Support your child’s emotional wellbeing at home
This article has been written by parent blogger and author Becky Goddard-Hill.
We were all expecting ‘back to school’ after the intensity of a very family- focused Christmas, but now we are all cooped up together at home again and it looks like it’s going to last for a while.
The juggle of home-schooling and never really having a break from each other can be stressful for all concerned. You might also have your own work to contend with.
This is not an easy time for anyone’s emotional wellbeing.
Many children are going to feel huge disappointment at not getting back to school, not seeing their friends again and not getting back into their routine.
Unlike the summer it is no longer a novelty to have their parents teach them and to miss school. It is colder and darker now and we are all (kids and parents) jaded with lockdown, summer and back to school feel a long way off.
Home-schooling can feel daunting and overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be a tense, anxious and stressful time. With good planning and a clear routine, we can fulfil our children’s wellbeing needs whilst home schooling.
In order to minimise the impact on children’s emotional health, we need, as far as possible, to make life full, interesting and stable for them and there are lots of easy ways to do this. Here are some things you CAN do to support your child’s wellbeing.
Fresh air and daylight
Sunlight is thought to increase the brain's release of the serotonin which will help your child feel happier, calm and focused. A walk after breakfast or at lunch time is a great way to prepare them for schooling after. This is not just about physical health, but it is about a change of scene and the mood change that comes with that.
Maintain a routine
Keep to a routine during the week – getting up and going to bed at normal times. Kids thrive on routine whether they are 4 or 18 and it will make it so much easier to home-school them if they have had adequate sleep.
Likewise, keep mealtimes to your usual routine so your child isn’t mindlessly snacking and filling up on junk food. This will only make them feel irritable and they will get a sugar slump. Good food for a good mood!
Manage screen time
You may want (and need) to relax screen time whilst home-schooling in order to get your own work done and to keep your kids entertained - and that is totally understandable. But do be mindful that many computer games are by their very design addictive and your child may crave them more and more and be agitated and miserable when they need to come off.
Screen time can include other more educational/creative aspects that are time limited: they could do workouts and crafting tutorials; watch horrible histories on TV; play board games online. Using screen time in varied short bursts is far more conducive to wellbeing and balance.
Be clear about your role
Having your parent suddenly become your teacher can be confusing for a child, they may genuinely not trust you know what you are doing, and they may not want to take direction form you.
Talk to them about this rather than be dictatorial and explain you are there to support and encourage them and that together you will find the best way to do that.
If your child is older and working more independently, be clear about the support you can give and check in with them at set times of the day to see how they are doing. This clarity will stop them getting frustrated with you (and interrupting you endlessly) and vice versa.
Ask for help and adopt a growth mindset
Some days you ae not going to be a great home schooler and they are not going to be a great student. Do not despair or worry too much about that - just try again the next day.
Ask school for help if YOU or your child are struggling with the workload. Your ‘can-do attitude’, positivity and flexibility will be contagious, and your child will pick up on this.
Do not take life too seriously
Make time for fun and laughter – it is so important not to make life too serious. A comedy show on TV, a family karaoke on zoom, reading them a funny book at bedtime - everyone needs a break from worry and to have some lightness in life. Plan fun and laughter into your home-school day so it does not get missed.
Keeping in touch with school friends is harder for younger kids who may not have a phone or social media. Do try to facilitate this for them by setting up a zoom call with a pal or arranging for them to play a game together online. They could even write an old-fashioned letter to their pals and enclose a drawing.
Feeling connected is key to wellbeing and can reduce anxiety and feeling of isolation.
Encourage your child to express their feelings
‘Name them to tame them’ psychologists say about feelings. When kids share how they feel, they are able to access the support and understanding they need. It also allows their brain to feel clearer and calmer and for the tension to leave their bodies. Expressing how they feel rather than bottling it up is essential to good emotional health.
Providing time and space to check in with your child about how they feel is crucial, perhaps while crafting, baking together or walking. Talk openly about feelings with your child and let them know that it is fine to feel worried and a bit confused right now, but reassure them this is not forever and that you are by their side and you will get through this.
Make time for hugs too.
Becky Goddard-Hill is the co-author of Create Your Own Happy, Be Happy Be You and author of Create Your Own Calm and Create Your Own Kindness.