• Phoenix Education

Twitter chat wrap up: #KidsCovidMH

Last night we hosted our first, twitter chat and we focused on children’s Mental Health during the nation’s Covid19 response.

We were joined by a variety of professionals including Dr Benjamin Costello, Amanda Peddle and Executive Principal of Bolton Impact Trust, Paul Hodgkinson and the real experts, parents of children that are struggling, surviving and thriving in lockdown.

Together, we discussed the six questions below and we have summarised the general conversation - and our own insight - in the blog below. We extend a huge thank you to everyone that participated and hope to see you all again, 8pm next Tuesday to discuss managing COVID19 conversations around grief, loss and bereavement.

1. How has your child’s behaviour changed during isolation?

We found a clear divide between children that seem to be thriving in lockdown, without the pressures of school and the anxiety that it creates whilst others are sad, angry and frustrated without the support of their teachers, interaction with their friends and independent routine that going to school creates.

This varied response reminds us that there is no ‘one fits all’ approach when it comes to learning, supporting mental health or otherwise engaging children and young people. It highlights the pressure, stress and strain the act of ‘going to school’ places on many children that are incredibly willing to learn and creates a clear case for changing the way we provide education in the future.

2. What challenging behaviours have been presented since lockdown was enforced?

We acknowledged that both adults and children are likely to be presenting challenging behaviour as a result of lockdown - and it is important to recognise that some stress, tension and frustration, from all members of your household is likely.

However, with many of us feeling out of control at the moment and with such strict rules and guidelines around our behaviour and interaction, it is likely that lots of us will try to find something we can control in our lives. Healthy areas of control will include school work, family projects, arts and crafts, development of sports skills and even gaming with friends online. Concerning areas of control include testing boundaries, controlling food intake, exploring the use of drugs and alcohol, refusal to engage in education or flouting government guidelines.

3. What do you understand in terms of the causes of your children’s behaviour?

I think many of us understand the changes in our children’s behaviour is in response to the COVID19 pandemic and the restrictions, concerns and frustrations it creates.

However, we agreed it was beneficial to understand the various issues that contribute to these emotions so that we get a more specific understanding of the struggles our children are facing.

Some examples we shared include:

Frustration: Life is beginning to feel like Groundhog Day for most of us and those children that are typically active and social are likely to be feeling incredibly frustrated that they are unable to participate in the activities they enjoy. Children probably don’t consider themselves to be at risk of the virus and as a result will fail to understand the reasoning behind the reasoning behind the restrictions and the benefits of our united lockdown efforts.

Loneliness: Even if we are in a house with lots of people, many of us will still feel alone. We may feel unable to share our thoughts, we may be unable to even clarify them and can feel isolated when we have to complete a large number of tasks, which we would normally share with our friends, alone.

Concern: Many children and young people are likely to have questions that we simply do not have answers to. Knowing when this will end, what will happen when they will return to school, how many more people will die and even if they have contracted the virus or may do in the future. Unanswered questions are likely to raise high levels of concern and anxiety that children will have little experience of managing.

Boredom: Isolation is allowing us to understand the amount of focus and support classroom environments provide to our children and in some cases highlights the 1:1 support children need to practise their attention. Boredom will contribute to a number of mixed emotions and a variety of challenging behaviours.

4. What do you think your children are trying to communicate when they present challenging behaviour?

As parents, it’s imperative to remember that your children might be unable to clarify their feelings. They may not recognise their current feelings and struggle to understand the physical and emotional responses to isolation and lockdown.

Typically, when a child relies on behaviour to communicate it is because words fail them, because they don’t necessarily understand how they are feeling or know how to articulate or share it with others.

Sharing stories of other children can be a useful way of providing clarity and initiating conversation - as can subject focused arts and crafts. There are lots of ideas relating to both of these subjects on our COVID-19 support page.

5. What are your current strategies for supporting your child's behaviour and how successful are they?

It’s valuable to recognise that everyone is on uncharted ground and as a result there are no ‘hard and fast’ rules for how we do this. We can rely on our understanding of children’s behaviour and their physical and mental health needs to make informed decisions and craft appropriate strategies.

In our experience, supporting your child’s behaviour and mental health needs is formed on our ability to ask questions and measure responses. It is essential for us to notice when our child is having healthy responses (even if they are in the form of challenging behaviour) to difficult circumstances and when they begin to show unhealthy or otherwise maladaptive responses that pose distress, a danger or concern to themselves or others.

6. How do you support yourself and manage the impact of your child’s challenging behaviour on your own mental health?

It’s important for us to practice what we preach when it comes to supporting our behaviour and well being during the nation’s response to COVID-19. As priority, we must maintain health habits including regular sleep and exercise; we should take time to utilise the strategies we know to be relaxing whether that’s reading, colouring, baking, getting lost in a film or simply enjoying 5 minutes peace and quiet. Rely on your own support network and offload emotions (by doing something like journaling) as often as possible.

We will be back on twitter next Tuesday at 8pm discuss Grief & Bereavement using #KidsCovidMH and do hope that you will join us.