Things Are Not Normal, But That’s OK
It is incredible to think how much our daily lives have changed in such a short time. Suddenly, we are bound by restrictions and are looking to a future that seems unclear. The more we seek the connection to normality through TV, social media or talking to friends and family, the more we are reminded that things are far from usual. People are facing a variety of challenges. Trying to maintain a normal structure to the day, setting up make-shift workspaces at home or home-schooling children and – and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
Slow down. Breathe. Things are not normal. It’s time to focus on your mental health and wellbeing.
The Impact On Mental Health
The Government has recognised that this situation is going to impact our mental health and have produced guidance. This includes information about supporting children and young people.
What can we do that will help our own mental health and wellbeing? How can we help children understand why things have changed?
Share a Book, Spark a Discussion
The National Literacy Trust have stated the many benefits to reading a book aloud to children. One such benefit is ‘Books introduce children to the exciting world of stories and can help them learn to express their own thoughts and emotions.’
By reading together, we not only experience empathy for different characters and situations, but we provoke discussion about what has happened on each page. When we do this, we can invite children to share any thoughts they might have and to recognise their own feelings mirrored in the characters. If you want to get the most out of reading together, the first thing to consider is what you read.
Where To Start
If you’re unsure where to start, here are some titles that we would recommend. These have come from a booklist we have created to cover many aspects of mental health and wellbeing.
There is a small series of picture books by Tom Percival that explore feelings through characters, who children can relate to. Full of appealing illustrations, these include ‘Ravi’s Roar’, ‘Ruby’s Worry’ and ‘Perfectly Norman’. Some books explore living situations and issues children may face, such as ‘It’s a No Money Day’ by Kate Milner, a story of a child and his Mum who have to go to the food bank.
For Older Children
For older children there are many books that deal with familiar situations and the breadth of emotions they may be struggling with, including the newly released ‘The Boy who Made the World Disappear’ by Ben Miller, with Harrison who struggles with anger management.
In addition, we are regularly adding book reviews to twitter and books of the week to our Parent’s Page. Look out for keywords that you feel might be relevant to how your child is feeling. Many books are available in paperback as well as online through e-books, audio books and e-borrowing from the library. Another consideration is where you read. Creating an area for sharing a book is not only a fun opportunity to use your imagination to create it together, but it also provides a safe space where children can discuss their feelings. The National Literacy Trust have a den building activity sheet for ideas.
Alternatively, you can find inspiration on Pinterest or Instagram.
What To Do With Those Feelings
Now you have created a reading den, chosen a book and shared the story. You might be wondering how to talk about the current situation and about feelings.
Some charities have provided excellent advice about how to approach the subject.
- The NSPCC: Talking to a child worried about coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Mental Health Foundation: Talking to your children about scary world news
As well as listening, one recommendation is to be honest with them. Not to stop them from seeing the news but to limit how long is spent reading headlines and articles to once a day, as the over-load of information can worsen anxiety. This is a helpful tip for children, and for adults.
A Creative Outlet
If your child is struggling with expressing how they are feeling you could look for creative activities to act as an outlet. They can tune into a draw-along activity with illustrators such as Rob Biddulph or Sarah McIntyre, design and colour rainbows to be displayed in windows, create a time capsule or record a video for their future self to watch next year. There are so many resources currently being offered by authors, illustrators and publishers, it is worth making the most of these. The National Literacy Trust have compiled some useful resources to get you started.
One Day At a Time.
There is no doubt that things are going the be hard for a short time, and for some it will be tougher than others. But this lockdown will come to an end and when it does, we will have a lot of catching up to do with those who we have missed.
You do not need to come out of this having learnt new skills or having made some great achievement. It is an achievement in itself if you manage to form some structure to the day. So, take each day as it comes, make sure you get your daily exercise where possible and enjoy the fresh air through the open windows. Look after your mental health as you would your physical health. Share your stories and allow yourself and those around you to express their feelings.
You are not alone. Things are not normal, but that’s OK.