Supporting children's emotional wellbeing
The Council’s Child and Educational Psychology Service has worked closely with teachers and professionals working with children and young people, providing resources and training to help support children’s mental health and wellbeing during this challenging year. Here they tell us about some of the work they’ve been doing and some guidance and tips to help families and children as restrictions begin to lift.
Our children and young people have had a difficult time this year. Their education and social lives have been disrupted by school closure, lockdowns and restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. This may have significantly affected their emotional wellbeing.
The Child and Educational Psychology Service has supported teachers and professionals working with children and young people in a variety of ways so that they can promote children and young people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing during this challenging time. This has included:
- Providing a Mental Health resource pack to schools at the start of the first lockdown
- Providing information to support the planned return to school in June 2020
- Contributing to the development of a Recovery Model, which teachers and professionals working with children can use to support their work, to ensure this has a psychological evidence base
- Creating training packages for all staff within the Council’s Children’s Services via webinars to embed an approach called PACE (Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity, Empathy) and Motivational Interviewing as part of the Recovery Model
- Delivering the Wellbeing for Education Return (WER) training and supervision for Emotional Health and Wellbeing Co-ordinators on behalf of the Department for Education (DfE) so that they can promote staff wellbeing and children and young people’s wellbeing as schools re-opened. This focused on helping staff support each other, recognise and respond when children and young people show signs of distress associated with bereavement and loss, low mood and anxiety, and stress.
We recognise this has been a traumatic experience for children and young people and their families. We recommend that schools continue to provide nurturing support using the models and resources introduced in the WER training and Recovery Model. This includes our approach to Psychological First Aid: Recognise, Respond and Link, using the Whole School Approach to Wellbeing and Mental Health and Five Rs: Relationships, Recognition, Reflection, Regulation and Resilience.
It is important that we are kind to each other and recognise we are all coping in our own ways. Following the Five Ways to Wellbeing might help all of us cope with the transition to ‘everyday’ life as we come out of lockdown. These include connecting with other people, being active, learning new skills, giving to others and paying attention to the present moment.
We believe strong relationships are important for recovery. We recommend Dan Hughes PACE (Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity, Empathy) as an approach to connect with and support children and young people who show signs of stress, not coping and/or trauma. In addition, schools, parents and carers could refer to Promoting Psychological Recovery and Wellbeing for Children and Young People page on the UK Trauma Council website. This recommends six principles to support psychological recovery by helping children to:
- Feel safe - by giving children and young people more attention, being more available for them and letting know it is okay to be upset.
- Feel calm - by using soothing activities like sharing stories, craft, yoga, listening to music. We know that repetitive activities are soothing so being active, jumping on a trampoline, running are all helpful. Accepting and validating children’s feelings.
- Feel socially supported and connected - by reconnecting with family and friends children and young people might have interacted with virtually. Planning ways to be together again doing activities children and young people enjoy or new activities they have discovered.
- Feel in control - by giving choices when it is appropriate; playing games and doing activities that children and young people have chosen or planned.
- Feel hopeful about the future - by talking about and planning for activities children and young people can look forward to
- Make meaning of what has happened - by talking about the pandemic in a factual, optimistic and balanced way. Helping children to share their thoughts, hopes and fears. Letting them know it is okay to feel how they feel.