We recognise that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, and the resultant disruption to the everyday lives of our children and families, may have had an impact on the wellbeing and mental health of our children and families.
Anxiety, stress, sadness and feelings of loss are all very normal responses to the challenges bought by coronavirus, including:
The psychological and social impact of being quarantined
Safety concerns, fear of infection and/or feeling unsafe
Perceived loss of control
Uncertainty about the future
Bereavement and / or illness in the family, in the school community, or beyond it
Safeguarding concerns, linked to potential exposure to domestic violence and abuse, online safeguarding risks, neglect and separation from social support networks
Changing family circumstances, e.g. economic hardships, risks to housing, income, livelihood, plans, hopes and / or aspirations
Disruption of structure and daily routine
Fewer opportunities for transitional experiences, supported endings and closure
At Seven Mills we have commissioned our educational psychology service to create resources to support children’s wellbeing. These resources cover support for children who are being educated at home and those who return to school. They have developed the acronym ‘SWAN’ to describe 4 principles: Safe, Welcoming, All Together, Nurturing.
In surveys of primary-aged children, around one fifth of children reported feeling anxious about leaving home and a third reported anxiety about missing school (Weale, 2020). It is important to note that parents, carers and other adults reported much higher levels of anxiety, and that children learn anxiety through contact and communication with anxious adults. All adults at Seven Mills should emulate the swan: appearing calm and composed even while they are working hard beneath the water.
Promoting a sense of safety and calm is essential to reduce children’s anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic. Feeling safe involves both physical safety measures and a sense of emotional safety.
While children are at home we will:
Hold children in mind - continue to send positive messages via school ping, e.g. ‘we are all missing you’, ‘we will meet again soon - I’m very excited!’
Consider individual needs - pay particular attention to those children who cannot return to school due to medical or special educational needs. Teachers should liaise with the SENCO to think about how to include these children in classroom life.
Engage parents - acknowledge and address concerns raised by families through regular contact via phone or email. Despite any personal anxieties, always communicate that schools are only opened when expert advice tells us that the risk is significantly reduced.
Inform - keep families informed about evolving plans relating to class sizes, staffing, handwashing etc.
When children return to school we will:
Rules and routines - be very clear about new rules and routines and have these displayed visually throughout the school. Praise children
Model - adults should noticeably model and reinforce rules for staying safe. Adults can narrate their actions as they do them to reinforce rules (e.g. I’m washing my hands with soap. I’m making sure I clean every part of my hands for 20 seconds).
Manage media exposure - limit too much talking about coronavirus and ensure any media content is age appropriate. Address any inaccuracies and ‘fake news’.
Share - allow children to share worries 1:1 with a trusted adult. Our ELSA-trained TA, Victoria, will have bookable slots to see pupils who are particularly concerned.
Exercise - provide daily opportunities for exercise to tackle feelings of stress.
Drama and stories - explore drama and stories which deal with anxiety and, if appropriate, bereavement in a sensitive manner. The SENCO has ordered a series of appropriate books for different age groups. A complete booklist is available here and a specific story about school in bubble groups here.
Seek help - if adults feel they need help managing a child’s anxiety, speak to the school SENCO, who can direct the teacher and family to our ELSA-trained TA, the school’s link EP or CAMHs for further help and support.
When children return to school, it should be a place of calm and normality for children. We will create a calm environment by creating opportunities for::
Normalising stress reactions - understand that children will behave differently and that this is to be expected. Instead of saying ‘why are you acting like this?’ communicate the message that the child is ‘reacting normally to an abnormal situation’.
Emotional regulation - explore strategies for different groups of children, such as guided meditation, ‘calm me’ time or breathing techniques. For older children, more resources can be found at https://www.annafreud.org/.
Circle time - build in circle time for reflection, discussion and sharing thoughts and feelings.
Self-efficacy is the sense that one’s own actions lead to positive outcomes, or that collective actions lead to collective positive outcomes. Developing a sense of efficacy restores the sense of self, family and school following a crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic which can leave children and families feeling helpless.
When children return to school we will:
Create classroom communities: when they return to school, many children will be taught in smaller groups with unfamiliar adults. Consider how to develop a new ‘bubble community’ - create a new class name, compete with the other bubble, take photos of your bubble class to display on the wall.
Set goals - set individual or group goals within your bubbles. At an individual level this could be learning goals, monitor jobs or other responsibilities. As a class, this could be a fitness or a positive behaviour goal.
Create shared stories - create positive stories about your bubble/ class experiences and revisit these. Stories could be about coming together as a class to restart school, supporting one another or completing a shared goal.
Peer mentoring or support - encourage children to support one another and celebrate when they do so. E.g. ‘I really liked the way that X checked Y was okay when she saw he was crying’.
Every child has strengths, aspirations, hopes and dreams, and it is important to nurture hope and re-connect children with a sense of achievement and personal control.
We will nurture children by:
Celebrating strengths - identify children’s strengths and celebrate these regularly.
Nurture connection to something bigger - develop a sense of belonging within the school through virtual assemblies, virtual communication with other children.
Hear and tell stories - make time to hear and tell stories about children’s hopes for the future, what they learnt during lockdown and how their lives have changed. Celebrate and amplify positive experiences.
Use cognitive behavioural principles - identify and celebrate moments when a child’s action led to a positive outcome and tell this story to the class to develop a sense of being in control.