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Supporting Your Child’s Social and Emotional Wellbeing

Frequently Asked Questions for Parent/Carers of 0-5s

The past few months have been extremely tough on parent/carers and their children. Lots of parent/carers have voiced concerns about the impact of Covid-19 on their child’s social and emotional wellbeing.

We have put together some Frequently Asked Questions aimed at helping parent/carers to support their child’s social and emotional wellbeing.

They have been developed by a number of professionals across Trafford Council and Clinical Commissioning Group, including Health Visitors, Early Help professionals, Clinical and Educational Psychologists and specialist early years teachers.

FAQs

I'm worried that my child hasn't been able to play with other children as much as usual. Will this affect their development? 

My child misses playing with their friends. How can I best support them?

What should I do if my child has become overly shy since lockdown?

How can I support my child to understand social distancing?

What can I do to support my child when they say they miss seeing family members such as grandparents?

Will social distancing affect my child’s ability to show physical affection to family and friends in the future?

My child has become very clingy to me during lockdown. What should I do?

My child is scared of going outside and fearful of “germs”. What can I do to support them?

My child has experienced bereavement during lockdown. How can I best support them? 

My child has experienced a breakdown in family relationships during lockdown. How can I best support them?

My child has been acting out a lot more during lockdown. What can I do to support them?

My child’s skills have regressed during lockdown. Is this normal?

My child has been having a lot more screen time during lockdown. Will this affect their development?

I’m worried my child will struggle going back to their childminder/nursery and/or starting school. What can I do to support them?

I’m finding it difficult juggling childcare and working from home. What should I do?

I have been feeling very anxious and/or low in mood during lockdown. Where can I get support?

I’ve had a baby during lockdown. Where can I access support for new parents?

I’m worried that my child hasn’t been able to play with other children as much as usual. Will this affect their development?

Lockdown may have been tough for young children because they are used to playing freely and in a very hands-on way with their friends. Social interactions are an important part of young children’s development, including spending time with children their own age.

It is therefore understandable that you may be worried about your child’s social development as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. You are likely one of many parent/carers with such concerns. However, this pandemic is unique because your child will not be alone – there are around four million other children under five in the UK who will have had the same restrictions imposed on them during lockdown.

Although we can’t say for certain how the pandemic will affect young children’s development, research tells us that most young children are actually very resilient and capable of adapting to changes in their environment as long as they have at least one supportive adult in their life.

Young children in particular need their parent/carers much more than they need their friends at this stage in their development. They learn a lot about how to interact and play with others by being around their parent/carers, siblings and even pets!

In other words they will have been learning a lot about how to play with others and make friends despite not being around other children as much as usual.

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My child misses playing with their friends. How can I best support them?

It is completely understandable that young children might be missing playing with their friends. The first step in supporting your child is to give them the message that it’s okay to be feeling this way. You could also say that you are missing seeing your friends too.

Explain that for now it’s important that we do what the government wants us to do in order to keep people safe. You could also say that it won’t be forever.

After you have acknowledged how your child is feeling, you could ask them if there’s anything that would help them feel better. For example, would they like to send their friend a card or drawing? Or would they like to talk about the things they’d like to do with their friend when they’re allowed to play together again?

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What should I do if my child has become overly shy since lockdown?

Every child is different and lockdown will have affected them in different ways. Some young children may withdraw into themselves as a way of coping with all the changes over the past few months.

They may only want to interact with people they know well and trust, such as you. Although you may understandably be worried, it should be celebrated that you have created a loving home where your child feels safe and secure with you.

Often time, patience and nurture are what young children need in order to come to terms with significant changes in their lives. This applies equally to coming out of lockdown as well as going into lockdown.

Some young children will need time to get used to things getting back to normal. Most young children are very adaptable and, given time, will become more confident around other people again.

