Category Archives: Coronavirus

Post-Covid Transition Back to Normality

As lockdown eases and we commence the road back to ‘normality’, 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’.

Remote Working Matters

Take the lessons of the past year to make remote working an experience that is more productive and engaging.

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.

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.

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

How to use your emotional toolbox to support your mental health needs

We are living in one of the most unprecedented times in living history and it is important to recognise how exceptionally resilient we have been during the last 8 weeks in lockdown.  Take a moment to reflect upon that statement. Yes as humans we are naturally creative and incredibly adaptable beings. 

Without a doubt, there will have been times of fear, of anxiety and of hopelessness and despair, but amongst the tidal waves of raw and very big emotions, there will also have been moments of success, of hope, of love and laughter and togetherness.  

You will already have been using tools from within your emotional toolbox in order to navigate these uncertain days, but I hope that I will be able to awaken your sense of skill, as well as suggest some new and creative ideas to support you and your families

What happens to our bodies when we’re stressed?

In times of crisis, uncertainty and stress, our brains and bodies become dysregulated leading us to be in a fight or flight mode.  We are waiting for the “bear,” and these days illness, to come around the corner and our concentration and ability to focus, as well as our productive and creative brain, will be significantly impeded. 

Previous traumas, losses or anxieties may be reawakened in us and our behaviours and responses to our children and our own needs change or old unwanted behaviours become ever-present. If this happens, allow yourself the time to notice, to stop, to listen to yourself and your responses and reflect upon how best to help yourself and your children.

Remember that emotional responses will feel even bigger right now. That’s ok and to be expected but it is so important to remember that this too shall pass. I often like to think about how emotions change for adults and children alike during the course of a day just as the waves change as they reach the shore. 

We are under incredible strain as parents and employees trying to navigate working from home in a crisis while “home-schooling,” we need to dig deep.  Learning to manage these uncomfortable emotions is a lifetime’s work but being conscious of them will help you to feel less overwhelmed and stressed. 

In times such as these, we need to be mindful of our mental health needs in order to meet the needs of our children. It’s a case of putting our own ‘oxygen mask’ on first. Unless we do this, we’re going to feel very dysregulated much of the time. You need to nourish your own basic needs (such as food, water and sleep) where you can get it, in order to successfully meet, contain and validate the needs of your children. 

Check-in on yourself

Notice how your body is feeling. If you can, do a body scan. 

  • Are you feeling really tense? Where does the tension sit? In your hands? In your heart? In your toes?
  • For children a body scan can be completed in a very visual way – draw around their bodies either in chalk or pen and get them to label different parts of their body that feel feelings- for example does their heart feel love? Where do they feel anger? Hurt? Excitement or worry? Activities such as these open up opportunities for discussion and growing emotional awareness.

Place your hand where you’re feeling most angst and try and ground yourself in the moment. By this, I mean STOP, DROP AND BREATHE

  • STOP in the moment
  • DROP everything you’re doing
  • And take 3 deep BREATHS

This activity can also be used for children and helps to regulate yourself and them, before reaching volcanic explosions and responses

Grounding

Choose one thing to do every morning that will help you to feel grounded or have a giggle – such as doing a dance like no one is watching or stretching, going for a walk and standing and listening to the nature around you 


Notice and validate big emotions

This applies to our emotions and the emotions felt by your children. During these times, it’s to be expected that sometimes your emotions will overwhelm you and that of your child. 

Remind yourself it’s Ok to feel these big emotions and this too shall pass. Be compassionate with yourself and your children. 

Resist the urge to run away from the emotion, just BREATHE. Expect the emotions that you’re feeling, notice how they move and change. By doing this, you will be helping to regulate your brain activity and reduce the flood of cortisol. 

Every time you work through these big emotions, you are emptying your emotional rucksack. By developing your resilience, your children will mirror you and therefore you are doing an amazing job in developing their emotional regulatory behaviours too. Things won’t always go right, its ok and being reflective with yourself and your child about the less successful emotional moments is important too. 

Find activities you enjoy

To be expected to learn a new language or expected to clean and tidy our homes in Marie Kondo style is not necessary right now, but it is important to give yourself permission to do something that you love for a few moments each day. 

Encourage your children to think about creative ways to nurture their interests too. For example:

  • Plant sunflower seeds and water them daily, watching them grow
  • Create an obstacle course on the street using chalk on the pavement
  • Grab a paintbrush and some paint and just let the strokes of your brush flow.  It’s amazing what your unconscious can tell you through this activity. See where your painting flow takes you. 

Don’t think too far ahead

Our brains like to live in the moment. As soon as we start thinking about what ifs and what next, the little almond sized part of our brain known as the ‘amygdala’ starts flapping away. It controls the emotional response panel in our brains, and it doesn’t know how to navigate the future. 

It’s very much about trying to bring ourselves back to the present moment, which can be so difficult during such uncertain times. But psychologically, we know that our amazing, creative, productive and resilient brains work best when we are in the moment. 

For so much of this time, we have been navigating the sense of stress and worry that lockdown has brought to us as a nation. That said, we are incredibly adaptive beings and you will notice that over the course of the weeks your sense of heightened worry may have diminished slightly with time. Recognise your and your child’s amazing adaptability and whilst we continue to experience waves of emotion, congratulate yourself that you have come this far. Remember what you’re doing is good enough and hold on to that in the toughest of times.

If you would like a webinar to support the Mental Health of employees during this period of Covid-19, please be in touch for some ideas.

Can you look back on this as a scared time to treasure rather than just survive?

I feel overwhelmed by the amount of articles and suggested resources coming through my inbox and across various social media platforms, on every possible topic related to getting through this Covid-19 crisis.

There is one great post that I didn’t write and the author is ‘unknown’ but of all the things I have received, it really spoke to me as a parent, so I wanted to share it with you.

Child – “How old are you, Grandpa?”

Grandpa – “I’m 81, dear.”

Child – “So does that mean you were alive during the Coronavirus?”

Grandpa – “Yes, I was.”

Child – “Wow. That must have been horrible, Grandpa. We were learning about that at school this week.

They told us about how all the schools had closed. And moms and dads couldn’t go to work so didn’t have as much money to do nice things.

They said that you weren’t allowed to go and visit your friends and family and couldn’t go out anywhere.

They told us that the shops and stores ran out of lots of things so you didn’t have much bread, and flour, and toilet rolls.

They said that summer holidays were cancelled. And they told us about all those thousands of people that got very sick and who died.

They explained how hard all the doctors and nurses and all essential workers worked, and that lots of them died, too.

That must have been so horrible, grandpa!”

Grandpa – “Well, that is all correct.

And I know that because I read about it when I was older.

But to tell you the truth I remember it differently…

I remember playing in the garden for hours with mom and dad and having picnics outside and lots of bbqs.

I remember making things and fishing with my Dad and baking with my Mom.

I remember making forts and learning how to do hand stands and back flips. I remember having quality time with my family.

I remember Mom’s favorite words becoming ‘Hey, I’ve got an idea…’

Rather than ‘Maybe later or tomorrow I’m a bit busy’.

I remember making our own bread and pastry. I remember having movie night three or four times a week instead of just one.

It was a horrible time for lots of people you are right.

But I remember it differently.”

Remember how our children will remember these times.

Be in control of the memories they are creating right now, so that through all the awful headlines and emotional stories for so many that they will come to read in future years, they can remember the happy times.

Author unknown 💕