We are sure that many children have lots of questions and are anxious both about being at home but also at the prospect of returning to school. We want to support children and parents though this difficult time and have compiled a list of useful resources we will be using in school as children return but that you are also able to use at home yourselves.
Please do let us know if you come across anything that you think may be useful for others.
If your child is anxious or worried about coronavirus (COVID-19), there are things you can do to help. And if they're struggling with their mental health, we have advice to help you support them and keep them safe.
There's a lot of uncertainty in the world at the moment. And there won't always be answers to the questions your children are asking. But we can help you have these conversations in a safe and open way.
The Children's Society
The Children's Society has a range of support materials for young people, parents and schools in their mental and emotional health resource 'vault' including:
Coram Life Education
Coram Life Education has launched a free online toolkit for primary school teachers, supporting pupils’ mental health as they adjust to a new school environment post-lockdown.
The toolkit is designed to build children’s resilience, self-esteem and kindness and includes practical resources. There are also adaptations for parents and carers of children who are learning at home.
Guidance on Supporting Children and Young People's Mental Health - DfE
There are some key points you can consider about how to support your child or young person, including:
Listen and acknowledge:
Children and young people may respond to stress in different ways. Signs may be emotional (for example, they may be upset, distressed, anxious, angry or agitated), behavioural (for example, they may become more clingy or more withdrawn, or they may wet the bed), or physical (for example, they may experience stomach aches).
Look out for any changes in their behaviour. Children and young people may feel less anxious if they are able to express and communicate their feelings in a safe and supportive environment. Children and young people who communicate differently to their peers may rely on you to interpret their feelings. Listen to them, acknowledge their concern and give them extra love and attention if they need it.
MindEd is a free online educational resource on children and young people’s mental health for all adults, which can support parents and carers through these exceptional circumstances.
Provide clear information about the situation:
Children and young people want to feel assured that their parents and carers can keep them safe. One of the best ways to achieve this is by talking openly about what is happening and providing honest answers to any questions they have. Explain what is being done to keep them and their loved ones safe, including any actions they can take to help, such as washing their hands more often than usual. Use words and explanations that they can understand. There are resources available to help you do this, including the Children’s Commissioner’s Children’s Guide to Coronavirus, or the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) have produced a storybook developed by and for children around the world affected by coronavirus (COVID-19).
Make sure you use reliable sources of information such as GOV.UK or the NHS website – there is a lot of misleading information from other sources that can create stress for you and your family. It will not always be possible to provide answers to all the questions that children and young people may ask, or to address all their concerns, so focus on listening and acknowledging their feelings to help them feel supported.
Be aware of your own reactions:
Remember that children and young people often take their emotional cues from the important adults in their lives, so how you respond to the situation is very important. It is important to manage your own emotions and remain calm, listen to and acknowledge children and young people’s concerns, speak kindly to them, and answer any questions they have honestly. For further information on how to look after your own mental wellbeing during the pandemic, see the guidance on how to look after your own mental health and wellbeing or visit Every Mind Matters.
If it is necessary for you and your children to be in different locations to normal (for example, due to staying at home in different locations or hospitalisation) make sure you still have regular and frequent contact via the phone or video calls with them. Try to help your child understand what arrangements are being made for them and why in simple terms. Support safe ways for children and young people to maintain social interaction with their friends, for example via phone or video calls.
Create a new routine:
Life is changing for all of us for a while. Routine gives children and young people an increased feeling of safety in the context of uncertainty, so think about how to develop a new routine, especially if they are not at school:
Limit exposure to media and talk more about what they have seen and heard:
Like adults, children and young people may become more distressed if they see repeated coverage about the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the media. A complete news blackout is also rarely helpful as they are likely to find out from other sources, such as online or through friends. Try to avoid turning the television off or closing web pages when children or young people come into the room. This can pique their interest to find out what is happening and their imagination can take over. Instead, consider limiting the amount of exposure you and your family have to media coverage.
Young people will also hear things from friends and get information from social media. Talk to them about what is happening and ask them what they have heard. Try to answer their questions honestly and reassure them appropriately.
All children and young people are different, but there are some common ways in which different age groups may react to a situation like the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Understanding these may help you to support your family. The common reactions to distress will fade over time for most children and young people, though could return if they see or hear reminders of what happened.
Infants may become more easily distressed. They may cry more than usual or want to be held and cuddled more.
Preschool and nursery children may return to behaviours they have outgrown. For example, toileting accidents, bed-wetting, or being frightened about being separated from their parents or carers. They may also have tantrums or difficulty sleeping.
Older children may feel sad, angry, or afraid. Peers may share false information but parents or carers can correct the misinformation. Older children may focus on details of the situation and want to talk about it all the time, or not want to talk about it at all. They may have trouble concentrating.
Some preteens and teenagers respond to worrying situations by acting out. This could include reckless driving, and alcohol or drug use. Others may become afraid to leave the home. They may cut back on how much time they connect with their friends. They can feel overwhelmed by their intense emotions and feel unable to talk about them. Their emotions may lead to increased arguing and even fighting with siblings, parents, carers or other adults. They may have concerns about how the school closures and exam cancellations will affect them.
Autistic children and young people may struggle to identify any physical symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), as well as having difficulty talking about the emotions the situation will create. Keep an eye out for changes in behaviour which may help you to identify their emotional state, as well as physical symptoms.
There is going to be disruption for all of us during the pandemic, for example, it will not be possible to follow normal routines, or visit older family members. If your child or young person becomes ill, they may struggle to manage the physical experience. You can help to manage these changes using any strategies that you know work for your family, or see sources of further advice and support at the bottom of this section.
It is important to be honest when communicating with your child or young person about the changing situation, measures they can take to stay safe, and the symptoms of the virus. Try to avoid giving definitive statements about the future – this is a rapidly developing situation and your child or young person may be more distressed if things change when they were told they would not. Keep up to date with official information about coronavirus (COVID-19).
You should continue to access support of local autism groups online or via phone. The National Autistic Society guidance on managing anxiety might also be helpful – you can call the Autism Helpline on 0808 800 4104 for further advice.
Young Minds provides advice about mental health and behaviour problems in children and young people up to the age of 25. You can call the Parents’ and Carers’ Helpline on 0808 802 5544. Please be aware Young Minds do not provide any direct psychological services and cannot make referrals to the NHS or Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services (CYPMHS).