These are some simple ways you can support your child:

  • Encourage others to simply play near your child to begin with. Don’t make your child interact with them straight away if they do not want to.
  • Stay close to your child in social situations to begin with and gradually move away for short periods when your child is feeling more confident.
  • Name your child’s feelings and say it’s okay to feel this way e.g. “It’s sometimes scary meeting new people. That’s okay. Let’s look who’s here and I’ll tell you their names”.
  • Praise ‘brave behaviour’ e.g. “Good smiling!”
  • Avoid using the word ‘shy’ to describe your child, try using ‘warms up’ e.g. “Once Nadia warms up she’ll be happy to play”.

If your child hasn’t responded to these suggestions and you are becoming more concerned, then seek advice from your Health Visitor and/or speak to your child’s childminder or nursery/school to see if they share the same concerns.

If you’re not sure who your Health Visitor is then call the Trafford Health Visiting Team on 0161 912 5016. You could also visit their Facebook Page.

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How can I support my child to understand social distancing?

Government guidance states that young children should not be expected to socially distance at their childminder, nursery or school. It is recognised that social distancing is not possible when young children are around each other. The government has, however, asked families from different households to socially distance from one another when out and about.

Research has shown that keeping the message simple and positive is the best way of talking to young children about Covid-19. Explain what ‘social distancing’ means to your child using simple language e.g. not getting too close to other people. Tell them that we all have to do this for now in order to keep people safe. Talk about the things that your child is allowed to do, e.g. “We can still wave and say hello”.

Remember that young children need more time to understand new rules and expectations than older children. They may question the rules at first and forget to follow them despite reminders. This is developmentally appropriate.

Research has found that young children learn best when they use all their senses, known as ‘multisensory’ learning. This means that as well as explaining social distancing using words, it’s best to use hands on and visual approaches as well.

There are lots of ideas online including animated videos, such as Playmobil, While We Can’t Hug and Time to Come in, Bear.   

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What can I do to support my child when they say they miss seeing family members such as grandparents?

Start by telling them that you understand how they feel and that it’s okay to feel this way. You could also say that you are missing seeing other family members too. Explain in simple language that for now it’s important we do what the government wants us to do in order to keep people safe, but that it won’t be forever.

After you have acknowledged how your child is feeling ask them what would help them feel better. For example, would they like to send these family members a card or drawing?

You could also use video calls to keep your child connected with family members. Young children are unlikely to be able to hold a conversation so playing games can be better. You can search online for ideas of games to play on video calls. Avoid video calls with lots of people at once as your child may find this overwhelming. Start with one family member and see how it goes. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t show any interest in video calls. Don’t try to force them to speak if they don’t want to. Follow your child’s lead and if they’re just not into it then give it a miss.

If your child is able to see family members in person then think of other ways they can connect instead of hugging and kissing. Your child could make up a fun dance move as a greeting or play a socially distanced game with them.

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Will social distancing affect my child’s ability to show physical affection to family and friends in the future?

Lockdown may have been tough for young children because they often engage in rough and tumble play and give lots of physical affection to family members. It is therefore understandable if you are worried about whether this will affect their relationships with family and friends in the future.

Although we can’t say for certain how the pandemic will affect young children’s relationships with family and friends, research tells us that most young children are actually very resilient and capable of adapting to change as long as they have at least one supportive adult in their life. Therefore it is likely that most young children will return to giving and receiving hugs and kisses when restrictions are lifted.

Remember to give your child time to adjust when they begin to see family and friends again. When physical contact is allowed, don’t push your child to give hugs and kisses if they don’t want to. Follow your child’s lead and make sure family and friends do the same.

Keep in mind that every child is different and some children don’t like giving or receiving hugs and kisses simply due to personal preferences and nothing to do with Covid-19.

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My child has become very clingy to me during lockdown. What should I do?

Lockdown may have been tough on young children due to the sudden restrictions imposed on them. You have most likely been their main source of entertainment! It is therefore understandable that some children may have become used to spending lots of time with just one or two caregivers.

Wanting to be close to caregivers is a normal reaction when children feel afraid or worried. Even babies and very young children pick up on the emotional atmosphere around them. Therefore some children may have become clingier to parent/carers during the pandemic.

Babies and young children also go through phases of needing to be physically close to their parent/carers, regardless of Covid-19. The first of these ‘clingy’ stages happens when young children are between 8 and 18 months old, but can last until they are around four years old. They may become upset by new faces, cry when you leave them and/or be reluctant to play on their own. These are developmentally appropriate reactions and are actually a positive sign of your child’s development – they now have an increased awareness of the world around them and know that they are dependent on you in order to feel safe. Every child is different though, so the timing and intensity of these stages will vary between children.

Research has shown that most babies and young children will get used to interacting with a range of adults given time. It is a compliment that their relationship with you is so strong. However, here are some simple ways you can support your child’s independence:

  • Look after yourself - lockdown has really changed daily routines and shaped maternity/ paternity leave. Babies/young children will look to you to help them make sense of their world. They want to know that their feelings are understood and that you’ll help them with new experiences.  In order to do this you need to look after yourself and recognise when you need support.
  • Maintain routines – babies and young children need consistent routines as predictability helps them feel safe and secure. When they feel safe they are more likely to feel at ease being away from you for short periods of time. 
  • Check in with your own feelings –if you have been feeling stressed, low or anxious during lockdown your child may have picked up on this. Try to engage in some self-care activities, such as talking to someone you trust, so that when you are around your child you are able to create a positive emotional atmosphere.
  • Gradually build up your child’s confidence – start with very short periods of separation around the house, for example telling your baby or child that you are going into another room but will come back soon (make sure that the room is child-safe). Then move onto being around other adults – hang around the first few times, gradually sitting further away from your child. Keep the first time you separate fully from them short and slowly increase this time over the coming days/weeks.
  • Give your child a familiar toy or comforter when you leave the room or separate from them.
  • Say goodbye properly – create a consistent ‘exit ritual’, for example smiling, telling them you’ll be back soon and waving goodbye. Over time this will help your child understand what is happening when you leave them. Don’t disappear unpredictably as this will probably make your child more anxious. Try not to become upset in front of your child but seek support if you’re feeling overly upset or distressed about leaving them.

If your child hasn’t responded to these suggestions and you are becoming more concerned, then seek advice from your Health Visitor and/or speak to your child’s childminder or nursery/school to see if they share the same concerns. If you’re not sure who your Health Visitor is then call the Trafford Health Visiting Team on 0161 912 5016. You could also visit their Facebook Page.

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My child is scared of going outside and fearful of “germs”. What can I do to support them?

The concept of germs can be frightening for young children. Given the current pandemic it is understandable that some children may be fearful of leaving the house or worried that they will spread germs. Take time to recognise your child’s feelings and tell them that it’s okay to feel this way. Reassure them that you’re there to help them and that they can talk to you whenever they are feeling this way.  You could also watch the Everybody Worries storybook together.

Some of the following strategies may also help:

  • Keep calm – young children learn by example so are likely to copy your response to the pandemic.
  • Help your child view germs in a less threatening way – talk to your child about why germs are important; they actually help keep us healthy by strengthening our immune system. Tell your child that we all have little ‘ninja fighters’ inside of us whose job it is to fight off germs. If we avoid germs our fighters never get any exercise or practice. The germs teach our fighters how to get smart and strong so they can fight the germs off next time. It’s good to avoid spreading certain germs, like Covid-19, but we mustn’t try to avoid germs all together.
  • Talk to your child about the things they can control rather than what they can’t control - this will help your child see that they have some control over the spread of germs e.g. regular hand washing and coughing/sneezing into their elbow.
  • Limit news exposure – be open with your child and try not to hide things from them, but on the other hand don’t over-expose them to information, particularly when this is aimed at adults.

If your child hasn’t responded to these suggestions or their fear of germs is significantly affecting their everyday experiences then seek advice from your Health Visitor or GP. If you’re not sure who your Health Visitor is then call the Trafford Health Visiting Team on 0161 912 5016. You could also visit their Facebook Page.

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My child has experienced bereavement during lockdown. How can I best support them? 

There are a number of young children who sadly will have experienced bereavement during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is likely to be a very distressing and upsetting time for their families. Usual funeral arrangements may not have been allowed to take place and families may have been unable to be with their loved ones when they died.

When experiencing grief and loss yourself it may be hard to know how best to support your child, especially if you do not have support from family and friends due to the restrictions.

