Nursery - Supporting Children with Change
As the lock down is slowly being lifted, and there are new opportunities to safely socialise and to visit places, we may see changes in children and their behaviour.
Although some children may appear to be completely unaffected, for others the drastic changes to our lives since March could have had a massive impact on them. From not seeing their friends, to parents not working or working from home, to changes to their daily routines, children’s lives are very different now. As an adult, I am aware of the roller-coaster of emotions that I have worked through over the past few months, and this may be the same for our children too. As adults, we are able to recognise and express how we are feeling and can use various strategies to make ourselves feel better. However, most young children haven’t developed these skills yet and are therefore unable to recognise and deal with these feelings appropriately. Here are a few ideas of ways which you can support your child through the new changes to government rules and guidance.
Remember that all behaviour is a form of communication. If your child’s behaviour has changed, it could possibly be a sign that they are experiencing certain emotions, such as feeling worried, anxious or sad. Anxiety in children can manifest itself as more frequent tantrums or meltdowns, they might cry more than normal, they may be clingy, have trouble sleeping and even experience physical symptoms, such as headaches or tummy aches.
Explore your child’s feelings with them. It is important to listen to your child’s concerns and to try not to just pacify their fears by telling them not to worry. Acknowledge and validate their feelings. For example, saying things like, ‘that must feel scary...’ when they share that they are feeling anxious or frightened. Also, normalise their emotions, by sharing times that you felt the same, for example, ‘I felt scared like that when…’ Talking to your child about different emotions will enable them to better identify their own feelings and equip them the words they need to be able to express themselves. Help them to process their concerns by reminding them of the reasons why they are safe. For example, even though you are worried, remember that by staying home/washing our hands/socially distancing ourselves...etc. we are keeping ourselves safe.
Support your child to think of ideas and strategies they can use to help themselves to feel safe when they are worried. To begin with, you may need to suggest ideas until they have experience of doing this. For example, some things that may help children to feel calm and happy might be spending time outside, having a cuddle and a story with a family member, speaking to their friends virtually, taking the dog for a walk, craft activities, cooking or baking… etc. By thinking of things that help them to feel better will support them to build a toolkit of ways that they can support their wellbeing when they encounter problems in their lives. It will also help to develop their self-confidence and resilience.
Be patient. Long periods of time spent apart can have a significant impact on young children’s friendships. If you arrange a play date, they may now appear shy in front of children who they were close friends with before the lock down. Children will need time to re-build and nurture these relationships. If arranging meet ups, keep in mind that you may need to make them shorter to begin with and that your child may need encouragement and support to start playing/interacting when you first meet.
Be aware of your own anxieties. Children are extremely skilled at picking up on adult’s feelings and moods, not just from what they say but also through behaviour, body language, tone of voice. It is therefore important to be mindful of what we say around children. If we are feeling overwhelmed, remember that it is okay to take a step away and have a minute to ourselves. You might have time to go for a relaxing bath or a walk, but even a few deep breaths will help.
Here is the link to an interesting, child friendly video explaining Covid-19: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPsY-jLqaXM
Here is the link to another helpful video, this one is about a hedgehog and a tortoise and explores the idea of being friends from a distance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=23&v=2PnnFrPaRgY&feature=emb_logo
Further information can be found by following these links: