During this difficult time I wanted to reach out to let you know that, even though our school is currently closed to all but a few children, we’re still here to support your child and your family in whatever way we can.
You might be noticing signs of increasing anxiety in your child as they’re spending more time indoors and outside of their normal routines. These might include:
Pupils ages 3-6 years:
- Regressing to behaviour they’ve outgrown, such as thumb-sucking or bed-wetting
- Showing greater fear at being separated from you
- Trouble sleeping
Pupils ages 7-10 years:
- Expressing sadness, anger or fear
- Sharing false information that they’re hearing from their peers or seeing online
- Wanting to talk about coronavirus all the time
- Not wanting to talk about the current situation at all
- Having trouble concentrating
Preteen and teenaged pupils:
- Acting out – this might include things like picking fights with you or with siblings
- Becoming afraid to leave the house
- Distancing themselves from their friends and family
- Exhibiting intense emotions but being unable to talk about what they’re feeling
We’ve put together some resources to help you support your child. We hope you find this information helpful.
If you have any concerns about how your child is coping or you need any other support from the school, please let us know by contacting your child’s teacher, or email@example.com
We’re extremely grateful for all the support you’ve shown us as we’ve adapted to these new circumstances, and we want to reassure you that we are still here to support you too.
We can and will get through this together.
Take care of yourself
It’s really important right now to take care of your own physical and mental health. Children are very perceptive, and they react to what they sense from the adults around them.
Here are some things you can do to help keep yourself healthy:
- Connect with God – find ways that work for you, some people love spending time alone with God, some prefer to do it with others. Connect to pastors and leaders of your churches
- Connect with others – maintain relationships with people you care about through phone and video calls
- Exercise – take some time every day to move. You could go for a walk or run. You’ll also find lots of fitness videos online for everything from aerobics to dance. Find something you enjoy and that makes you feel good
- Eat healthy meals – try to keep a well-balanced diet and drink enough water
- Get some sleep – being anxious or worried can have a big impact on your sleep. If you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep, try to develop a calming bedtime routine
- Turn off the news – it’s important to keep up to date, but the 24-hour news cycle can make you more anxious. Limit your exposure to the news to only a small amount of time, just enough to know what the latest government guidance is
- Do things you enjoy – now that we’re all spending more time at home, we can finally take up that hobby we’ve always meant to learn. Try baking or gardening or learning to knit. These are also great activities we can share with our children
- Set goals – it’s easy to lose track of the days in our current situation, so it can be helpful to set daily and weekly goals to give us a sense of control and purpose. Examples might be setting a goal of walking for half an hour at least 3 times this week or reading a new book
- Connect with the outdoors – depending on where you live, it may not be possible to spend time outside. If you don’t have a garden or terrace, you can still open a window to let some fresh air and sunlight in. Put a comfortable chair by the window so you can look outside and get some air as you read a book
- Talk to someone – during this difficult time, sharing with family and friends how you’re feeling and what you’re doing to cope can be helpful for both you and them. There are also helplines you can call for support – we’ve included a list at the end of this pack
How to talk to your child about what’s happening
No matter how calmly you manage the current environment, children are likely to be anxious, so it’s important to talk to them about what’s happening.
For younger children
Children pick up bits of information from their friends, from the news and from listening to adults talking around them – but they can misunderstand what they’re hearing.
- Deal with the news head-on and talk about it openly and calmly, giving them the facts
- Give them age-appropriate information – take a look at:
- Teach them how to know if information they find on the internet is reliable. Explain how some stories on social media may be based on rumours or inaccurate information
- Encourage them to take breaks from listening to or reading the news – overexposure isn’t helpful
- Encourage questions
- This will give them the confidence to reach out, if they have anything to ask
- Be reassuring but honest when answering questions – it’s ok if you don’t have all the answers
- Be ready to answer the same question over and over – children tend to repeat themselves when they’re feeling uncertain or worried, so you might have to answer the same questions more than once as they seek extra reassurance
- Be a role model
- Recognise and manage your own worries first
- Be open about your own feelings and let them know it’s normal to be concerned – for example, let them know you’re also finding the news a bit worrying and what you’re doing to stay calm
- Explain how our body’s immune system protects us
- It’s constantly working against germs without us knowing. We can’t and don’t need to control this process
- Explain that we’re taking precautions against this particular germ because it’s a new one which our bodies haven’t come across before
- Remind them how important it is that they eat healthy food, sleep and exercise, as this helps to fight germs
- If it helps, reassure them that the effects of this virus on healthy young people are very mild
- Keep doing your bit to help children reduce the spread of germs
- Remind them to maintain good hygiene like bathing daily and wearing fresh clothes
- Encourage them to sing ‘happy birthday’ twice when they’re washing their hands
For older children
Older children will have the same anxieties about their own health and that of their family and friends as younger children. But they’re also likely to feel socially isolated, and worried about the result of school closures on their education and what life will be like after the pandemic is over.