Children have different responses to death depending on their age and experiences. Infants experience bereavement as the loved one no longer being around. From ages 3-5, children begin to understand that death has something to do with not being alive, but they may not understand that death is permanent. They may ask when the loved one will come back or ask to see them even when they have been told that they have died. Children of this age may also think that it was something they did that made their loved one die. It’s important that you make sure they know it’s not their fault and nothing they did made it happen.

Your child may ask lots of questions about the death of a loved one. This is their way of trying to understand and process what has happened. Try to answer as honestly and simply as possible and if you’re not sure of the answer then don’t be afraid to say ‘I’m not sure’.

Young children may also become intensely interested in death and their talk may seem quite morbid. They may respond in ways that could be upsetting or shocking to other grieving adults. This is developmentally appropriate and shouldn’t be criticised or reprimanded.

You may find some of the following suggestions helpful:

  • Talk to your child about how they are feeling - grief is a normal response to death and all children grieve in different ways. Some children will not seem overly affected by the loss of a loved one. Other children may find it a very upsetting time. As adults we often want to protect our children from negative experiences and so can fall into the trap of ‘glossing over’ difficult feelings. Research has shown that it’s better to tell your child that it’s okay to feel upset/sad/worried/angry and let them feel this way whilst with you. Reassure your child that they can talk to you whenever they are feeling this way.
  • Keep in mind that your experience of bereavement may be different from that of your child.  Look after yourself and recognise when you need support. This will help you to be responsive to your child and think about what has changed for them. Let them know that you understand things may feel different and that you’re there to help them.
  • Say goodbye in another way - if your child was unable to say goodbye to their loved one before they died you could talk to them about other ways of saying goodbye. For example lighting a candle, letting off a balloon, drawing them a picture, planting a flower etc. This may help to bring some closure to your child’s relationship with the loved one.
  • Use child-friendly resources when talking about death - there are a number of storybooks appropriate for young children. Some of these books have been made into animated videos online. You may also be able to find them at your local library.

Supporting your child as well as grieving yourself can be very stressful. Make sure that you find time to talk about your own feelings with someone you trust. There are also national and local organisations that can provide additional support.

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My child has experienced a breakdown in family relationships during lockdown. How can I best support them?

Lockdown has been a challenging time for many families with increased pressure and stressors due to the significant changes to roles at home and work. Many families have spent a number of weeks in close proximity to each other, making it difficult for family members to have time alone.

It is understandable that many families have experienced more frequent arguments and conflict. Unfortunately for some this may have led to parental separations and/or breakdowns in family relationships.

Young children in particular are very sensitive to changes in family dynamics and the emotional atmosphere within the home. They may have witnessed arguing or conflicts between family members – either directly or when parents don’t realise they are watching/listening.

Young children often struggle to understand the reason behind family breakdowns and may even blame themselves or think that it happened because of something they did. It’s therefore important to tell them that it is not their fault and that they are still loved by all family members.

Every child will react differently to parental separation/family breakdowns. They may respond by becoming clingy, possessive or irritable. They may behave younger than they are and need more attention than usual. They may also become fearful of further changes to family relationships and worry about being abandoned, particularly if the separation has resulted in them no longer seeing certain family members.

You may find some of the following suggestions helpful:

  • It’s important to look after yourself as much as you can during family breakdowns or separations. Keep in mind that your experiences of these events may be different from that of your baby/child. Try to think about what has changed for your baby/child and wonder what it is they might need from you.  Let them know that you understand things feel different and that you are there to help them.
  • Explain changes to your child as simply as possible and answer questions honestly, including if you’re not sure of the answer. Try to ensure that all family members are giving the same information.
  • Encourage your child to express how they are feeling but don’t push them to talk if they don’t want to. Be ready to listen if they want to talk about it another time.
  • Read storybooks together which have plots about separation and family breakdowns. There are also stories which include different types of families to help reinforce that every family is unique and special. You may be able to find them at your local library.
  • Talk about your own frustrations or negative feelings about family members away from your child.  Ask family members to also do this.
  • If it’s appropriate try to ensure that your child is able to spend some time one-on-one with family members who have moved out in order to maintain relationships.
  • Keep routines, activities and boundaries/rules consistent, especially if your child is spending time between different houses.
  • Remember that your child may need time to come to terms with their new family set up and what this means for them. They may feel angry, upset or rejected and express this ways which adults find challenging. Try to be patient and supportive if they are struggling.

