resilience is and how to nurture it.

Engagement Matters

Empower and motivate yourself to deliver excellence in work, at home and in life.

Wellbeing Matters

How to have better brain health to maintain a healthier life and care for ourselves in a way that is less reactive and more intentional.

Grief & Loss Matters

A sensitive, supportive and insightful talk about the complexities of grief and the experience of loss through death, separation, trauma, divorce or change.

Inclusion Matters

Challenges, opportunities and practical tips to successfully navigate the transition to a hybrid working model that is fully inclusive.

Anxiety Matters

Anxiety overwhelms our thought processes and lives in the future.  This session will focus on how to stop the spiral from taking us to the dark place. 

CHILDREN

Emotions Matter

How parents can listen with empathy and understanding to enable children to manage and articulate their emotions.

Motivation Matters

How parents can encourage motivation, co-operation, strong self-esteem, confidence and nurture a growth mindset in children of any age.

Normality Matters

Practical tools to set families up for success on the road back to some sense of normality.

Educational Transition Matters

How parents can prepare their children for the transition through various educational stages and manage change in general.

Back to School: What Really Matters.

There is no question that for the vast majority of children, learning online at home alone, has not been as effective as face-to-face interaction with their peers and teachers in the classroom. I can clearly see that the education of my own four children has been adversely affected over the past year. As a former teacher and teacher trainer, I care a lot about education. It’s why 20 years ago, I chose to call my business ‘Educating Matters’.  However, we need to focus on what really matters when children go back to school and it is not the academics.  It needs to begin with a focus on their social and emotional wellbeing.

The experience of children throughout the UK will have varied enormously over the course of the past year and there will have been huge disparity (even based on what I have discerned anecdotally) in the provision by different schools.  I have spoken to tens of thousands of parents about their challenges of homeschooling during the pandemic and they are certainly not based purely on socio-economic factors. For example, if you are a single parent or both you and your partner work full time, you would have simply not been able to support your child’s education and give them the attention you would have ideally liked to.  We’ve all just been trying to do the very best we can to get by can under exceptional circumstances.

It is so important to appreciate that parents and teachers create the voices in their own heads and that narrative will influence their behvaiour and even sub-consciously pass on to the children.  There is so much talk about this ‘Covid generation’ and the need to ‘catch up’ even potentially over the summer holidays.  Kids have missed out on so much, aside from education.  They have barely had any opportunity for social interaction or to engage in all the non-academic activities they enjoyed in and outside of school.

The government have appointed a new education recovery tsar to oversee this ‘catch up’ but I am not sure what are they supposed to be catching up on? If for example, a child had a terrible illness and ends up missing weeks or months of school, of course they need to catch up on the work their peers have been doing.  However, in this situation ALL children have missed school, so that would mean all children are ‘behind’. Behind what exactly?

When kids return to school next week, if they don’t feel comfortable amongst their peers, if they have terrible anxiety, if they remain in ‘fight, flight, freeze mode’ then very little learning will be taking place.  A child’s attitude, mindset and motivation is the key to success in all areas of life.  This is what parents and teachers need to focus their attention on.  Not constant negative talk about how behind they are academically and how much they have lost.

Especially in the earlier years, play is a child’s ‘work’.

Play allows humans to create, improvise, imagine, learn, problem solve, be open and curious.  It’s that lightness of being, curiosity and wonder when totally engaged with no worries or agenda.

Children should not be put under any added pressure to ‘catch up’. They have a whole life ahead of them after Covid and education is very much a marathon not a sprint.  They have the opportunity to learn throughout their lives, not just in school and certainly not just in one year. 

Children have learnt so many valuable things about life over the course of the last year, that no school in the world can teach in the same way.  They have contributed much more to looking after the family home, worked independently and learnt how to manage their time, procrastination and motivating themselves. It has been an opportunity to practice gratitude for simple things and a heightened sense of what is really important, along with emphasising core values such as caring for others.  They have also built up great banks of resilience, learning to deal with disappointments, setbacks and a huge myriad of different emotions. We should be emphasising this aspect to our children and focusing on how much they have grown, learnt and developed in other areas during the course of this challenging year.

Back to School for SEN Children

Here we go again.  Next week our children our heading back to school.  Some are so excited.  Some are…. not so excited.  However, parents of children with special educational needs know that an additional layer of stress comes with starting back to school…the dreaded transition stress. 

