The world has become a crazy and new place to be living over recent months, and many parents who I speak with are contemplating what comes next and how to manage those steps.

After spending months in protective bubbles at home, the concept of the return to school, seeing friends (from a social distance) and returning to a new reality can feel both overwhelming and exciting. The difficulty for many, being identifying how to make the ‘right’ choices and when to make those choices.

So, how do we support ourselves and our families with this concept?

Firstly, before doing anything, or making any decisions, STOP, and let’s look at all the bases:

 

#1 – Check in with yourself

It can be so easy to fall into the routine of thinking so much about what your family needs that you forget or ignore your own needs. However, in the current circumstances, more than ever, your mental health and well-being needs to be a priority – a crew is as strong as it’s captain, and in times of difficulty they look at you to role model what comes next. Have you ever noticed, that when children find themselves in a new situation, they look to a key adult figure to see how to act? In current circumstances, this will be key. So, take the time to:

  • Sit with your feelings and identify what you are feeling right now
  • Identify any negative emotions that you may need some support or strategies for, albeit fear, anxiety, stress or worry
  • Consider the actions you can take daily to manage this
  • Consider whether you need some external/professional help to manage this
  • Schedule the support into your diary as a priority

 

#2 – Check in with the priorities for YOUR family

Once you have taken the time to check in with yourself and made a plan for your needs, THEN, you can identify what your family needs. From your own observations and conversations over previous weeks you may already have a core list of areas, emotions or situations which you know need a little help. With older children, you may choose to sit down and talk to them about anything that they need help with, or any feelings that they require support with. You may want to consider:

 

  • Which scenarios are coming up that my children need help with
  • Which emotions are currently at play which need attention or support?
  • Are there any situations or experiences that have occurred over past weeks that your child is finding difficult to process?
  • What’s your routine, consistency and daily life like? Are there any changes you feel would be beneficial?
  • Consider the actions you can take daily to manage this
  • Consider whether you need some external/professional help to manage this

 

#3 – Check in with where your children are and what you know about their coping mechanisms

You know your child best, so taking time to think back over previous changes, transitions and traumas to reflect on their previous coping strategies is a beneficial activity. Reflecting on how your individual children react to things both in the lead up, the moment and the aftermath (3mths – 3 years after) is a core activity when planning longer term support. You may have children who cope very differently with triggering or challenging situations and need to put in place different strategies for them. Consider:

  • How does your child normally cope with change? Do they leap in, are they hesitant or cautious, do they find it difficult?
  • How does your child cope in the aftermath of challenging situations? Do they ride through it with a few conversations/questions? Do they bottle things up and it comes out in explosions or at bedtime? Do they struggle continually for longer periods with anxiety symptoms or soothing habits?
  • Which strategies have you used in the past which have helped? (I’ll be coming back to this in my next blog)
  • Are they changes you can make to your routines to help your child?
  • Do you need some external support or professional intervention to help them?
  • Are there further changes coming up that you need to pre-plan for?

 

#4 –Identify if there are any resources or support that you need

In un-chartered territory, you cannot be expected to know exactly what to do and when, which is why using wider support and resources is vital to helping yourself and your family. Once you have your identified list of areas to cover, you can then take the time to consider what you need next. You may also need to consider if your child will need external professional support whether through therapy sessions, or resources to use at home, for instance, hypnotherapy audios, books to share and stories to explore emotions. You may want some wider reading and information, you can check out the children’s book shop and parent hub at www.adventuresofbrian.co.uk as well as the other blogs at www.astepatatime.org.uk for some information to get your started, you might also want to look at www.mind.org.uk.

 

#5 – Choose one or two things to action

Now you have a starting point, remember that this process is going to be something that you support for the next 1-2 years, as we navigate a new normal and ongoing changes, so you do not need to action everything in one day. You may want to schedule some time once a month to come back and review these questions and your situation as things develop and you gather more observations and awareness of how you and your family are coping. For now:

  • Choose 1-2 actions to implement for yourself on a weekly basis
  • Choose 1-2 actions to implement for your children on a weekly basis

 

Mental health is a lifetime process, and you may need to come back and review, reflect and implement new things on an ongoing basis. You may also find that you come across unexpected steps on the way which need support, reach out and ask for help and advice to make this process as least stressful as possible.

 

Take care, remember you are a priority too

Nicky xxx

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