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How to help your child 2021

Anxious, stressed, withdrawn… words now regularly applied to describe children. In Children’s Mental Health Week 2021 we're asking - are there simple steps parents can take to help? Two top local schools offer some great advice

The emotional wellbeing of young people has never been more important with health experts warning Boris Johnson of the pandemic’s “devastating effect” on children, amid growing concerns about its impact on their education, development and mental health. .

It’s tricky enough for adults to stay motivated right now, but how on earth do you keep your kids positive, bright and ready to learn amid lockdown? It’s especially difficult as a lot of young people are sitting alone through hours of Zoom lessons, with some visibly switching off from learning.

Many schools across Warwickshire and the West Midlands are supporting #Children’s Mental Health Week 2021 (Feb 1-7). Express Yourself is this year’s theme focusing on the creative ways children and adults can share feelings, thoughts or ideas through art, music, writing, poetry, dance, drama, photography and film, or just doing activities that make them feel good.

THE SCHOOL HEAD
‘Praise effort rather than outcome’: Christina McCullough, Acting Headteacher, The Kingsley School, Leamington Spa

As we all knuckle down to journey through lockdown the challenges, we face feel even more acute than last time due to the added burden of the dark winter nights. This term we are focusing on ensuring that we can all recognise when negative feelings, such as feeling overwhelmed or lonely, are becoming too much by being aware of what our personal early warning signs are. These are the signs that we all get when things don’t feel right: it could be a headache, feeling sad for no reason or anything that you would say ‘isn’t like you’.

We are empowering our pupils to recognise these signs and then make a conscious decision to interrupt them with a behaviour they enjoy. This could be doing exercise, reading a book, listening to music, calling a friend or walking the dog. Having a personal list of positive interruptions that will disrupt the negative feelings is very important and really does work.

Working remotely demands a different energy and can be very tiring for all involved. It’s important to allow yourself time to adapt to this way of teaching and learning to be realistic and definitely give yourself permission to change your personal expectations to suit the way lessons are being delivered. Be kind to yourself.

As parents, one of the most impacting approaches during this challenging time is to praise effort rather than outcome as this encourages a growth mind set, boosts intrinsic motivation and reinforces the message that we are only asking for pupils to try their best. Also be mindful of extrinsic rewards to boost motivation by offering extra treats such as a little longer on the PlayStation, a bit of extra pocket money for some online shopping or an ice cream and movie night with all the family.

Time to connect in your home bubble will help to offset all the screen time being used for learning. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach and every day will need a different approach but most importantly be realistic, accept that everyone will have a down patch at some point and always be kind to yourself.

Mrs McCullough‘s top 5 tips for remote learning:

  • Create a workspace at home that is ‘school’ and make sure you leave ‘school’ at the end of the day and go to enjoy yourself somewhere else in the house.
  • Arrange everything that you need for the next day the night before.
  • Have a folder for sheets that will be used in lessons and one for those that need returning that
    you can submit when you have time.
  • Use sticky notes to remind yourself of something you still need to do.
  • Rest breaks are non-negotiable!

Kinglsey School is an independent school for girls aged 3-18, with boys welcome in Prep from 3-11-years-old. A virtual taster morning for Year 5 pupils will take place on March 20, 9am – 12noon. Interested parents can register here.

THE SECONDARY SCHOOL PUPIL

Six of the 150 student Wellbeing Ambassadors with the Diana Award (Princess Diana’s charity for young people) at King’s High, Warwick share advice based on their own experience of lockdown.

Lockdown learning can be tough for everyone. How can parents help keep kids productive, motivated, well, and balanced? Who better than to ask than the teens who understand the frustrations? Over to you girls…

‘Be a parent, not a teacher’ – Izzy

You should know that this isn’t a troubleshooting guide to teenagers. We don’t have an on/off button. I’m not going to tell you ‘how to get your child to study’. There’s enough ludicrous information on that already, but instead I’m going to tell you how to support your child, whether they’re a keen studier or not. Be the respite from your child’s studying. Show them that they are enough.

Encourage them to practise self-care by going on a walk, watching Netflix, drawing (remind them that a shower doesn’t count as self-care, and rather is a necessity). Yes, studying is paramount to success, and sometimes a nudge in the right direction can be useful, but please don’t forget that as a parent, your role is not to be our teachers.

Take cues from your children. Here are some caution warnings from my experience as a student. We know when our exams are. We’re not all the same as your cousin’s best friend’s daughter who ‘always gets A’s’. Our room being messy is the least important thing going on in our lives right now.
Some kids will want to talk, some won’t. Please support either. Please, be a parent, not a teacher.

‘Step away from the screen’ – Pirasha

Online school can be a bit different to normal school. One tip to help your child overcome any study issues and to make the most of online school is to encourage them to step away from screens when they do not need to use them and encourage them to do something else. I found baking helped me. Ask your children to email their teachers if there are any concerns that your child has with their learning. Finally, reassure your child that they are not alone.

‘Anxiety – signs to watch out for’ – Ruby

Some symptoms which may help you identify whether your child is suffering from feelings of anxiety:

  • Your child seems to be on edge
  • Feeling out of control
  • Irregular sleeping pattern
  • Low appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Always tired/grumpy
  • Feeling faint or wobbly

‘The importance of routine’ – Henrietta

Routine gives you a sense of purpose, of achievement, a framework, subconscious certainty, and rhythm. Try to get up at the same time every morning, get changed, and have a shower and eat breakfast at the same time you would on a regular school day.

Parents have lunch with your children and ask them what they did in their lessons. Pupils, it is vital that you actively participate because involvement is an essential part of learning. So much of education is a discussion, not just a teacher’s ‘monologue’.

The best lessons involve class debates. Remember to interact with your peers by switching on your microphone, or turning on your camera, because being social is necessary.

‘Stay with the exercise’ – Chloe

Staying at home being stuck in one place for a long period of time can be extremely draining and can lead our minds to wander, and before you know it, you can be overthinking many things. From my own experience, I haven’t always noticed that I’m anxious and have just jumped to the thought that it was fine to feel like this, which it is, but not when it becomes a struggle.

So, start exercising, and pick up those weights or hit the mat for some relaxed yoga, to increase your GABA levels – Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) is known as the brain’s ‘relax’ chemical.

‘Keep socialising (safely)’ – Abbie

I know a lot of children and teenagers have felt very isolated and missed their friends and felt like they do not have the energy to reach out to anyone. The impact of this is that they will struggle socialising and that could have an impact on their life in the future when having to speak up and be more independent.  

When I felt I didn’t want to socialise, my parents would make me go out on a walk or we had a games night or played in the garden. All those things release endorphins, which instantly made me feel more productive and made me want to chat to more people. Try to get your child to meet up with one of their friends outside (socially distanced).

King’s High is a leading, forward-thinking independent secondary school for girls aged 11-18. Current Year 5 girls are invited to attend a series of Virtual Inspire Workshops in 2021. See the full programme and how to register here.

Find more ideas here

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