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How can we keep our spirits high in these bizarre times?
By Chris Pearse
17 May

During this unprecedented time, it is important to keep our spirits high. This article attempts to draw out some positivity for coping with Covid-19 and the resulting lockdown. The blog focuses on how we can help the younger generations to navigate their way through the coming weeks, allowing them to emerge with better resilience and some happy memories of their time in isolation to pass on to future generations.

Being in lockdown and remaining in our dwellings for such long periods is an experience not many people, if any at all, have lived through. We are all in unchartered waters. Whilst our key workers in the NHS (and other crucial sectors) fight this highly infectious respiratory disease, it is important to hold on to the goodwill, ingenuity and creativity of mankind. We can demonstrate to our children that by working as a team we can help and support each other and that their role in the family is no less important or valued than any other.

It is our role to give children an understanding of the situation in ways that are both truthful but appropriate to their age. Giving our young children the chance to ask questions about Coronavirus is an excellent place to start. Most children are full of questions and giving them a chance to ask, as well as tell you, what they know about the current situation, allows you to assess their understanding. Some leading questions might be, ‘Can you tell me why you are not going to school?’, ‘Do you have questions about the sickness that’s happening?’.

‘Explaining’ to a third party (like a grandma or grandad) over the phone is often a good way of hearing what a child is thinking and has the added bonus of making both the child and the grandparents feel involved. You are then able to monitor your child’s emotions, thinking and understanding and subsequently to correct any misconceptions whilst having had time to frame the information appropriately. Remember to remind older children to be circumspect with their conversation around younger siblings. Of course, if kids do not seem interested that is fine. Most important is to make sure children feel safe and reassured.

A friend’s 10-year-old daughter confided that she felt more afraid of what she sensed was being kept secret than what she was told. Making sure that children feel free to ask questions and secure that you can answer them honestly in ways that they can understand (to the best of your ability), will set their minds at rest. It may be helpful to let your children know that adults are more prone to be sick than kids and that many people are soon better after mild symptoms. Explaining and constantly reminding that eventually - even if you cannot promise exactly when - things will return to normal, will help children to stay in, and enjoy the moment.

In so many households it can be incredibly busy and juggling schoolwork, working from home, exercise whilst performing the full-time job of entertaining young children can seem endless and exhausting. Yet this quality family time should be cherished. Children love to be given responsibility and can surprise you with their capabilities. Giving your children specific roles in the house, to keep them focused and occupied is certainly recommended.

Children will thrive on feeling that they can ‘play their part’. Identifying small chores that they can do unaided will help them to feel important and boost their self-esteem. Making it clear that they are expected to focus for a time (appropriate to their age) on their own work and play is an invaluable, worthwhile and necessary personal contribution to the family and worldwide situation. They too can bang their own drum literally and metaphorically for key workers. Below is a poster my son created to show some activities that he is doing at home:

 


 

Giving our youngsters the opportunity to learn new skills such as playing an instrument, drawing, cooking together, learning a language, or reading a new book series can be exciting if we present them enthusiastically.

It is also a great opportunity to allow children to teach us things too. Find some time to let them teach you how to hula-hoop, make a daisy chain, turn a cartwheel. Even if you can’t achieve it, they will love watching you try and learning that they have skills that you don’t. In turn you will laugh together and re-discover the child in you. Don’t forget to thank them for the experience – one of endless opportunities that this situation gives us to model the many qualities that will see us through this time.

Let your kids know that everyone has ‘bad’ days and that it is ‘normal’ to get stressed sometimes. Everyone does. Recognising these feelings, sharing them, taking quiet times to meditate, are practices that we can share to develop children’s confidence in their own resilience.

Routine is a word brandished around during times of uncertainty. But pupils react well to structure and clear boundaries. Try to establish a work, playtime and exercise timetable while in lockdown. Stick to it but not with inflexibility when necessary.

Below are some ways to keep a positive attitude:

  • Keep a diary: Often writing down thoughts can really help to offload worries. Also, this will be something to look back on in years to come.
  • Send a letter: That feeling of receiving a letter in the post can be amazing. Perhaps send a letter to a family member or friend and tell them what you have been doing.
  • Cook a meal as a family: Having the opportunity to cook together are rare occasions anyway, so make the most of being together to create a lovely meal. Sharing it altogether can be great fun!
  • Create a family ‘kind pot’: Every time somebody in the family shows a sense of kindness write it down and place it in the pot. Have a lovely treat when the pot is brimming to the top.
  • Make sure you laugh: Pull a funny face, tell a joke, dance in a funny way. Do something to make somebody laugh and share them with friends. We all need a laugh during times like these!

One recurring topical debate is ‘how much screen time is healthy for children?’. Monitoring the amount of time on and content of, the various gadgets that kids are exposed to, are primary objectives for parents. The reliance upon technology has never been so high but clearly there are concerns over what children are watching or seeing on social media.

The news at present is constant in every sector of the media. Sometimes it is simply best to turn it off and do some other things instead of trying to keep up with every news event. Setting boundaries as to how much of this epidemic news we are going to watch with or without our kids and at what times of the day, is crucial to the mental health of all the family. We need to process news ourselves before we can present our best face and interpretation of it to our children.

In summary it is important to keep talking with your kids and being honest with them. Giving them an opportunity to share their opinions and ask questions can only be a healthy approach. Try to create a structure at home that allows for periods of work and plenty of downtime. Try not to be tough on yourself. It’s a tough job that you have been given. Take some time to do something for yourself that gives you joy. Finally, enjoy the family time this situation has created and make positive things happen for your loved ones, in a time that has presented as adversity.

Chris Pearse is Managing Director and Tutor at Teachitright. He is also author of Galore Park’s Verbal Reasoning 11+ and Pre-Test resources. Learn more about Chris here.

Tags: family, home schooling, learning, mental health, mindfulness, Parents, revision, revision prep, stress, Studying

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