Creativity is one of the most amazing tools for resilience in a stressful situation. I’ve listed a few tips for parents to help during this difficult time. I know parents have sprung into action across the country to make family time the most important part of the day but I have a few tips about why this is so important.
Let’s get the brain bit done first
Our core brain responds to fear, anxiety and stress as this is the part of the brain that kicks in with fright, flight and freeze.
The body dumps a lot of chemicals around the body to respond to survival situations and we can have adrenalin, cortisone and dopamine whizzing around us even if we have no sabre tooth tiger hunting us down.
Stimulating the processing part of the brain reduces these anxiety levels as our brain struggles to use both parts at the same time.
This is a summary of advice that is given in many a self-help book but I find having a little understanding of how this works makes it feel not so overwhelming.
Stories are safe places to learn information and be guided by your parents. Lists of facts can just be too much for children and some adults.
Social stories such as the work set up by Carol Gray are an amazing tool to help children understand the context of issues and situations.
I’ve listed below a few online resource books to help tell the story of COVID-19 with your child. My favourite has to be ‘Small Paul’ but there are other examples and they have been recommended by health organisations. Of course you can always create your own story and work together to create a story board.
‘Small Paul’ by Josh Massey https://drive.google.com/file/d/18NT_KELO4ZY3UNGrwX7KgIo4noWtEUD9/view?fbclid=IwAR1sXhFJgrbGwX-m1oyur9OmGP5zSvX-AOwQ7eWdn36ooKj2yQ-Fwg3V_Og
‘Coronavirus’ by Gruffalo illustrator Axel Scheffler
‘Dave the dog is worried about Coronavirus” a nurse dotty book
Carol Grey ‘A story about Pandemics and the Coronavirus’
‘Mind Heart’ have a fab resource as a worksheet to tell the story together
Making and shaping
Using your hands seams straight forward but it’s interesting how children struggle with tying knots, using scissors and having that hand dexterity when so much today is just swiping or pushing a button.
Practical tasks are all processing skills so let’s get baking, making, shaping and using those hands. If you can get hold of any flour then there are so many recipes out there. I’ve been really impressed with how many charities out there have been providing resources for children.
‘Action for children’ have lots of tips and the most easiest thing to make of course is play dough
Helping others, supporting younger siblings or even giving that extra time to a family pet is so vital at uncertain times.
Schools have been so rushing with academia that life skills get pushed to the margins and now is the time more vital than ever to use these resources.
The ability to care is an amazing resilience as we as humans love to be connected to each other. Getting creative to show you care can be really good fun.
Animals are amazing for children to talk to and share their thoughts. You can even ask them to tell a story of what is happening and help everyone feel happier.
Children as they get older hug us less but still need a hug so animals are a great way for them to dish out the hugs. We live in a very rural place and in winter I complain about it being dark and muddy all the time but now I suddenly feel very lucky.
We even have chickens and collecting names for the chickens so if you have any ideas, we have 8 and would love some suggestions. I’ve just what’s app a friend and their little 4 year old called one of the chickens ‘Summer’.
Poems sent to grandparents, little video sketches to cheer people up. When I see a Facebook post of someone sharing and they are not managing I send them a private message, something little to cheer them up. We make cards for a reason. My kids have been having fun recording them playing instruments and sending them to family members.
This is what we did with family and friends as a surprise. We asked our friends to send a clip of their children dancing or clapping then at the end of the day we sent them this.
In counselling reflecting back to someone on what you understand they are saying or how they are feeling is a vital tool for people to feel understood and for thoughts to gain clarity. Bringing the artist out of you both, parents and child, means you can create a story board of what you feel, and what you are experiencing.
Be a historian: Growing up with a mother as a history teacher I understand the value of first hand accounts or primary source material. In other words let’s make a documentary. Recording your lived experience as a family is actually capturing a piece of history and could be valuable in the future not just only for your families archive but a social archive.
It’s all about capturing your experiences, what you understand and what you are doing at this time. Even little details that we take for granted such as using technology which in 20 year’s time will be so out of date.
Remember the land line telephone we grew up with as a child and we had to use a dial. Here’s an example of how out of date we soon become! Show it to the kids and see their reaction. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OADXNGnJok
What’s all this mindfulness and meditation about
We hear the children come back from school talking about mindfulness and meditation and often wonder what this is all about.
There are some great tools and resources out there and of course it reminds me of a saying when a cousin asked to count the contractions for his wife in the middle of the night proclaims ‘don’t worry there’s an app for that’ and he went back to bed.
I’ve linked a few apps. Acceptance of how we feel in the here and now rather than the worry of what has been or could happen is the foundation to these anxiety reducing exercises.
An amazing mindfulness task for being on a walk with children is to do the activity ‘five’. You say out load 5 things you can see/ 4 things you can hear/ three things you can touch/ two things you can smell / one thing you can taste.
You will also find that even washing hands and singing songs is actually a good task for mindfulness.
‘Calm’ an adult programme but some parts can be used by all https://www.calm.com/?from=/
Teenagers may not want to chat to you so where can they go for mental health support?
There are some great mental health support resources, online chats and even text sites. These are a few that can be easily accessible
‘The mix’ for Under 25’s 0808 808 4994 https://www.themix.org.uk/your-body/using-health-services/help-im-worried-about-coronavirus-35643.html
‘Young minds’ text YM 85258 https://youngminds.org.uk/find-help/get-urgent-help/youngminds-crisis-messenger/
‘Kooth’ 11 -18 year olds 6pm till 10pm https://www.kooth.com/index.html
I hope this has been useful. I have not been endorsed in any way by any of these links I’ve just collected them as a counsellor over the years. We are in interesting times and creativity has been part of our being even from cave men times so let’s tap into these resources and make sure our creative part of the brain gets a say rather than our fear inducing part of the brain, which has its uses but not very applicable when we’re to ‘stay at home’.
Katy Banner. Counsellor for several services and drama practitioner for Big Foot Arts Education providing workshops for schools on their new mental health and wellbeing programme ‘The Worry Wizard’ . http://bigfootartseducation.co.uk/app/uploads/2019/05/WORRY-WIZARD-FLIER2.pdf