Supporting your family’s mental health
Monday 8 March was a day many of us had been waiting for, when the school gates finally opened again. But while for many families the return to school was a welcome relief, for some the effects of Lockdown have been far reaching, and the return to some sort of normality might be a long road. Here we look at things you can do as a parent, if you are concerned about children or your family’s mental health.
Managing the change
Especially within the wider context of a global pandemic, children may have felt very safe spending so much time at home over the past few months. So the return to school may be a daunting experience.
Separation anxiety can be a real problem for some children, particularly after so long spent within constant earshot of a parent. Add to the mix a sudden influx of ‘other people’, when for months they have been told to keep their distance. It’s no wonder that particularly younger children might be feeling anxious.
There are some things that you can do as a parent to ease the transition:
- Encourage them to talk about how they’re feeling – try not to dismiss any nerves they might have about going to school. It might well be that you’re feeling anxious too, in which case tell them that and talk about things you can do together to help you feel more comfortable.
- Talk them through the months ahead – the return to school is the first in a number of changes that will come over the next few months, so why not have a sit down with them, look at the calendar and show them what changes will be happening then. Talking about the really good things to come, like visits to the grandparents and birthday parties, can make these current changes feel more manageable.
- Tell them what you’ll be doing while they’re at school – if they are feeling uncomfortable about being separated from you, it may help them to know what you’ll be doing that day, and remind them that being able to get your work or the chores done while they’re at school means you can spend more quality time with them when they get home
Some parents have noticed that their children seem to have regressed in the pandemic. Toilet-trained toddlers may suddenly be wetting the bed. Teenagers might throw tantrums, the likes of which you haven’t seen since their early years.
While this might seem alarming, it is really just your child’s way of expressing emotions that they might not know how to convey verbally. It is a cry for help, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Try to take this as an opportunity to talk to them about how they are feeling.
Teenagers can be encouraged to express themselves in other ways. Through art, perhaps? Or they can be taught to self-regulate through breathing exercises or by going for a walk or a run.
For younger children, they may just need that bit of extra attention. This might be hard to hear when as a parent you feel like you don’t have much left to give!
What to do if you feel like your child isn’t coping
Our children have been through a lot in the past year, and some of them will have found it easier to deal with than others. If you think your child is struggling, the first thing to remember is it isn’t your fault.
If you feel like you’ve tried everything but your child still seems withdrawn or anxious, it might be time to ask for outside help. Here at The Mayfair GP we offer a private specialist paediatric care service, and we can provide a safe space for you and your child to talk about how you and they are feeling.
We can also offer mental health screening, should you feel it is necessary. While this might seem like a scary option, it is vital to remember that mental health is just like physical health. Sometimes we have dips, but early and effective treatment can get us back on track.
Lockdown has been a tough time for many, and it is important that we don’t underestimate the toll it has taken on our family’s mental health, or that of our children.
For more information, or to book a consultation, please contact us.