While the school gates may be shut at this time, our community is most definitely open, and independent schools across Scotland are working hard to support staff, pupils and their families while they’re at home. Health and well-being are our top priorities, now more so than ever amid a global health crisis.
While the situation will be extremely difficult for many, we have been warmed by the efforts of our schools and pupils to stay fit and well, keep spirits up, maintain a healthy level of learning and to stay connected whilst being detached from one another. These challenges are being overcome in the most inspiring and creative ways.
We thought it would be helpful to share some practical advice from one of our member schools in this blog to help support the many families and pupils who will be worried and anxious at this time.
In an effort to get parents and carers talking to children and young people about Coronavirus, Dr Melanie Lees, a clinical psychologist at Gordonstoun has shared her advice with SCIS to try and help alleviate some of fear being experienced.
Have a conversation about Coronavirus
Dr Lees encourages parents and caregivers to initiate a conversation about the pandemic so that from the outset, they can determine the young person’s understanding of the situation and try to help ease their worry and anxiety.
When having these conversations, she advises that we need to “be as truthful as possible in our conversations, whilst remembering the age, developmental stage and level of understanding for each of our children individually.”
Dr Lees explains that it is important to encourage children and teenagers to ask questions and we need to listen to their views and worries with empathy and acceptance. While providing some reassurance is helpful, the priority should centre mostly on listening and accepting, which will be particularly important for teens.
While there is so much uncertainty, providing practical guidance will help young people to focus on the things they can control, such as hand washing and practising safe social distancing. Rather than highlighting what they can’t do, you can help them to develop new activities to channel their focus and need for control. This should ease anxiety, especially with teenagers whose mood and motivation will be most affected by social distancing restrictions.
Dr Lees advises parents to “keep talking to them and seek professional advice or support if you believe they are exhibiting significant signs of low mood.” There is a lot of good guidance available to adults with responsibility for children and young people on supporting them during Coronavirus. The basic guidance from the British Psychological Society and this recent blog from Children 1st might prove helpful.
Don’t forget YOU!
Lastly, it’s important that parents and carers also look after their own mental health and wellbeing. We can do this by sharing any concerns with partners, friends and wider support networks. Dr Lees stresses that we need to do this out of earshot of our children to help maintain a model of calm and coping as adults. This, she says, will help us contain our children’s anxiety and worry.
Many thanks to Dr Melanie Lees, Consultant Clinical Psychologist (MA Hons; D Clin Psychol) Chartered and Registered (BPS; DCP; HCPC) at Gordonstoun School Counselling Service for her contribution to this blog.