Text: Monika Pedersen
February is the month associated with celebrating love and romance. Sharing positive emotions and showing we care for one another is also an important thread to carry into our classrooms and practice at home with children during these testing times.
The seriousness of the situation has forced well-being and mental health to the forefront of discussion, and the issue will not fade as the COVID virus rages and the latest Omicron variant features on the global scene.
For many children, it is the fear of the actual illness and what it can do to them or others in their circle of family and friends. They are worried about the actual symptoms, the length of time they will be sick, and the isolation. Often students suffer anxiety as they fear they may be excluded and lose their friends as they have been infected by the illness. In addition, the inability to have contact with others can place a strain on a family.
In light of this, parents and teachers need to work together to provide emotional support to foster child well-being.
As a parent, what can you do to reduce the anxiety your child is feeling?
Allocate time to talk to your child/children and explain what is going on in the world. Have them share their thoughts and feelings freely. Listen, be compassionate, and validate their feelings, as this has a calming effect and builds the sense of security they need.
Explain in child-friendly terms what COVID is and the possible symptoms. Frame it positively to manage their fears. Focus on the precautions that can be taken, such as hand washing, keeping a safe distance, and healthy living.
Ensure your child has regular exercise to maintain a healthy body and mind. This, in turn, reduces stress hormone levels.
Allow time for play, so your child's mind can be stimulated in positive ways to avoid focusing on their fears and building capacity through creative, enjoyable activities.
To help your child stay calm when an upsetting situation arises, teach them some deep breathing techniques. Practice these techniques together, as this will enable your child to draw on this strategy in your absence.
Try to ensure your child stays in contact with family and friends. Decide on a safe bubble of people with whom to connect, sustain relationships, and retain a level of normalcy.
Seek out the positive in each day and keep a sense of humour. And do things that lift you and your child's spirits.
Tips for teaching teams
Teachers play a vital role in creating a safe and harmonious setting within the classroom. It is even more pertinent than ever in COVID times.
Again, provide students with age-appropriate information about COVID to dissimulate fears. Instil an understanding of how to react should a class member be infected to encourage good group dynamics and pivot away from negativity. And set up clear hygiene procedures so students can follow safe practices.
Allocate specific time each day to chat with the class about their feelings and listen to their thoughts. Individual chats are also a good strategy. Be mindful of any change in a child's behaviour and communicate regularly with parents.
Maintain routines to provide a sense of order and security. Students like to know the plan for the day and routines to give life structure, which raises comfort levels.
Provide some unstructured time so students, depending on age, can play together and solidify connections or chat with each other, so they can share issues and concerns among themselves. Social interaction is essential to cement bonds and a team mentality.
Being positive, empathic, and caring is essential, as students need and rely on their teachers for stoicism, consistency, and guidance.
The silver lining
The takeaway for all of us is to reach out and help each other. Working collaboratively will help children cope with this 'strange' situation and be prepared for other obstacles they will need to navigate later in life.