The last few weeks have seen the world come to grips with a new virus that has gone global. Covid-19 is causing countries to go into lockdown in order to slow down the spread of infection and our lives our getting turned upside down with each new development. We are all facing uncertainty with how long this is going to last, which can impact on our Mental Health and Well-being, especially in our children and young people. Here are some sources for support and suggestions to help manage through these transitions.
This is not exhaustive, but covers resources that can provide professional support and/or are underpinned by reputable expertise and evidence for all ages.
- Young Minds
- Childline (Calm Zone)
- On My Mind
- Every Mind Matters
- Premier Lifeline
- Young Minds Parent Helpline
- Anna Freud
Keep to a Routine
Whether young or old, keeping to some sort of routine will help keep a sense of rhythm and normality to the coming days. If children or teenagers have been given home packs or access to online resources, trying to follow a pattern that they know may help them engage with learning day-to-day. This doesn't mean sticking rigidly to timings, but an expectation of what might happen each day can help with feeling anxious (see Grid School on Instagram for help with this). For our teens, it may be hard readjusting boundaries at home, so work with them on what's going to be best.
This also ties in with seeing people. We've gone from having the freedom to seeing whomever we want to becoming more isolated. For younger children, this can be especially distressing as they may not fully understand why we can't do the normal things or have their friends over for a play date. Trying to put in a plan to "see" people via skype, whatsapp or other will help with keeping those relationships going. Our teens will probably up their social media use, and there are new apps coming out all the time, so here's a link for helping parents/guardians make sure they stay safe whilst staying in touch.
Create a work space
This might be hard if you now have everyone in the house, but trying to create a work space can help make us zone in to work. Working on the sofa or bed may leave us open to distraction, which then may feed that voice which says "five minutes more". We can easily get into these cycles, which may have a negative impact on how we feel physically and mentally. By having a space, it may help us switch off when we do then sit on the sofa to watch something or read in bed. This may tie in with creating a routine - it may not be possible for everyone to work at the same time, or in the same space, so moving around for different activities may be one way of doing this.
Create quiet time
With things changing all the time, we may not always give ourselves time to process how we're coping, what thoughts and feelings are surfacing. Having some space in the day or week can help us identify what may be causing certain thoughts or feelings that could be impacting us negatively.
This may look different for each of us, even in families, so keeping open conversation is key to this. Young children can pick up on changes in mood, but may not be able to express this on their own. Quiet time for them may look like chatting while colouring, reading Bible stories that may help them explore different situations, or praying together. There are other ideas here.
Another tool that may be useful for all of us is the Examen Prayer, which takes us through five steps of reflection and prayer. Here's a guided video if you've not heard of or done this before.
Reinforce positive thoughts
Uncertainty can bring about many thoughts that start with "What if..." In Matthew 6 v 25-34, Jesus tells us not to worry; not about what we will eat or wear as it won't add an hour to our lives. However, there are days when it can be hard to remind ourselves of the bigger picture and we can get caught up in the fears and worries of the world. It can take up to 7 positive statements to overcome a negative one, so we may need to surround ourselves with encouraging words and affirmations.
This may look like:
- posting verses around the house of we are in Christ & all the incredible things God has done - here's a starting point
- reminding ourselves of God's work in our lives
- sharing testimonies with others online
- reading the Bible daily individually or as a group
- listening to worship that declares His glory
The idea is not to try and banish every negative thought we have, but when a What If comes up, overcome it with truth and love. It's about disrupting the cycle, so that anxiety or fear can't overwhelm us.
Giving Up Control
This leads to my last point - giving up control. In our last service together, my church leaders spoke on the coronavirus situation, calling us to respond out of love, not fear. There aren't many things we have control over and in all this uncertainty, it may feel like we've lost control completely. Yet John Wright reminds us in his talk that God is in control and our choice is how we respond.
It may be that there are lots of things running through our minds that are causing stress and anxiety, making it harder for us to know how to respond. A useful tool is a Stress Bucket or Container. I've written about this before and there's a useful tool from MHFA England. By going through the steps, it may help us understand what's causing us to feel stressed or anxious and give us ideas on how we can respond differently. It's a good way of opening up conversations with our children/teens and getting their ideas and solutions for things. There may be practical things that can help, such as finding new coping strategies or talking to someone professional. It may be that we need to change something or do things differently now that most of us are home or working extended shifts.
Throughout it all though, we can ask God for His guidance and wisdom, and where we can't do anything, know that He is sovereign over it and is in control. By doing this exercise, we may be in a better place to respond out of love and meet the needs of those around us.
Please continue to follow guidance about social distancing or isolation so that we can stay safe and look after our communities. If you need any further support, please do get in touch or use the links provided.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.