Practical advice for households

Keep to a routine as much as possible. Children are used to school timetables and keeping a routine helps them to plan their days and activities. Also, having a routine has been proven to have a significant impact on your mental health.

Focus on the positives. At the end of the day reflect on that day’s highlights as a family. Tell your children one positive thing they’ve done each day and tell them what a difference it made to you. And don’t forget to do the same thing for yourself.

Be kind to yourself. Just because there’s more ideas out there than ever for ways to keep your children occupied doesn’t mean you need to run yourself into the ground trying to pull them off. Figure out what works for your family. Have some project ideas that require minimal effort as well as more complicated special ones.

Plan for the future: Kids wishing they could be elsewhere doing something exciting? Make a note of it and put them all in one place, so when we can go out again you’ll have lots of lovely ideas of things to do.

Plan screen-free time: We know the temptation is to let them sit on their phone, TV or games console, but schedule time away from technology to spend together. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has some brilliant information on the impacts of screen time.

The World Health Organisation has lots of useful resources on healthy parenting during the coronavirus.

We’re all getting stressed at different times.

First of all, if you or are a member of your family are feeling stressed, know that this is a perfectly normal reaction to something we have never experienced and probably never will experience again in our lifetimes. But if we feel continually stressed it can upset our health and wellbeing, creating pressure on our minds, bodies and relationships that previously weren’t there. Two of our Lead Practitioners have some advice on how not to let stress get the better of you.

Stress isn’t exclusive to adults and many children will be feeling stressed or upset about not seeing their friends, finishing their school years, or worrying about family members who are still out working on the front line. The Government has produced some guidance for parents and carers on supporting the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people during the outbreak. You can find it here.

The World Health Organisation also has some brilliant resources on helping children to cope with stress during the outbreak, which you can find here.

Why not introduce them to mindfulness if they don’t already know it?

How do I talk to young children about the virus?

With everything that is going on at the moment; big changes to children’s routines and lots of stories on the news it can be a really scary time for children. But there are some amazing resources out there to help you have these important conversations on how to talk to children about the virus.
Coronavirus - a book for children book cover

Gruffalo illustrator Axel Scheffler has produced a free book download to explain the virus to children. He worked with infection expert Professor Graham Medley, two primary school head teachers and a child psychologist to make sure the book gets messages right. Publishers Nosy Crow have asked for donations in lieu of payment to support our wonderful health workers.

Children’s author Manuela Molina has also created a free short book to explain the virus and discuss any emotions that may come with it. Find the downloadable PDF here.

The Independent has produced a brilliant article about talking to children about the coronavirus and you can find a free visual guide from the NHS here.

If your children prefer to express themselves creatively, Child Line has an online art box where they can draw their feelings, and use these to discuss either with you or on their online discussion forum, which is moderated by Child Line hosts.

How do I talk to teenagers about their mental health?

Young adult mental health charity Young Minds is doing some brilliant work in creating an online forum for young people to discuss their fears or anxieties around COVID-19. Here’s just one of their articles offering advice for young people feeling anxious. They have practical advice for young people on trying to feel calm and also ways to cope with social isolation. They also have practical advice for parents on how to talk to young people.

The Government has produced some guidance for parents and carers on supporting the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people during the outbreak. You can find it here.

There are guided meditations specifically designed for young people online. Here’s just one example:

A member of our family has autism, how do we explain the virus to them?

The National Autistic Society has created a useful guide for families with autism. The NHS also has some brilliant resources for children with additional needs, including easy-read communication boards and social stories using Widgit symbols.

I’m worried about their physical health and fitness

Make sure you introduce regular movement breaks throughout the day (which is why it’s so handy to stick to routines to ensure). There’s plenty of amazing stuff out there at the moment to encourage kids to get moving during lockdown, so ask them what they’d like to do and do your research.

The Body Coach Joe Wicks is hosting live daily PE lessons at 9am, but you can watch them anytime via his YouTube channel.

Or if they prefer dance to PE, Strictly Professional Dancer Oti Mabuse is hosting daily dance sessions at 11.30 each weekday. Here’s one of her fantastic routines, inspired by Spider Man!

My kids are complaining about being bored

Well, that’s understandable, because things can be boring sometimes, and that’s not exclusive to children. To try and help, we’ve pulled together a list of activities you could enjoy together, which you can find here.

I’m worried about homeschooling, I’m not a teacher!

Health Play Specialist Penelope Hart-Spencer recently shared some brilliant advice on spending time at home with your kids:

I have recommended that families aren’t rigid about ‘home schooling’ their children and try to make the best of this unusual time, by spending time together playing games, reading and crafting. I think the educational side of things is less important when things are so unsettled. I have advised lots of my friends to focus on their child’s emotional wellbeing and keep talking to them about their thought and feeling about it all. It seems that lots of children are very scared after hearing the news. I think when this is all over – the children will remember what they did with their families during this time and how well supported they felt.

In other words. Just be kind to yourself during these unprecedented times. There’s plenty of online resources out there that will help, so if you’re worried about home schooling, tap into the amazing network of support out there on the internet.