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This week is a summary of the common questions I have been asked about raising children and the Coronavirus.
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Welcome to my latest newsletter. 

Welcome to the SOS Parenting Newsletter. I hope that you are all safe and well. I've struggled personally this week with the school closures and the fact that I now have a very upset year 11 (GCSE) child and an incredibly anxious year 13 (A-Level) child. Both uncertain about their future, with sixth form and university applications, and devastated about the removal of exams this year. Along with my other two, younger, children they are mourning the loss of their friends and their daily routine already. Many of you have been getting in touch asking for my advice with issues surrounding the virus, so I felt it would be a good idea to turn these into a FAQ feature in this week's newsletter. I hope it helps a little.


have a lovely week!
Sarah

Covid-19 and Children - Parenting FAQs

I've been asked a lot of questions about parenting through the Coronavirus this week, here are my answers to some of the most commonly asked ones:

Q: What is a good way to explain the virus to children? What should we be telling them?

A: Be as open and honest as possible, however old your child is. You may be tempted to try to shield them from what is really happening, my advice is to not do this. They will pick up on the news, whispers of conversations and on your own feelings, which will ultimately be far scarier for them. I would explain, in an age appropriate way, that there is a virus spreading around the world which makes some people very sick and some people die from it. I would explain that those most are risk are the elderly and those with other health problems that make their immune system weaker and that we all need to do our part to try to protect these people by washing our hands lots and staying at home as much as possible. If we have to go out, then we shouldn't touch other people and should stay away from them, so we don't pass the virus on. If they ask if they, or you, will die, then answer honestly - "I don't know, but it is very, very unlikely and we will do all we can to stay safe". Here it can help to explain percentages and risk in a child friendly way -e.g: with 100 raisins/sweets/counters/Lego/coins laid out on the floor to help illustrate percentages and risk in a visual way. Ask your children if they have any questions and answer them as honestly and as frankly as you can. Don't guarantee them that everything will be OK, but guarantee them that you will always take care of them as best you can and that you will always be there to listen to their fears and worries and answer their questions.


Q: How do we cope with the disappointment of not seeing friends and having to stay inside?

A: In the same way that you cope with any non-negotiable boundaries. You stay firm, stay calm and stay empathetic. Support them in their upset, tears, confusion, anger and fears. Explain honestly and openly why social distancing is important, that it hopefully won't last forever, but we must play our part now. Allow them to cry, don't ever belittle their upset, or tell them that "other people have it much worse". It's the worst thing in their world right now, that's all that matters. Take a breath when they tantrum and misbehave, stay calm, 'hold' their tears and allow them their feelings. Be prepared for lots of difficult behaviour - this is a huge transition for them (and you) and you will see behaviour you don't like, just try to stay the adult and don't join in their dis regulation, or lapse on the boundaries.



Q: How should I make sure their education continues? What apps/websites and resources do you recommend?
A:  I don't. At least not yet. Unless your school is running a virtual school, or has set specific work, I really recommend that you don't think in terms of formal education at the moment. Instead, take a break. Take some time to settle into your new norm, forget education as such and take a breather for a couple of weeks. Be child led. Follow their interests, whatever they may be, and allow learning to happen organically. Read lots. Read to them (any book will do!), ask them to read to you if they can read, read your own books side by side. Watch TV together, it can be incredibly educational! Try to carry on your normal life and involve your child as much as possible. Don't underestimate how educational your everyday activities are for them. The apps/websites/cards/videos can wait. You don't have to suddenly assume the role of a formal teacher.


Q: How can I entertain them best in isolation?

A:
I think getting back to basics is the most important when it comes to entertainment. Just as you don't have to suddenly become a teacher overnight, you also don't need to become a professional entertainer. Forget the elaborate craft projects and instead involve them in cooking the daily meal, baking, planting some seeds for the spring, cleaning (yes - young children really do enjoy chores if they get involved with you!), reading with them and I would also absolutely embrace screens too. There is nothing wrong with a couple of hours of snuggling up on the sofa watching CBeebies, Disney Life or Netflix together each day. 


