In a world which is currently filled with uncertainty, it can be challenging to keep spirits optimistic, particularly when there are frequent changes, disappointments or question marks. Whilst, for adults, we may be able to rationalise some of the challenges that are occurring, for children, whose frontal cortex, responsible for logical and rational thought, is less developed managing the situation can be extremely hard.
2020 was challenging for many reasons, the disruptions to routines, the cancelled plans, the lack of interaction and the loss of events that filled our calendars with joy. Many families have quickly developed the art of adaptation, creativity and developing alternative ideas to support their families. However, for some families, this year has been a time of frustration, and surviving each day has become a battle. I have met many parents feeling guilty that they should have done ‘more’ or tried ‘harder’, but whilst we were all in the same storm, we were all equipped differently and had different resources to manage. Now, more than ever, is a time for self-kindness.
Every child is unique, their brain development is similar but at their own rates, their resilience sits at different levels, and their life experiences vary greatly. So, whilst one child may be managing the uncertainty with more gusto, others can feel despondent, sad and fearful. As adults, offering some calm in the storm can support children to feel more able to manage the situation.
With so much uncertainty, it can feel tempting to throw life up in the air and spend the day in our pyjamas, however, routine is vital to our mental health so keeping structure to our days is incredible important. Keep wake up times and bedtimes regular, meal times structured and plan in fresh air, activities and interactions to give focus and stimulation.
We all need things to look forward to, and whilst planning things in the diary can lead to disappointment, starting a ‘plans jar’ for 2021 is a great way to acknowledge and validate children’s ideas and wishes. Decorate a storage jar or box and when children think of something they would like to do, write it on a card and add it to the jar. When the world opens up again, you have a whole host of activity ideas to select from and create memories.
Children feed off of our energy, if they sense we are panicking, they will panic. If they see us problem solving and looking for solutions, they learn optimism and resilience. Whilst we can all feel moments of anxiety, fear or uncertainty supporting children to learn to balance overwhelming information with positive steps, e.g, safety and responsibility, healthy eating and living and promoting good mental health allows them to feel in control.
#4 – Enjoy the small things
Whilst we may temporarily be withholding from trips out, holidays and excursions, we can use this period to reconnect with the small joys. Whether it is baking, learning to cook family meals, arts and crafts, learning a new skill or taking up a new activity we can foster positive mental health by creating a sense of ‘achievement’ and reward which releases dopamine, endorphins and serotonin. Helping children to develop positive habits, connect with new interests and develop a sense of achievement allows them to increase their confidence and resilience and manifest their energies into positive skills.
#5 – Get active
With winter drawing in, whilst we may want to hide in front of the television, getting outside each day for a walk in the fresh air and daylight is important for our mental health and well-being. Increasing endorphins in the body, blowing cobwebs away in the fresh air improves our body function, immunity, concentration and mood. Consistency is key, so taking it in turns to plan a route and getting out in fresh air is a positive step for our well-being.
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