For many of our neuro-divergent children, the need for structure and routine is like the need for air.  The world feels hostile most of the time.  They find comfort in predictability.  Covid-19 has robbed the world of this.  We can understand and cope as adults.  But, for our more vulnerable kiddos who are already coping with so much, one more change may feel like too much.

Don’t worry.  There are a few things we can do to ease them into this change.  Monday morning may still be stressful for everyone, but here are a few ways we can let the steam out of the kettle so it can run as smoothly as possible.

Start Talking About the Process Now

Preparation is the key here.  After letting them know that school is going back, slowly bring this into the conversation whenever you can.  Think out loud about the walk to school and whether there might be a shorter way.  Ask what type of after school snacks they might like to have for when they get home.  Wonder and be curious about the art on the walls.  Now is the time to use your ninja parenting skills to make this feel normal.

Start Shifting Routine

Is bedtime about a million hours later than it should be?  Have they been having school in pyjamas?  That’s ok!  We all did what we needed to so we could get work and school done.  Start moving back to school timings and routine now.  Get dressed every morning…even if it is in new pyjamas.  Follow your morning and evening rituals.  Get their internal body clocks and natural rhythms ready for that 7 am start.

Get Them Involved

I don’t know about you, but with 4 kids in my house, the search for school shoes is real right now!  Make a scavenger hunt to get everything ready.  This is as simple as writing down everything down to the last glue stick and making a check list.  They can have a prize at the end.  This gets them thinking about school and feeling prepared.  Plus, they might find that right shoe when you have a pile of lefts!

Get School Involved

Remember that it is in the school’s best interests for things to move smoothly next week.  Does your child have a favourite teacher or staff member?  See if they are able to write an email or make a phone call letting them know how excited they are to be reunited.  If your child is demand avoidant, keep it to the email as the phone call could be overwhelming. 

Be Prepared for Big Feelings

Even those looking forward to returning are going to have big feelings.  They may come out in different ways like refusing to engage with online learning or even picking fights here and there.  Our children have had to manage so much this year.  They will undoubtedly be worried about how long this will last.  Give them space when they need it and don’t take anything personally.    Use your emotion coaching skills to help them find their resources to thrive.  Monday afternoon needs to be a time to decompress.  Expect that they will need this and be prepared with whatever home comforts they need. 

We know that transitions are a place of stress for many families.  If we plan for the stress, we can reduce the impact.  Move with intention and allow the time and space you need to make this as easy on you and your family as possible.

Parents and carers, you have done an amazing job.  Be proud of yourselves and be proud of your children.  We have developed a level of resilience that will serve us all for a lifetime.  Make sure you take time to reflect.  You deserve it.

Top tips for creating a ‘Harmonious Household’ during Lockdown Part 2

For me personally, going into national lockdown doesn’t feel nearly as shocking or difficult as it did the first time round.  At the start of lockdown back in March, I was already very unwell with the virus, all 4 kids were off school, I couldn’t get any supermarket delivery slots, my son’s A levels had been cancelled and elderly people in my community were actually dying. It was an overwhelming, scary, uncertain time.

This time ‘lockdown’ feels much more familiar and we have already made so many adjustments to our normal way of life.  The biggest difference for me as a mother of 4 is that my kids are actually where they are supposed to be: at school and university!

Nevertheless, a dad this week on my group parenting course asked for some top tips on creating a harmonious household during lockdown, so here are my thoughts.

Create boundaries

Take some time to prioritise and be clear with yourself, your family and your work colleagues what your boundaries are. When are your slots for working, being with your children, taking care of the household and time for yourself?  If you don’t create conscious boundaries, all your various responsibilities merge together and you may feel like you aren’t doing anything properly.

Use ‘Emotion Coaching’

If you don’t know what this is, there are lots of blogs about it on my website.  We will all be experiencing a huge wave of different emotions. For your children, partners, wider family, friends and even work colleagues, the best way to listen is to empathise. Especially with children, all they really want from their parents is to feel heard and understood.

Drop the guilt

Feeling guilty is a huge waste of energy.  If the house is a mess, the sheets aren’t ironed, your children are spending too long on screens, remember we are living through a global pandemic.  These are not normal times. We are striving for ‘good enough’ not perfect.

Communication / Solution Time

We can all feel like we are going a bit stir crazy spending so much time together at home, especially now that it’s Winter. When something is bothering you about your partner or child, set aside time to talk it through.  Explain how you feel with ‘I statements’ not ‘you statements’ and talk through possible solutions together, without blame or criticism.

Focus on the positive

‘Descriptive Praise’ is the most powerful motivator I know.  Rather than constantly telling your children what they have done wrong, take the time to acknowledge and appreciate even the smallest things your child or partner does well. The magic ratio is 5 positive comments for every negative.  This positive mindset truly has the power to change the whole atmosphere in your home.

Division of labour

Mothers in particular can feel a lot of resentment building when everyone is at home and they are bearing the brunt of childcare, cooking, cleaning etc.  Sit down with your family, work out what needs to be done and how you can share the load.  Ask yourself  “What am I currently doing for my child that they could learn to be doing for themselves?”  Write down a timetable for the week, outlining who is responsible for what.

Special Time

We can very easily be in the same home with our children all day but still not be really with them.  Schedule frequent, predictable 121 time to spend with your child irrespective of their age, with no agenda.  It doesn’t need to be more than 15 minutes at a time but be truly present.

Boredom

It’s good for children to be bored.  Your job is not to be their entertainment director.  Brainstorm with them some ideas for ‘boredom busters’ and talk about what they could do at home when the screens are off.

Self-care

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again.  If you are not looking after yourself physically and emotionally at a basic level, you will struggle to look after your children or be productive at work. What do you need to stay sane and how are you going to give time to yourself so you can meet those needs? 

What to tell your children about going back to school

Read published article here

Some children may be anxious about the prospect of returning to school. Here’s how you can talk about it:

After a period of several weeks in lockdown where many families have been living, working and schooling together all under one roof with limited exposure to the outside world, it’s understandable that we might all now be feeling anxious at the prospect of transitioning back to the new “normal” when lockdown is eventually lifted.

Many children, including infants and toddlers, will be feeling a heightened sense of awareness, or even anxiety, at the prospect of being separated from their parents when nurseries and schools reopen.

Despite the global crisis and all the change it has brought to our daily lives, one thing has been constant for children throughout, and that’s the presence and support of their parents; their physical presence, rituals and routines, their nurture, love and comfort.

For this reason, it is natural for them to perhaps have become more clingy than normal, more reliant on your support and more used to your constant presence. The prospect of suddenly being taken out of this safe bubble at home can therefore be quite a shock for both children and parents.

For parents of toddlers going back to nursery, it is important to tell yourself that your child will be ok. When babies develop a sense of object permanence, they know that parents still exist when they are out of sight and this can cause separation anxiety. It is developmental, but it does not make it any easier for parents to say goodbye at the door.

Just as adults, children are innately social beings. Remind yourself they will enjoy the interaction of other children and engaging creatively with staff at nursery. Recognise that your worry will naturally be increased due to lockdown and acknowledge that your sense of worry will often be mirrored by your child’s behaviour and responses.

For children who are old enough to understand, talk about the changes that are going to happen through storytelling. Discuss with your children how they might feel going back to school or nursery.

Try to name their feelings so you can validate their thoughts and emotions, recognise they will move and change. Acknowledge that they may feel worried about saying goodbye at the nursery door. Talk about what you do when you feel worried as this too is a supportive strategy. Notice how challenging and courageous they are being.

Always be consistent in your promises about returning, even if it means agreeing to bring the exact snack that was requested when you pick them up later. It helps with emotional containment and a sense they feel listened to.

Most importantly, notice your responses to their anxiety and what it awakens in you. Children are incredibly intuitive and, if you can, model supportive strategies so they will know it is ok to say “see you later”.

Finally, for children and adolescents, the sense of being parted from their friends, which makes up such an important part of their lives, is tremendously challenging. While they may feel angst about returning to school, they will also be grappling with the sense of urgency to be among their friends and peers.

The united individual experiences of lockdown and loss will have impacted hugely on adolescents and, therefore, their need to tell their story will be so important. Parents can rest assured that schools will be aware of the very great emotional needs of their pupils and will no doubt be offering additional support at this time.

Hannah Abrahams is an educational and child psychologist and a valuable member of the Educating Matters speaking team