Inspired by my beautiful great- niece and great- nephew, and of course their mummy and daddy.
As children all over the UK are set to head back to school in the next few weeks, it’s only natural that many children and parents may be feeling nervous about the new normal.
So as a family it's more important than ever to care for each other and help each other to take time to care for our mental health.
Pre- School Preparation
Talk to your children about the new rules their school has put in to place, explaining how the measures are there to keep them safe as they learn and reconnect with their classmates and friends.
Show them pictures of how their school may look, this is especially helpful for younger children so that they are able to visualise what the new measures look like.
Reassure them that their learning environment will be safe and how they can help by following the new rules put in place.
Start to get back into a routine before school starts, this may involve a new stricter bedtime than we’ve all been used to over the past six months.
Family meal time can also be a great way to structure your evenings and give your family a chance to connect with each other.
Family Tune In Time
Give each other your full attention, when talking to each other, try to sit at the same level and give each other plenty of eye contact.
Turn off distractions like radios, tv’s and i-pads, dedicate time to be with each other.
Engage in conversation, try not to just give each other instructions, actively engage in a two way conversation and show interest in each other and how each others day has been.
Use ‘door opener statements’ such as; I see; wow; that’s interesting; tell me more. Encouraging conversation and improving each others willingness to want to communicate.
Acknowledge each others feelings, even the feelings that we may think of as ‘negative,’ such as frustration and anger, empathise with each other.
Engage In Activities
There are many activities that you can do as a family to encourage conversations about your emotions and feelings. They can be a really great way to keep an eye on each other and provide the perfect opportunity to support each other.
Create a fun family pack of discussion cards; they can be as creative as you like and you can cater the questions to your individual family. They could include questions such as; What was the best part of your day? Name three things that made you happy today. What are your favourite games to play? How can you tell when somebody in your family is feeling happy or sad? Do you have any close friends and if so who are they? When you feel sad, what does your body feel like? Family games like this can be really fun, a great way to understand each other and a fab way to get children talking about their feelings and emotions.
Draw a ‘how do you feel today’ picture. Grab some paper and pens and draw faces that represent all the emotions you can think of; happy, sad, confused, angry, worried, nervous, scared, excited, glad. Then pin it somewhere in the house, maybe the fridge, then after school encourage your children (and each other) to point to the faces that represent their feelings of the day and spend a few minutes discussing the emotions felt and why.
Emotions by colour. Find a box of crayons, felt tips or paints and each write down what the colours represent to you. For example, for me red would be anger, yellow would be happiness and blue would be sadness. Once you’ve each created your list, draw around your hand and then colour your hand in with the colours you’re feeling. This can be a great way for children (and adults) to express how they are feeling without having to find the words.
If your child or partner comes home from school or work and you sense that they need to talk or express themselves, initiating activities like these can be a great way to connect, listen and understand each other. Often if we are asked how we are we say; I’m ok, you? Yet if we sit down to engage in a fun but connecting actively we take time to listen and communicate with ourselves and each other, and during these unprecedented times this is more important that ever.
Ask For Help
If you feel that your family, you or a family member needs some extra support, reach out. There is a lot of support out there, speak to your work, your children’s school, reach out to organisations and charities within your area to see what practical help they can offer or point you in the direction of. There are many at home resource packs on offer, group activities, online resources and many people you can talk too, including counsellors.
If you would like to reach out to chat to me in regards to support that I may be able to offer to you or your family, please feel free to send me and text, drop me a call or an email.