Transiting through Covid-19 by making kindness contagious
Looking after our mental and physical wellbeing
There needs to be an emphasis on this aspect of our lives too at the moment. The shock of suddenly losing our jobs overnight, not taking part in the routines and rituals that formed the scaffolding of our lives, not being able to have a hug from friends and family when touch is so important, are all massive life changes for everyone. These changes happened so suddenly that we need time to adjust and adapt and we need to give ourselves permission to feel a sense of loss and bereavement that goes with this type of change whilst continuing to take actions that help our minds.
Mindful resets and relaxation. Short meditations can be useful to reduce anxiety, and bring adults and students back to the present. The following may help:
- Calm.org has a wide range of resources including stories, meditations and calming music to stay calm and grounded during this time.
- (Yr 7-9) The conveyor belt of worries is a 5 minute meditation that helps students if they are ruminating over a current situation.
- (Yr 7-9) Sleep tight is a great 6 minute meditation which can help students to go to sleep at night if they are having problems in this area.
- (Yr 7-9) ‘The spaghetti test’ is a 6 minute relaxation meditation where students need to be lying down. It involves tensing and relaxing muscles.
- (Yr 11-13) The Solid as a rock meditation is a 9 minute file with a 1 minute introduction. It asks adults and students to visualise themselves as a rock in all 4 seasons emphasising the resilience of the rock remaining. A great one to boost strength and confidence.
- (Yr 7-13) Drawing, sketching and colouring can be relaxing activities for students. Drawing zentangles is a mindful drawing activity for students who don’t like breathing meditation. Information about coronavirus for parents, carers and professionals
- Headspace App, which now has free content for all, in a section called Weathering the Storm,which includes meditation, sleep, and movement exercises.
Helpful information for parents and carers to manage life at home with children
Parents are feeling under extreme pressure as they try to juggle working from home and being teachers. It is important to keep in mind that parents do not have to be teachers and provide a full-time curriculum for their children and that at times like this, priorities have to change.
It is also important to know that schools have not ‘shut down’ – Although most children will not be able to physically attend school you will still be able to communicate with senior leaders or, in some instances, teachers.
Parents should avoid putting themselves under pressure to try to replicate a full school timetable. It won’t be possible to replicate this for a variety of reasons. Giving yourself and your children permission to accept this can be a big weight lifted.
- Expect stress: This is an uncertain and unpredictable situation, stress and anxiety is normal.
- Reassure children: Children can sometimes believe they are responsible for things that are clearly beyond their control. Reassure children that it is the adult’s job to make sure things are OK and to keep them safe.
- Provide opportunities for children to be honest about their feelings: Sharing worries or feelings of upset with other family members reduces a sense of vulnerability and isolation, raises optimism and self-esteem. Checking in with your children to see if they have any worries can help them start these conversations.
- Help children stay connected to their friends: Friendships are a key resiliency factor for children and young people. Most children see their friends nearly every day of the week and so not being in contact with them for some time might be upsetting. Is it possible for children to talk to their friends on the phone? Perhaps establish a group Skype or WhatsApp call? Perhaps they could write letters / emails / texts to each other.
- Normalise the experience: Normalising the experience is likely to reduce anxiety for many children. Reassure children that lots of adults and other children are in the same situation.
- Have a routine and structure: Having a plan and a predictable routine for the day can be very reassuring. As adults we like to know what is going to happen, and children like this too. A consistent routine lets everyone be secure about the plans for the day. It is often useful to involve children in creating this routine, so that they feel part of the plan, rather than the plan being imposed on them. You could display the routine using a timeline, or maybe pictures and visuals. Encourage children to develop independence by referring to their own routine/plan themselves.
- Don’t worry if the routine isn’t perfect: Remember, this isn’t a normal situation. If you find that planning and sticking to the routine is causing more stress, friction or conflict, then it’s okay to be more ‘free-flow’. Perhaps be guided by the activities that children want to do.
- Avoid putting too much pressure on academic work: Most parents and carers aren’t teachers and so it’s okay not to be doing ‘school work’ for six hours a day. It might be more important to be spending time together, building relationships, enjoying shared activities and reassuring children, as opposed to replicating the school timetable.
- Try to keep work in one place: If children are doing school work or project work at home, try to keep it all in one place so that it doesn’t spread out over the house. This can help to maintain a work/home boundary. We know that people live in different circumstances that might mean this isn’t always possible, so perhaps there might be other ways to ‘signal’ the end of working e.g. putting away the work in a box and then enjoying a favourite song or shared dance or calming meditation or a few yoga postures.