In addition to the steps above:
- Reassure them that when more guidance comes from the school about how grades will be awarded, you’ll share this with them as soon as you have it – you could also check that they understand the information you’ve received so far, in case there are any points of confusion or worry that the school could help to clarify
- Encourage them to maintain social ties – relationships are especially important for older children, so give them room to keep in touch with their friends
- Equip them with accurate information – for example:
- Share tools to help them manage anxiety
If your child struggles with higher levels of anxiety
Some children are naturally more anxious, such as those with existing phobias or obsessive-compulsive disorders. The current situation can make those anxieties worse.
- Get them to do activities such as counting, ordering and sorting tasks which can help them calm down
- Encourage them to use relaxation techniques such as controlled breathing
- Look out for obsessive or compulsive behaviours and try to get ahead of them early by challenging unhelpful thoughts and assumptions
- If you’re worried about your child’s anxiety, YoungMinds is a charity dedicated to children’s mental health. They’ve opened a parents’ helpline for confidential, expert advice. You can reach them at 0808 802 5544
Helplines and websites for children and young people
If your child would like to speak with someone confidentially, there are helplines and websites specifically for them.
Free, confidential support via text, available 24/7
|Text SHOUT to 85258 in the UK to text with a trained crisis volunteer who’ll provide active listening and collaborative problem-solving|
Free confidential telephone helpline and online service that aims to find young people the best help, whatever the problem
Confidential telephone counselling service for any child with a problem
How to make home learning work for your family
We’re realistic about what pupils will be able to do during this period, and we want you to be too.
You’re not expected to become teachers and your children aren’t expected to learn as they do in school. Simply providing them with some structure at home will help them to adapt.
The following tips are designed to help you create a positive learning environment at home. See what works best for your household.
- Create and stick to a routine if you can. This is what children are used to. For example, eat breakfast at the same time and make sure they’re dressed before starting the ‘school’ day – avoid staying in pyjamas!
- Involve your children in setting the timetable where possible. It’s a great opportunity for them to manage their own time better and it’ll give them ownership
- Check in with your children and try to keep to the timetable, but be flexible. If a task/activity is going well or they want more time, let it extend where possible
- If you have more than 1 child at home, consider combining their timetables. For example, they might exercise and do maths together – see what works for your household
- Designate a working space if possible, and at the end of the day have a clear cut-off to signal school time is over
- Stick the timetable up on the wall so everyone knows what they should be doing when, and tick activities off throughout the day
- Take stock at the end of each week. What’s working and what isn’t? Ask your children, involve them too
- Distinguish between weekdays and weekends, to separate school life and home life
- Give them chores to do so they feel more responsible about the daily routine at home
- Ask them to help you cook and bake
- Accept that they’ll probably watch more TV/spend time on their phone – that’s ok but you might want to set/agree some screen time limits
Please don’t worry about your children getting behind with learning. Everyone’s in the same boat, and when things get back to normal we’ll make sure we get everyone back on track.
WWhere to turn to for help
It’s okay to not be okay. We all need someone to talk to sometimes. If you feel overwhelmed, at risk of abuse or experiencing financial need, there are people you can call on for support:
|Mental Health Foundation
Provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities
A mental health charity
|Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)
Youth suicide prevention society
|Phone: 0800 068 4141 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 10pm, and 2pm to 10pm on weekends and bank holidays)
Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair
|Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
Emotional support, information and guidance for people affected by mental illness, their families and carers
A charity dedicated to children’s mental health
|Phone: Parents’ helpline 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)
|Cruse Bereavement Care
Support for grief and bereavement
|Phone: 0808 808 1677 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5pm)