Staff at Oratory R.C. Primary and Nursery School feel passionately that, during these unprecedented times, the mental health of our pupils is of upmost importance. During these school closures, we trust and request that all of our parents prioritise the mental health of our pupils above all else.
Below is some supportive guidance from the ‘Psychology today’ website for parents to reflect on, when considering how they can support their children at home. Remember look after each other, reassure your children and hold all in your prayers.
- Be the grown-ups. It's on us to start conversations with our children. Continue to ask them what new things they've heard about the virus, to correct misinformation, and to answer their questions honestly and using short sentences, children get bogged down in words.
- Point out things that are different. Birthday parties are being cancelled. Mummy is working from home. (Maybe) there's no school. People aren't traveling for Easter Holidays. Acknowledge these things children will notice.
- Point out things that are the same. You're still having Honey Nut Cheerios for breakfast. You're still watching your favourite shows. We still have to brush our teeth.
- Play, play, play. Children work things out with stuffed animals, dolls, action figures, costumes. Let your little ones be mad at the virus, attempt to control it. Maybe Elsa casts a spell so that it freezes in its tracks. Maybe Ryder and the pups go on a rescue mission to help those who are sick. Maybe you mix a Covid-19 cure potion involving food colouring, glitter, and whatever else.
- Put your phone away for set periods of time. Our children sense, and feel uneasy, when we are distracted. Mumbling "Mmmmhmmm" as your child tells a story, while you simultaneously scroll and swipe, is not helpful. Being intentional and clear about your phone use is. "I am going to play with you right now, so I'm putting my phone on the shelf"; and "I am going to take a few minutes to check my phone right now, so I won't be able to play for a bit."
- Structure and routines are your friends. Even more than usual, and particularly as daily life looks less and less familiar. The world may feel chaotic and unpredictable, but your home doesn't have to. Consider making a daily schedule and hanging it up for all to see (use pictures).
- Validate feelings of anger and disappointment. It stinks that you had to cancel your Easter plans, your sleepover party, or your school play. It's OK to cry, hit the couch, even yell for a bit. Spending time at your local park as opposed to Disney World is not, in fact, a 'super fun adventure.' Your children are little, but they are no fools.
- Simultaneously, model reframing and looking on the bright side. Maybe there's a lot more family time now that both parents are working from home, maybe your child can finally do that epic art project they’ve been thinking about. Perhaps children can take on a new job or chore, now that the whole family needs to pitch in, and you can emphasize how responsible they’ve become.
- Emphasize agency. Your family is not just sitting around at home passively waiting for forces out of your control to take shape as they will. No! Frame what you are doing, what we all need to do, as a set of actions. Your family is doing its part by helping to stop the virus, exercising agency by washing hands so thoroughly, working together as superheroes spreading health and safety around the world.
- Answer questions with factual knowledge. Then stop. If your children have questions about the virus, answer them honestly. Then stop talking. If they have follow-up questions, they'll ask. And then you can answer again.
- If your child asks the same question again and again, point that out. "But are we going to get it?" "Wait, are we going to get it?" "Are Grandma and Grandpa going to get it?" If your child continues to ask the same question, or very similar ones, then he or she is likely reassurance-seeking, which is a sign of anxiety. It's okay to acknowledge that sometimes when we are worried, we ask the same question over and over. The worry fools us into thinking that will help, but it actually doesn't.
- Then provide helpful, calming strategies. What does help when we're worried is getting into our bodies ie. "Let's do some jumping jacks!" or doing some deep breathing ie. "Smell the cookies as they come out of the oven, now blow on them since they're too hot to eat." You know what makes worry get even bigger? Worrying about the worry! "And then worrying about the worrying about the worry!" your child may say, and suddenly you're in a playful interaction and things don't feel quite as bad anymore.
- It's OK to say "I don't know," or "I have to think about it." Our little ones need us to project a calm, clear confidence. This is not synonymous with knowing all of the answers. Pause. Think. Look something up. Ask a parent friend how they might respond.
- Move your body. Jump. Dance. Stretch. Family dance party. When we feel grounded in our bodies, our emotional state often improves as well.
- Focus on community, both local and global. Talk out loud about how you are going to check in on your elderly neighbours to make sure they have all they need. Mention that right now everyone in the world is working together to solve this problem. Guess how many people on your street are washing their hands at the exact same time you are. Your family is not alone in handling these challenges; you are part of a greater whole.