- Reduce access to rolling news: It is important to keep up to date with new developments and announcements, but it can be hard to switch off from the constant stream of news from media outlets and social media. Reduce the time spent hearing, reading or watching news – at the moment it might be overwhelming for adults and children. Try to protect children from distressing media coverage. Focus the news on positive actions that are taking place to get through this, such as all the people offering to help, the increased supply of medical resources and so on. Remind yourself and children that the situation is starting to improve in other countries and we can get through this.
- Supervise children with screens: It is likely that children and young people will be using screens more often over the coming weeks e.g. phones, tablets, gaming consoles and the internet. If this is the case make sure they are supervised. Ensure appropriate content filters are active – the UK Safer Internet Centre offers guidance on setting up parental control. Try to ensure all children have a balanced range of activities each day. Involve children and young people in these discussions so that they feel part of the plan. Dan Seigal’s healthy mind platter may be helpful for children to fill in. The following could be shared with them:
Stress in children and young people
Being out of school for an indeterminate length of time, with reduced access to outdoor play facilities and social spaces is likely to be difficult for many children. For families living in overcrowded conditions this will add to the stresses of daily life considerably. Families living in close proximity for extended periods are likely to find this to be stressful. Adults will need to be aware of their stress responses, and also be able to recognise how children and young people are exhibiting signs of stress. Signs of stress will vary for every child. Some children may verbalise their worries, others may withdraw into themselves, others may engage in challenging behaviours. Some children and young people, particularly those who are older, may be able to self-manage their stress, but this is more difficult for younger children. Adults will need to help younger children to understand and label their emotions, and help them to do things that will reduce their stress level. Exercise, art, drama, music and other creative activities are good choices.
During these times both children and adults can potentially feel anxious and unsure about their safety. Alongside school, parents can help provide opportunities where feelings can be discussed within a safe context, as well as maintaining a sense of normality, routine and calm. Supporting children will enable them to process and manage their feelings and build resilience.
The following suggestions may be helpful:
It’s good to talk: the Division of Educational and Child Psychologists have published advice on how to talk to children about Coronavirus and this is summarised as:
- It is good to talk: Children will have heard about Coronavirus and likely noticed changes around them (such as people wearing face masks). It is important they feel comfortable talking to you about Coronavirus as you will be the best source of information and reassurance for them. It’s also likely they will talk to their friends or other children, which can involve imagination and misinformation. So, having the chance to check-in with you is even more helpful.
- Reassure children that they are safe: Children will need to be reassured regularly that they are safe, and that adults will faithfully try to keep them safe.
- Be truthful but remember your child’s age: Be truthful but remember your child’s age: It is better for children to receive an honest and accurate approach – give them factual information, but adjust the amount and detail to fit their age. For example, you might say ‘we don’t yet have a vaccination for Coronavirus, but doctors are working very hard on it’ or ‘a lot of people might get sick, but normally it is like a cold or flu and they get better’. Younger children might understand a cartoon or picture better. We also recommend that adults watch news programmes and then filter this information to their child in a developmentally appropriate way.
- Allow children to ask questions: It is natural that children will have questions, and likely worries, about Coronavirus. Giving them the space to ask these questions and have answers is a good way to alleviate anxiety. Again, try to be honest in your responses – it is ok to say you don’t know. At the moment, there are questions we don’t have answers to about Coronavirus – you can explain this to your child and add in information about what people are doing to try to answer these questions. Maybe your child has an idea too – let them tell you or draw them.
- Let children know that it is alright to be upset: Tell children all feelings are OK, but it is important to still behave in a polite and respectful way to others.
- Try to manage your own worries: Uncertainty can make all of us feel anxious or worried. Identify other adults you can talk to about your own worries and questions. What things usually help to make you feel a bit calmer? If you are at home, music, breathing and relaxation techniques, distraction (such as watching something funny), and time with family members or pets can all help. Talk to your children when you feel calm – it will reassure them.
- Give practical guidance: Remind your child of the most important things they can do to stay healthy – washing their hands and the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ advice for coughs and sneezes. Help your child practise and increase their motivation for keeping going.Social distancing should not mean social isolation: Children—especially young children—need quality time with their caregivers and other important people in their lives. Social connectedness improves children’s chances of showing resilience to adversity. Creative approaches to staying connected are important (e.g., writing emails, text messages, online video chats and so on).
Information about coronavirus specifically for children can be found on the following websites / resources:
- Information on Coronavirus for children: https://660919d3-b85b-43c3-a3ad-3de6a9d37099.filesusr.com/ugd/64c685_319c5acf38d34604b537ac9fae37fc80.pdf
- Great brainpop video on the Coronavirus for Years 3-7:
BBC Newsround: The BBC Newsround site has a comprehensive section on Coronavirus with text and video guidance focusing on tips if a child is worried, how to wash your hands, and what self-isolation means.
