Mental health in the age of coronavirus
For a lot of people, the coronavirus pandemic, the lockdown and now the gradual reopening of life as we know it, has been a difficult time. First the shock and worry of facing a new unknown, the stresses that came with everyone being stuck at home during lockdown; now, some children may find it difficult adapting to the ‘new normal’. Matthew O’Reilly, our Head of Juniors, provides some tips for keeping our children’s mental health in mind.
Explain the changes and talk about them together. Find out what your child is thinking about and how they are feeling. Try to answer their questions in an age-appropriate way and reassure them that it is ok to feel worried or unsure. Just talking through their worries might help your child to feel calmer, or use play to try and eek out their feelings through role playing etc. If you have any concerns, talk to your daughter’s class teacher. We encourage a two-way conversation with all our families to ensure we are all focused on the children in our care.
Remind them that the rules are there to help keep them and others safe. We’ve been doing all we can to ensure that staff and pupils feel safe and happy on site. The girls have adapted well to our enhanced hygiene measures, with regular hand washing, hand sanitising, one-way systems and bubbles. Let them know that the rules won’t be in place forever – and that things will eventually go back to normal.
Embrace new (or old) hobbies. Lockdown encouraged many of us to take up new (or old) hobbies and spend more time together as a family, whether it was cooking or baking, doing arts and crafts, playing board games or getting out into nature and going on walks or cycling excursions. With schools and businesses reopening, things have started to go back to normal, but don’t lose that creative spark!
Keep positive routines. Research from the Guy's and St Thomas's Charity and the Bite Back 2030 healthy eating charity studied over 1000 14-19 year olds and showed a 40% increase in snacks during lockdown. On the plus side, families tended to eat more home-cooked food, and ate together more. It might not be easy to resist the lure of chocolate and unhealthy snacks, but try to keep structure around regular routines, healthy eating and exercise. With our new state-of-the-art facilities at Long Road, the girls have been enjoying making the most of our new sports grounds! Keep up sports and exercise routines outside of school as well – we encourage girls and parents to safely walk or cycle to school if possible.
Sleeping well is also key - make sure that bedtime routines are in place so that the girls feel calm and relaxed when it’s time to go to sleep. A lot of people found last year’s talk on sleep hygiene very insightful – thanks again to our PTA for organising this event. More information on good sleep hygiene is available on Parent Portal.
Remember – the St Mary’s community is here to support you and your children. When St Mary’s shut to everyone except the children of key workers during lockdown due to Covid-19, we ensured that the learning of our girls continued uninterrupted and we transitioned immediately to remote learning using Microsoft Teams. Parents were thrilled by the excellent provision the school provided during lockdown, and we were very grateful to receive such positive feedback from our parental survey, which revealed high levels of parental satisfaction across the board, from quality of teaching and leadership, to communication, academic challenge and pupil well-being. Throughout lockdown we were still St Mary’s, with live lessons and even a virtual Sports Day. Now that our doors have reopened, teachers and support staff have been doing their utmost to support our girls to embrace the ‘new normal’. Now, more than ever, we are #stillStMarys.