- Let your little ones play 'Baby.' One common way that young children ask for extra comfort and nurturing is by playing baby, either directly, "Let's pretend I'm your baby" or indirectly eg. speaking in baby talk. Don't shut this down right away; rather, play along. "Oh, my little sweet baby, yes, let me pick you up and give you snuggles." Show love and compassion.
- Expect regressions. When children have to adjust to a completely new routine, or are sensing anxiety around them, their developing brains can't always handle that shift on top of everything else; internal resources get allocated to the new task at hand, and something else goes. Your potty-trained toddler may start having accidents, or your self-assured school-goer might start showing some clinginess. That's okay, and to be expected.
- Take care of yourself. The number one thing children need to stay calm during difficult times is a parent (or caregiver) who stays calm during difficult times. If you are feeling panicked or overwhelmed, do what you can to regulate yourself before attempting to calm your child. If your attempts to soothe your child are out of sync with your worried demeanour and energy, your child will notice, and this will be even more distressing for them. You're better off being honest than faking it: "I am feeling a bit worried myself right now, and so I am going to take a few deep breaths before answering your questions. Do you want to come sit next to me and we'll take them together?"
- Reach out for professional support if needed. Social media is awash with opinions, arguments and misinformation. As always, if you are worried about, or even just confused by, something your child is doing or saying, please don't hesitate to read official guidelines or reach out to a child mental health professional for guidance. We are in uncharted territory, and you don't have to go it alone.
- Covid-19 Full Opening Risk Assessment - August 2020
- Covid-19 Phased Opening Risk Assessment - May 2020
Please watch this video pausing on each slide to discuss what returning to school looks like for your child. We hope that his video will allow opportunity for discussion as well as remove any anxiety your child may have about returning to school.
- 12 September 2020 - Return to school update no. 3
- 4 September 2020 - Return to school update no. 2
- 31 August 2020 - Return to school update
- 25 May 2020 - Update on current plans for phased re-opening of school
- 18 May 2020 - Potential return to school from June 2020
- 24 March 2020 - Covid-19 update and ways to contact the school
- 21 March 2020 - Coronavirus update and ongoing arrangements
- 19 March 2020 - School closure arrangements for children of key workers
- 18 March 2020 - Announcement of school closures due to Coronavirus
- 16 March 2020 - Event cancellations due to Coronavirus concerns
- 14 February 2020 - Coronavirus concerns
The following are some links to some websites who have resources to support children who may have additional needs:
- National Autistic Society – guidance and helpline for parents’, young people and staff.
- Place2Be – guide to helping parents answer questions from their children and to support family wellbeing.
- Young Minds – talking to your child about Coronavirus and 10 tips from their Parents Helpline to support family wellbeing.
- Carers UK – guidance for carers.
- Covibook – an interactive resource designed to support and reassure children aged 7 and under, designed to help children explain and draw the emotions that they might be experiencing during the pandemic.
- Amaze – information pack for parents.
The following are documents with guidance and advice related to SEND:
- Birmingham CC: Communication and Autism Team (CAT)
- Birmingham CC: Educational Psychology Helpline
- Birmingham CC: Learning Difficulties Information
- Birmingham CC: Sensory Support Service
- Birmingham CC: Top Ten Tips to Help Your Child
- Birmingham CC: We're Here to Help
- Coronavirus Information for Young Children
- How to Deal with Anxiety in Children
- Mencap: Easy Read Guide to Coronavirus
More Advice on the Coronavirus
- Coronavirus (Covid-19): The UK Government Reponse
- Coronavirus (Covid-19): Guidance for Places of Education
- Coronavirius Advice for Places of Education: Public Health England
Contacting the Leadership Team
If you would like to contact a member of SLT during the closure of school please do so by calling the following numbers:
- Nursery/Reception - Gemma Lloyd on 07856 991 184
- Years 1/2 - Gloria Herrera-Siles on 07856 991 195
- Years 3/4 - Sandhya Galloway on 07856 991 273
- Years 5/6 - Pam Corns on 07856 991 194
If you become concerned about your child's safety or another child, please contact Mrs Dickinson (Lead DSL during school closure) immediately via email firstname.lastname@example.org or if you have any safeguarding concerns about a child out of school hours, please call Birmingham Children's Advice and Support Services on 0121 303 1888.