YoungMinds UK: The YoungMinds UK advice on what to do if you’re anxious about Coronavirus might be more useful for teens and young adults. The main focus is on self-care and they provide further information about how young people can look after their mental health if self-isolating.
Mencap easy read: Mencap have produced an excellent easy read information sheet about Coronavirus. This would be particularly useful for children, young people or adults whose understanding is improved with visuals and when information is given in bitesize chunks.
The easy read version covers what Coronavirus is, what to do if you think you have it, and how to help stop the spread.
Carol Gray Coronavirus social story: Carol Gray has produced a social story about Coronavirus and pandemics. The social story uses large print pictures and provides contextual information about pandemics and viruses in general.
MindHeart Covibook – A story about Coronavirus: This excellent MindHeart information and activity book about Coronavirus would be an excellent way to open up a conversation about children’s concerns. The book is available in 18 languages and it encourages children to label their current feelings and offers specific advice on things they can do to stay healthy.
The Autism Educator – Coronavirus social story: Another excellent social story about Coronavirus that has a good level of specificity about the effects of social distancing e.g. not being able to go to favourite places.
A comic exploring Coronaovirus to help young people understand: https:www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/02/28/809580453/just-for-kids-a-comic-exploring-the-new-coronavirus?t=158446333506.
Information for those with sensory difficulties who struggle with handwashing: https://www.sensoryintegration.org.uk/News/8821506
Information for those struggling with OCD: https://www.ocduk.org/ocd-and-coronavirus-top-tips
National Public Radio: Just for Kids: A Comic Exploring the New Coronavirus
PBS Kids: How to Talk to Your Kids About Coronavirus (includes a list of videos, games, and activities about handwashing and staying healthy at the bottom of the article)
Explaining Coronavirus for Children Aged 0 to 3: https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/3210-tips-for-families-coronavirus
Focussing on human strengths to look after mental and physical wellbeing
Practising kindness and on-line Zoom based mental and emotional wellbeing spa treatments
We are not able to have physical spa treatments at the moment but we all need and can have mental and emotional spa treatments at the moment. A series of on-line Zoom based workshops are therefore being offered by The Wellbeing Practice to help get us all through this hugely emotional phase of life. The spa treatments will keep in mind the current situation we are all dealing with and focus on pertinent issues that children, young people and adults bring to each session.
With kindness in mind, research shows the practising kindness can make significant differences as follows:
- Improve our own mental wellbeing as well as others.
- Increase empathy skills.
- Decrease bias towards others.
- Increase social connection.
- Curb self-criticism.
- Has immediate and long-term beneficial effects.
Given the current Covid-19 phase of life, is there anyone you can think of that might need a kindness gift from you be it a family member, friend, colleague or neighbour or are you able to be kind to yourself.
If so, please click here to look at the range of mental and emotional wellbeing spa treatments on offer and choose the one that best fits the person’s needs at the moment as a gesture of your kindness.
For every workshop that is booked by you until 10th April 2020, a free one will be offered to any key worker you wish to nominate so that The Wellbeing Practice makes kindness contagious in our community effort to transit through Covid-19.
Seven daily essential mental activities to optimize brain matter and create well-being
- Focus Time
When we closely focus on tasks in a goal-oriented way, we take on challenges that make deep connections in the brain.
- Play Time
When we allow ourselves to be spontaneous or creative, playfully enjoying novel experiences, we help make new connections in the brain.
- Connecting Time
When we connect with other people, ideally in person, and when we take time to appreciate our connection to the natural world around us, we activate and reinforce the brain’s relational circuitry.
- Physical Time
When we move our bodies, aerobically if medically possible, we strengthen the brain in many ways.
- Time In
When we quietly reflect internally, focusing on sensations, images, feelings and thoughts, we help to better integrate the brain.
- Down Time
When we are non-focused, without any specific goal, and let our mind wander or simply relax, we help the brain recharge.
- Sleep Time
When we give the brain the rest it needs, we consolidate learning and recover from the experiences of the day.
- Focus Time
- Provide reassurance about exams being cancelled: Young people may now be concerned about the announcement that exams later this year will not be going ahead as planned. They may feel like all their hard work has been for nothing. Reassure young people that the Prime Minister has said that all children and young people will get the qualification they worked towards, but acknowledge that the plan is a bit uncertain right now. Reassure young people that the government and Department for Education are working on a plan.
- Play: Play is fundamental to children’s wellbeing and development – children of all ages. It’s also a great way to reduce stress in adults.
- Provide opportunities for physical exercise: Exercise is valuable in developing natural chemicals in the brain to help us cope with feelings such as shock or worry.
- Place an emphasis on resilience and strengths: Focus on the child’s skills, in terms of their daily life. Help them to see they have multiple strengths to help them cope if feeling anxious or upset. For example, keeping social distance is helping to protect everyone and this is their contribution to helping in this crisis.
- Look for opportunities to help others: Acts of benevolence, charity and humanity help to restore positivity about the world and help children to develop their self-esteem and well-being at the same time. This could be helping with daily chores or having a help buddy who checks in on one person at least three times a day to ensure they are carrying out their daily action plans as well as keeping an uplifted mood. Adults could benefit from this too, especially those living alone and feeling a sense of depression.
- Show compassion for self and others: Take time to look after yourself. Remember the guidance for oxygen masks on planes, yourself first then others. Practise being kind to yourself and being able to forgive when tempers flare up or you feel more teary than usual.
- Model gratitude to others: Make a special show of being thankful to others, for opportunities, for safety, for the people who care for us.
- Comment on strengths used: This is definitely the time to notice and comment on the strengths used by others, and to notice our own.
- Highlight resilience in others: Comment when someone has shown perseverance in the face of difficulty. Look for role models whether they are athletes or musicians or grandparents or parents or friends and family.
- Look out for others: 4 simple letters are really important at the moment. If you notice someone is struggling, adult or child, just ask R U O K? They may be fine, they may not, but asking makes sure we don’t miss a chance to help.
The National Association of School Psychologists and National Association of School Nurses have written an extremely helpful guide with lots of additional resources. This link is particularly helpful as it addresses both the emotional and physical aspects of staying healthy: https://higherlogicdownload.s3.amazonaws.com/NASN/3870c72d-fff9-4ed7-833f-215de278d256/UploadedImages/PDFs/02292020_NASP_NASN_COVID-19_parent_handout.pdf
UK Government: In the first instance, the UK Government Covid-19 pages are frequently and rapidly updated with advice and guidance in line with advice from Public Health England.
There is specific guidance for educational settings and guidance for employers, employees and businesses.
World Health Organisation: Covid-19 and Mental Health: The WHO has recently published considerations to support mental health and wellbeing during the Coronavirus outbreak. This guidance has specific recommendations for health care workers, caretakers of children, caretakers of older adults and people in isolation.
Mind: Mind has an excellent page providing generic advice for everyone about maintaining wellbeing. The page has two distinct sections:
- Plan for staying at home or indoors
- Taking care of our mental health and wellbeing
For those who dislike reading / struggle with reading, there are two options to look out:
The Child Mind Institute website
Watch the *Talking to Kids about the Coronavirus*
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhVad8ToCiU video and share the link with others.
At times like this, comfort and solace can be gained from a range of books and some of these may help:
- Something Bad Happened: A Kid’s Guide to Coping with events in the News:
Dawn Huebner. How to process different world events (ages 6-12).
- The Day the Sea Went Out and Never Came Back by Margot Sunderland: A story for children who have lost someone they love (ages 4-12)
- Draw on Your Emotions by Margot Sunderland: A resource to help people express and communicate their emotions.
- What to Do When you’re Scared and Worried: A Guide for Kids by James Crist. A help guide to processing fears and worries (ages 9-13)
- Have You Filled A Bucket Today?: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids by
Carol McCloud. Encourages positive behaviour and expressing kindness and appreciation.
- How are you Peeling: Foods with Moods by Saxton Freymann and Joost Eiffers. Explores how emotions look through pictures of foods. A good way to talk about emotions with young children.
- The Way I Feel by Janan Cain. Explores feelings and a helpful way to talk about emotions with young children Badger’s parting gifts by Susan Varley is just lovely.
Resources for supporting children who have adults with serious illness / experiencing bereavement
There has been more bereavement in a short space of time than we ever anticipated and a list of helpful resources has been collated.
Please click here for list.
- Winston’s Wish have a good resource called ‘As Big as it Gets’ which is about supporting a child when someone is seriously ill. It’s purchasable from their site for about £7.
- See Saw is an organisation with very helpful advice: https://schools.essex.gov.uk/pupils/Educational%20Psychology%20Service/Documents/SeeSaw%20bereavement%20pack.pdf
- Cruise have put together some very helpful information: https://www.cruse.org.uk/get-help/coronavirus-dealing-bereavement-and-grief
- Grief Encounter is another very helpful resource: https://www.griefencounter.org.uk
Managing stress and anxiety through interactive Zoom sessions
If anyone would like stress and anxiety management sessions or coaching sessions or an opportunity to reflect on the current situation and talk things through, I am happy to work remotely through Zoom and offer sessions to children, young people and adults. Please contact the Wellbeing Practice to arrange these.