ONE in six children has suffered mental health issues during the pandemic, according to the Children’s Commissioner’s annual report.
Emotional wellbeing and mental health have both taken a battering, with lockdown highlighting what most education professionals already knew…that a lot of children suffer with mental health issues and that schools are dealing with this daily.
Anxiety is a biggie and a fairly common emotion that can affect anyone of any age, at any time. It’s our brain and body’s natural response mechanism to fear, panic and apprehension. However, when it gets out of control and obstructs general life, it can then trigger much bigger issues.
Only last month a former student of mine sadly committed suicide. This student had been a talented, funny and on the surface, confident person. It bothers me to know that they thought they had no other choice. Over this lockdown a number of my students have struggled with mental health to a greater degree. This week I’ll be 'checking in' with all my students, as it's important they know that not only is normal to be feeling some level of anxiety, particularly in these crazy times we’re living, but there is also help and support out there. One of the things I tell them is "It's like a visitor, they'll come, but if they over stay their welcome, show them the door. If they won't leave, go get help".
Shielding is also making its mark. Many students are shielding, or have parents who are, with the only fresh air they're getting from the garden, or a doorstep. Problematic if you're someone whose quite active, sporty or just loves being outdoors. I am shielding, so my daughters’ life is not what it was, or the same as other students in lockdown. Mercifully, my daughter has everything she needs, and LOVES being at home with her mum.
The mental health of children stems from so many things, including the internet, social media in general, giving children seemingly unattainable goals for their physical appearance, life goals, clothes and personal popularity. Lack of exercise, phone addictions, excessive gaming and poor diet plus the third lockdown has exacerbated all of these issues, boredom has set in, lethargy is rife. Even the most of energetic of students, can no longer rustle up the energy like they did previously. They all add to the mix but are also part of their everyday lives so it’s about obtaining and managing “the right mix”.
SUPPORT AND HELP
Check on your children, keep a routine for them as much as possible to what they would usually have. Hopefully, school will be delivering a full complement of lessons to help support that structure.
Go outside, take a walk every day. Do some online exercise with your children. Make things, garden, bake. Literally anything you can to maintain some normal. Yesterday I watched 45 mins of LOL Doll cartoons. For my daughter this was special, because she knows I hate TV!
There are some great resources/websites you can use for ideas and support:
Children's Mental Health Week 2021 – Place 2 Be launched the first ever Children’s Mental Health Week in 2015 to shine a spotlight on the importance of children and young people’s mental health. This year, it is taking place from today until 7 February, with the theme of "Express Yourself". Expressing yourself is about finding ways to share feelings, thoughts, or ideas, through creativity. This could be through art, music, writing and poetry, dance and drama, photography and film, and doing activities that make you feel good. To find out more plus, browse free resources that can be adapted for use in school, home-schooling, online lessons or independent learning, please visit: www.childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk
Twinkl has so many resources, they span all age groups. They aren’t all just lessons, there are lots of craft activities. https://www.twinkl.co.uk/
The Big Life Journal is amazing. A great book which focuses on fun activities, gives you lots of ideas on different ways to respond to your child. As well as how to regain some common ground. I have brought and used this myself with my daughter, who is a very naturally anxious, emotional soul. In a family of very robust ‘get on with it’ types, my youngest daughter has been a revelation and a learning curve I work with children for a living, but when it’s your own child it’s 10 times more difficult, so be kind to yourself. Buy this book! https://biglifejournal-uk.co.uk/products/big-life-journal-daily-edition?gclid=Cj0KCQiA6t6ABhDMARIsAONIYyxUHdKKMYJ3a-gDV1FRySNRm0c5sUtPP8M0dyVbun_5dL8XG7_SAcEaAlTcEALw_wcB
The Calm App is another good resource for both adults and children. I have this app and it has several free elements. But it is worth paying the £35.00 per year membership to get full access to its benefits. My daughter loves the calming bedtime stories. https://www.calm.com/breathe?gclid=Cj0KCQiA6t6ABhDMARIsAONIYyzsLszDZnUmXOALCDIlBJSg8_Ljb5U-lDEVK2CzlbgOSMRqGNexSNkaAlsSEALw_wcB
Headspace is another great app particularly for adults and older teens. I have tried this on behalf of clients’ and it is super accessible, bright and fairly easy to set up. https://www.headspace.com/
The NHS also have a very good help and advice on their website and their services are free. https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/childrens-mental-health/
In memory of my student