When families work together to support children through a separation or family breakdown they usually manage better. However, there may be times when you need extra help. You can seek advice from the following organisations:

You may also wish to consider requesting an Early Help Assessment by contacting one of Trafford’s Early Help Hubs for a chat about the support that is available for families struggling to cope with a family breakdown. The Early Help Hubs are in Stretford (0161 912 5020) and Partington (0161 912 2122) but offer support to residents across Trafford.

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My child has been acting out a lot more during lockdown. What can I do to support them?

A change in your child’s behaviour during lockdown may be their way of expressing their frustration and disappointment. It is understandable that the only way some children have been able to cope with the restrictions has been to take their frustrations out on the ones they love.

Children also act out when feeling stressed or anxious. We may not realise it, but young children will likely have picked up on adults’ worry and stress during the pandemic. Most young children will simply need time, patience and nurture from their parent/carers to help them come to terms with how they are feeling.

These are some ideas for how you could support them in the meantime:

  • Keep in mind how babies and young children are experiencing the changes around them.  Young children’s needs are ever changing and we can lose sight of this when we have other things on our mind.  Take some time to think about what you have noticed about your little one over the last few months. You could also check out what to expect at different ages. Your child’s behaviour may be developmentally appropriate.
  • Stick to consistent, predictable routines throughout the day. If possible try to keep these similar to pre-lockdown routines, but if this isn’t possible then create new routines.
  • Find opportunities for ‘special time’ with your child and play something fun together. Play is a significant protective factor for children’s emotional wellbeing. There are some great resources and ideas from Play Scotland, BBC’s Tiny Happy People and the Hungry Little Minds campaign. Your child may start to role play the experiences they have had during lockdown. Don’t try to stop them doing this. This is how young children process events happening around them. If they are role playing something upsetting then offer support and reassurance.
  • When your child is acting out, take a second to think ‘what is my child trying to tell me by acting in this way?’ Often they are trying to communicate that they are worried, scared, upset or angry about something.  
  • Try to name your child’s feelings out loud, for example ‘You look a bit cross because it’s tidy up time’. Only after acknowledging how your child is feeling should you set boundaries, for example ‘It’s time for dinner now. What shall we tidy away first?’  

There are also free online courses available for Trafford parents. These are designed to help you understand your child’s brain development and learn how to respond to different ages and stages of development. 

If your child hasn’t responded to these suggestions and you are becoming more concerned, then seek advice from your Health Visitor and/or speak to your child’s childminder or nursery/school to see if they share the same concerns. If you’re not sure who your Health Visitor is then call the Trafford Health Visiting Team on 0161 912 5016. You could also visit their Facebook Page.

You may also wish to consider requesting an Early Help Assessment by contacting one of Trafford’s Early Help Hubs for a chat about the support available to parents. The Early Help Hubs are in Stretford (0161 912 5020) and Partington (0161 912 2122) but offer support to residents across Trafford.

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My child’s skills have regressed during lockdown. Is this normal?

A very common reaction to stress in young children is a regression in skills – meaning moving backwards in their development. This could take the form of:

  • Talking like a much younger child
  • No longer using the toilet independently/having accidents when they were previously toilet trained
  • Waking throughout the night or not wanting to sleep in their own beds
  • Wanting adults to do everything for them or becoming overly clingy to caregivers
  • Getting frustrated more easily/increased temper tantrums
  • Changing their eating habits.

Research has shown that for most young children this doesn’t last forever. It’s more likely to be a short term reaction to a particular event.

It’s important that you give your child support throughout this time of their lives. Don’t shame your child or try to bribe them into ‘acting their age’. This could lead to increased feelings of insecurity and further regressions. Keep in mind that your child is not regressing on purpose but trying to cope with a difficult experience.

