Support in times of uncertainty

People have been asking for advice over the last couple of days on how to deal with home schooling and the emotional challenges showing up for children (and parents) at this time.
I thought I’d pop a post on here to let you know what I’ve discussed with them as it might help to you too…

Us humans have a need for certainty. In short, certainty is about having routine and understanding that certain actions will give a certain result. It is why when are children are born, we put routines in place, it helps them to start to understand the world and become familiar with how things work. It also helps us to manage this new (uncertain) situation until we get the hang of it.

Certainty is best buddies with control. If our need for certainty is impacted or not being met, we look for ways to put things in place we can control. Sometimes these can be helpful actions, for example taking stock of where we are and then making a new plan or routine. Sometimes our actions are not so helpful e.g. comfort eating/drinking. We have experienced perfect examples of people trying to take control of the current situation over the last few days e.g.stockpiling food and toilet rolls. The more we feel uncertain about things the more our need to control what we can takes over.

Right now we are all faced with a lot of uncertainty.

What can we do about it?

Us adults…

Breathe…. when we start to worry, we often breathe ineffectively, which means the oxygen doesn’t go to our brains, which means we don’t operate as our best selves. Right now, for your own sanity and for that of your children you need to keep breathing.

In the words of Winnie the Pooh (yes, I am quoting a fictional stuffed bear… he’s a very wise stuffed bear)…. “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” You have developed the resources over the years to get you through this – you can do this!!

Take it a step at a time. Right now, various people in the world are doing a lot of guessing: how long this is going to last, what will happen, what the future will look like etc.etc. If we put our focus on this, then we’re putting our focus on uncertainty (I refer back to my earlier comments). So take one step at a time, set a routine, get comfortable with it and then increase your focus as and when you feel ready.

How we can help our young ones…

Keep a school routine
In these uncertain times, one of the best ways is to maintain certainty is by maintaining a normal school routine. What I mean by this is, continue with your normal getting ready routine, stick to a 9 – 3.30 day (or whatever your school times are) and continue with your usual evening activities (all with an isolation/social distancing modification).
You can also help your children to feel in control (in a positive way) by giving them the opportunity to decide which lessons go into which lesson times during the day.  This way they’re still getting the usual routine to help with their certainty and they’ve got a feeling of control by choosing where to plan their subjects – win win!  One of the ways I would do this is to have a bunch of post-it notes with the various different school subjects written on them.  Make sure they have an even spread for the whole week and then let them create the timetable.  They may want to stick to their usual school routine, at least this method gives them the choice and an option for control if they need it.

Continue with after school activities
If they have gymnastics on a Tuesday, then plan in a gymnastics session (you can get creative using cushions, furniture  etc.  Utilise it as practice time or set a goal they can work towards. Football in the garden. Indoor tennis using a pair of socks (my favourite when I was a kid).  Utilise different parts of the house for different after school activities.  Remember you can join in too… get them to teach you something, it’s a great technique for connection, building confidence and improving their levels of certainty.

Work together
Many of us are continuing to work from home during this time – work alongside your children as they carry out their school day. Again, this may have to be adapted, but uncertain times call for change, creativity and flexibility. Utilise the more quiet study periods as time for you to see how much of your work you can fit in.
Remember modelling is our primary way for learning. If you’re children see you calmly putting a routine in place that encompasses, work time, playtime and family time… they will follow suit.

Utilise online resources
There are many content videos and documents being posted online and your schools will no doubt have set your children up with some content. So utilise what you can.
Also, remember that it’s fine for children to do lots of investigating themselves. Simply give them a topic and ask them to write about it, draw a picture about it, create a play about it or even carry out a scavenger hunt around the house for items they can use to demonstrate it.
Our minds process information so much better when we’ve had to find something out or learn in our own way… you don’t need to be ‘teaching’ the whole time.

Create a small community
Find out friends’ skills and swap online lessons. You can utilise any of the webinar facilities to do real time lessons or record videos and swap them. I have quite a few teacher friends who are offering to do online lessons or support. So, please drop me an email if you need some support.

Please let me know too if you or your child needs some additional emotional support at this time. I am running sessions for parents and children via skype.