Q: How do I help my child when they are missing their friends?

A:
Again, 'hold' their upset. Allow them to voice and show their feelings. Don't dismiss them by saying something like "you'll see them again soon don't worry". On a practical level, arrange regular video chat sessions with their friends, however old they are. Encourage them to draw pictures, or write letters, to each other and talk about what they think their friends have been doing that day. It can also help to make a plan for when they will see each other again, for instance a special party, or meet up.


Q: How can I be a good parent while we're all stuck at home?

A: Please - take the pressure off of yourself! This is going to be HARD for all of us. You're going to make it a million times harder if you're constantly analysing everything you said and did. You will lose your temper, you will shout, you will hate being stuck at home, you will resent your children/your partner and others. This is all NORMAL. None of us have ever lived through anything like this before, we're all learning, we're all struggling. Do your best. Forgive yourself, forgive your child, drop your boundaries a little, drop your standards, do whatever it takes to protect your own mental health - because ultimately - that matters FAR more than whether you're ticking boxes in a 'good parent' checklist. Aim to be a 'good enough' parent. Not a good one.


Q: Can you recommend a good daily routine? Particularly with learning in mind?

A: Children thrive on routines and really struggle with unpredictability, however these routines can be loose. Don't be scared by the incredibly detailed colourful charts you see on social media highlighting what you should do for every hour of every day. It's much more realistic to aim for something like regular wake and bedtimes and mealtimes, with a similar rhythm in between. For instance, story time after lunch. Personally, I'm just aiming for everybody up and dressed by 9am at the moment! As time progresses I will add more elements. A family lunch time around the table. A chat about what each of us will be doing that day. An evening check in. Scheduled time for computer games time for school work and so on. Build up to it though, don't feel you have to micro manage every minute of every day immediately! The most important thing for children is to have parents and carers who are calm and as relaxed as possible. Aim for this, even if that means completely ditching routines!


Q: How do we stay positive for our children?

A: Children will absolutely be looking to us, as parents, for knowing how to react and cope. That doesn't mean you need to be 100% positive all the time though. It's OK to show emotion to your children, including fear and anger and it's OK to cry. Just make sure that you talk things through with them after those moments. Encourage your children to share their feelings too, rather than bottling them up (and be aware that often a lot of difficult behaviour is caused by underlying fear, anger and anxiety). It's always good to practice gratitude and look for the positives too though. Taking a couple of minutes at the end of each day to ask your child (and yourself) "what did you enjoy today?" is a great idea. Find something that makes your feel more positive. For me, it's turning off the news updates and stepping away from social media and focusing on TV programmes or music I enjoy and the prospect of finally working my way through my pile of unread fiction books. At the moment I'm also planning my vegetable crop for the summer and enjoying watching the signs of Spring coming to life. Sources of positivity look different for everyone though.


Struggling with your baby or toddler's sleep? 

Try my 'Gentle Sleep Music for Babies' recording. Available as an MP3 download internationally via Amazon, Google Play and iTunes and to stream via Spotify. 

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Struggling with getting your preschooler or school age child to sleep? 
My Gentle Sleep Relaxation for Children recording is intended for children 3yrs and older. It is a simple, guided meditation for children, recorded over soothing alpha music, designed to encourage easier and more independent bedtimes. Whether you are looking to reduce the amount of time it takes for your child to fall asleep, or would like to encourage them to go to sleep without you in the room eventually, this recording is a great follow-on from my baby and toddler recording. 

"This sends my daughter to sleep within 10 minutes of putting it on without fail every night and has made me accidentally fall asleep twice when sitting with her too!"


Available as an MP3 download internationally via
Amazon, Google Play and iTunes and to stream via Spotify. 

NEW: The Starting School Book

The Starting School Book is a reassuring and practical guide for parents of school-age children. Sarah Ockwell-Smith provides clear and helpful advice for each stage of the process, whether you are just beginning to think about your child's education, applying for a school place, preparing your child for starting at the school you have chosen, or your child has already started school and you would like to help smooth the transition.

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