Acknowledge how your child may be feeling and the reason why i.e. that their world has changed significantly without warning and that change can be hard. If they want to talk about it, reassure them that it’s not their fault and it sometimes happens when there are big changes in a child’s life.

You may need to temporarily reduce your expectations and provide tasks which are well within your child’s capability to reduce frustration and build confidence.

Talk to your child about what would make them feel better. Follow your child’s lead and don’t force them to talk if they don’t want to. Most children will return to a more developmentally appropriate level of functioning in time.

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My child has been having a lot more screen time during lockdown. Will this affect their development?

Screen time for young children is often a topic of conversation between parent/carers, as well as in the media. In a recent survey, 82% of parents indicated that their child’s screen time had increased during lockdown, therefore you are not alone.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that children under the age of two should not be exposed to any screen time and that children aged 2-5 should be limited to an hour of screen time each day. However, there has been debate about these time limits due to a lack of research.

Families have been under unusually high levels of stress during lockdown with limited opportunities for entertainment outside of the home. Try not to chastise yourself too much – you have likely been balancing rules and maintaining harmony in your house over the past few months.

As usual, balance is a good guide. Make sure your child also has face to face time, with a family member who is interested in what they are doing, for short bursts of time throughout your day together.

These are some ideas for how you could reduce your child’s screen time as we move out of lockdown in the coming months. Keep in mind that each family is unique so some suggestions may not suit yours.

  • Develop an ‘activity menu’ with your child that lists some exciting non-screen activities. For example games, messy play, craft, gardening, outdoor picnic etc. When your child is feeling bored offer them something off the activity menu instead of screen time.
  • Change toys regularly so that your child doesn’t become bored of them. For example put a few toys in a box out of sight and swap the boxes every few weeks.
  • Set specific times of the day or week when your child can have screen time rather than it being accessible throughout the day. This helps your child know when to expect you to say “yes” to screen time and over time should reduce their requests for screen time at other times of the day. Don’t be surprised if your child pushes back against this in the first couple of days. Stick to the plan by calmly explaining it to them and they’ll soon get used to it.
  • Lead by example – it’s really important to ‘walk the talk’ when it comes to screen time. It isn’t fair for your child if they see you constantly on your phone or watching television throughout the day and it sends mixed messages. Research has also shown that reducing screen time has benefits for adults too.

Watch programmes with your child whenever possible – research has shown that ‘co-viewing’ (taking an interest in what your child is watching and talking about what is happening) is better for your child than watching alone.

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I’m worried my child will struggle going back to their childminder/nursery and/or starting school. What can I do to support them?

Many young children were unable to attend their childminder or nursery for a period of time during lockdown due to the sudden closure of settings. It is understandable that many parent/carers may have concerns about how their child will cope when going back now that many settings have reopened. You may also be concerned about your child starting school if they have not attended a setting for a number of months.

All children react differently to changes in routine. Some children may be eager to return to their setting or go to school. Others may appear anxious or voice worries.

There are lots of ways to support your child when they return to their setting or start school. Here are some suggestions:

  • Talk to your child about the upcoming transition in a positive way. If they are returning to a setting then remind them who their key worker is by using their name a lot in conversation. Your setting may also provide you with a photograph of your child’s key worker. If your child is starting school then find out the names of the Reception class staff and look on the school website to see if there are staff profiles/photographs.
  • Talk about any new measures or rules that have been introduced due to Covid-19. Keep explanations short and simple to avoid overloading your child with information.
  • Acknowledge your child’s feelings and name them. For example “When we talk about school you pick your fingers. Are you a bit worried?” Your child may also express how they are feeling through their behaviour, for example they may be acting out more because they are feeling anxious.
    Or they might indicate they just need to be close with their parents in a   way which was comforting when they were younger, just while they adjust to having to be so grown up by going to school.
  • Keep in contact with your child’s setting or new school. Many settings and schools now have virtual ways of maintaining contact and some have virtual tours/videos. It may also be helpful to let your child’s key worker or class teacher know a little about your child’s lockdown experiences, particularly if it has been a difficult time for them.
  • Ask your child’s setting or school if your child is allowed to bring in a familiar and comforting object from home that can be easily cleaned on arrival. This is often called a ‘transitional object’ and can help to alleviate anxiety and provide comfort to your child during the transition.
  • If your child is moving to a new setting or starting school, it’s important that they are able to say goodbye to their key person from their current setting. Your child may want to send them a message or picture to say goodbye.
  • Encourage independence skills if your child is starting school. Practise using the toilet independently, getting (un)dressed, using a knife and fork, and getting shoes and coats on.
  • If there will be a significant change to your child’s daily routine when starting school, introduce this new routine a few days before their first day to get them used to it.
  • If your child still has a dummy and will be starting school then now is the time for the dummy fairy to come and take it away. Having a dummy can significantly affect a child’s speech production development. Use a different comforter such as a teddy or blanket that can replace the dummy.
  • Help your child practise their listening and attention skills by regularly reading stories together. This will help prepare them for listening to stories on the carpet at nursery or school.
  • Don’t forget to look after your own emotional wellbeing. This is a big change for you too. You may have spent lots of time together recently due to lockdown so it may take you a few days to get used to. Make sure you talk to someone you trust if you are struggling. Reaching out to other parent/carers in a similar position may also help.

There are also lots of ideas for activities and information about starting school on BBC Bitesize.

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I’m finding it difficult juggling childcare and working from home. What should I do? 

Many parent/carers have been juggling working from home with family life, caring for young children and possibly home-schooling older children. This has understandably placed great stress on families.

Some families will have already found coping strategies to manage this situation. Other families will still be struggling. You may find some of the following tips helpful:

  • Make sure that your employer is aware of your family situation and speak to them about the possibility of flexible working. Read up on your employer’s family-friendly and home working policies so that you’re aware of your rights.
  • Don’t put pressure on yourself to deliver a jam-packed curriculum throughout the day. Every family is different and has different challenges to face during Covid-19. Schedule in short periods throughout the day, around 10-15 minutes, when you can focus exclusively on your child without getting distracted or trying to multi-task. This way your child will feel like they are getting some one-on-one attention from you. You can focus on something else at other times of the day without feeling guilty or always having to say “I can’t right now”.
  • Keep in mind that having some time alone is actually good for your child’s development and independence. This allows them to develop problem solving skills and confidence in being away from you. However, make sure the room they’re playing alone in is child safe.
  • Set up a designated workspace, even if this is in the same room as your child. This will be a visual cue to help your child understand when you are working and when you are not.

Be flexible if you have a young child who needs high levels of supervision. When your child needs you then take time off and return to the task later. It’s important that you give yourself this permission to take care of your family and not to feel guilty for doing so.

Back to questions

I have been feeling very anxious and/or low in mood during lockdown. Where can I get support?

The Covid-19 pandemic has placed great strains on parent/carers. You may be trying to balance needing to work and providing childcare or home-schooling. You may be shielding, vulnerable or caring for others who are vulnerable. You may have experienced bereavement or family breakdown.

Whatever your experience has been during lockdown, it is recognised across the world that the pandemic has been tough on parent/carers’ emotional wellbeing. If you are struggling with your mental health at the moment you are not alone. Many other parent/carers are feeling the same as you.

It’s important that you recognise that it’s not a sign of weakness to seek support for mental health. It is a sign of strength and a commitment to your family that you want to be in the best position to be able to support them.

There are lots of ways you can access support if you are feeling anxious and/or low in mood.

  • Our feelings as parents can sometimes get in the way of us being available for our young children. Try to make time and space for self-care activities. Depending on Covid-19 restrictions you could ask a co-parent or extended family member to help with some of the care taking duties.  
  • Consider reaching out to trusted family members and friends. Simply talking to someone else about how you are feeling has been shown to be effective at supporting wellbeing. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this then you could join an online parent group or forum and post anonymously.  
  • Talk to your GP about the support available within the NHS and your local area for mental health, particularly for parent/carers.
  • Talk to your Health Visitor. If you’re struggling with your mental health they can offer you support and advice. If you’re not sure who your Health Visitor is then call the Trafford Health Visiting Team on 0161 912 5016. You could also visit their Facebook Page.
  • Look at online resources about the simple changes you can make to your daily routine. Mind is a mental health charity which offers lots of useful information and advice.
  • If you're in crisis and need to talk to someone right now, there are helplines staffed by people who are trained to listen. You can talk about your feelings and experiences without judgement. Many listening services let you talk for as long as you need. The Samaritans is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can call 116 123 (free from any phone) or email jo@samaritans.org. They also have a free Self-Help app.

Back to questions

I’ve had a baby during lockdown. Where can I access support for new parents?

Despite many things changing during the Covid-19 pandemic one thing that hasn’t changed is that babies are being born. New parents are having to come to terms with a very different experience of having a baby.

You may have been cut off from family members and friends during lockdown. There may have been reduced access to healthcare support, such as home visits from midwives/health visitors.

Face to face support groups may also not be running, for example breastfeeding clinics and baby groups. You may have had a change in your finances resulting in you having to return to work earlier than planned. You may also have older siblings around the house a lot more than usual as well as having to care for your new born.

It is understandable that many new parents will feel a sense of loss at being ‘robbed’ of the experiences they had planned for their new baby. They may also be feeling quite isolated and lonely. This may continue even when restrictions are lifted due to lost opportunities for getting to know other new parents during lockdown.

It is really important for you and for your baby that you are able to recognise when things are beginning to feel overwhelming.  Bringing a new baby home is a very tiring and demanding time and parents of new babies have lots of feelings to juggle. 

Talking about this with a co-parent or people outside the house, and trying to be honest about the struggles, may help you to think through how to find the right support.  It will also help you to better meet your baby’s needs, as well as looking after your own. 

There are a number of places where you can access support if you are a new parent:

  • Talk to your Health Visitor. They can offer you extra support and advice and help you if you’re struggling. If you’re not sure who your Health Visitor is then call the Trafford Health Visiting Team on 0161 912 5016. You could also visit their Facebook Page.
  • Trafford has two Children’s Centres, one in Stretford and one in Partington. They provide services from pregnancy right through to when your child finishes primary school. During Covid-19 they are offering telephone advice and signposting to support services from 10am-4pm Monday to Friday on 0161 912 5020 (Stretford Hub) and 0161 912 2122 (Partington Hub).
  • Family Information Service provides free, impartial, confidential information and advice to mums, dads, carers, young people and professionals on a range of subjects. You can contact them by phone (0161 912 1053) or email (FIS@trafford.gov.uk).
  • You can access free online courses. These are designed to help you understand your baby’s brain development and learn how to respond to different ages and stages of development. 
  • Home-Start – As a parent you might ask for Home-Start’s help for all sorts of reasons. For instance if you feel isolated in your community, have no family nearby or are struggling to cope. For more information call 0161 865 4222 or email admin@hsts.org.uk.
  • Dad Matters – is a Home-Start project based in Greater Manchester. They aim to help dads have successful relationships with their families and to support dads with anxiety, stress and mental health issues.
  • Gingerbread is a national charity which provides expert advice and practical support for single parents in England and Wales. During Covid-19 they are offering WhatsApp and Facebook groups as a way for single parents to stay in touch with each other. There is also a Gingerbread forum.
  • Perinatal Mental Health Partnership UK is a Facebook page offering general support and advice for parents about staying well and managing mental health issues during pregnancy and after having a baby.
  • PANDAS Foundation – provides mental health support for pregnant and new parents. They have a free helpline on 0808 1961 776 offering signposting and a listening ear.
  • Postnatal Depression (PND) and Me – is a twitter chat (follow @PNDandme) hosted every Wednesday 8-9pm. It offers peer support from other parents who have experienced Postnatal Depression.
  • Mush is an app for mums which lets you find and talk to other mum friends nearby. Mush also provides virtual daily meet ups with other mums starting at 11am every morning on Zoom. You can access them for free from the homepage of the app.

Back to questions

As usual, balance is a good guide. Make sure your child also has face to face time, with a family member who is interested in what they are doing, for short bursts of time throughout your day together.