18 June 2020
On the 6th March this year I found myself on the BBC Breakfast red sofa discussing the best way to talk to children about Covid-19. We knew very little about it then and nothing about the huge impact it was about to have on all our lives.
What I focussed on that day was the importance of parents and carers recognising their children’s anxiety, realising that pretending everything is fine or ignoring concerns isn’t helpful and can provoke more anxiety. I also talked about using language and words that are appropriate for the child’s level of understanding and answering the questions asked rather than flooding children with information.
All of this advice still holds true now things are changing again for our children and young people. Most children and young people will have been at home since their early years settings and schools closed on March 20th. While their parents and carers have dealt with challenges such as being furloughed, working out how to work from home or the challenges of going out to work under Covid-19 restrictions our children and young people have also had to adjust to the new normal.
Some children and young people have found this time away from the challenges of school has been really beneficial. Special Needs Jungle in it’s blog on the rights of children with SEND report that for some parents of children with SEND are reporting reductions in anxiety. Young children may have had the experience of spending time with both parents for the first time since they were born, although that has been a challenge for parents trying to work. The BBC's Tiny Happy People reports that their advice on parental well being, especially for Dads has had 20,000 visits per week since lock-down.
Not every child and young person has found being at home a positive experience and a recent report by the Children’s Commissioner has highlighted concerns that the disadvantage gap has grown during this time. Some parents of children with SEND have also struggled to adapt work sent home by schools or to get access to school for their vulnerable children.
Now it’s all change again – some schools and early years settings will be opening from June 1st, although it’s a very mixed picture especially in early years where a report from Childcare UK indicates that as many as half of all early years settings won’t be opening their doors and 24% of parents say they will continue to home school their children when schools open.
Many families with children in the age groups targeted to start school or nursery in the coming weeks will be feeling very anxious. Schools’ first focus is on risk assessment and children will be travelling to school and learning in a very new environments with a new set of rules. Hand washing, keeping your distance, working in small groups and staggered school days and breaks will be a whole new world and for children with SLCN a whole new challenge in terms of vocabulary and linguistic complexity. Expectations may be high – children and young people will need to conform to the new rules to keep themselves and their teachers safe. Schools will need to manage the wellbeing of children who may have been isolated and living in challenging circumstances as well as dealing with the loss of family members. The Anna Freud Centre has recently published Managing Unexpected Endings and Transitions as a guide for schools on this.
Stephen Parsons has written a guide aimed at helping parents and professionals to support children and young people with Developmental Language Disorder to manage the Transition Back to School in Thinking Talking. For young people there is a useful resources from the Economist Foundation supporting them to use critical thinking skills to reflect on Coronavirus and Wellbeing. And for younger children two well know authors have produced e-books which support children’s understanding and ability to follow the new rules affecting all our lives. Tony Ross’s Little Princess I don’t want to wash my hands and Alex Sheffler’s illustration Explaining Coronavirus to Children.
Finally, in thinking about writing this blog I looked up some sayings about change and transition and came across this one, ‘A light precedes every transition. Whether at the end of a tunnel, through a crack in the door or the flash of an idea, it is always there, heralding a new beginning’. I think this chimes with the emphasis on the positive which you will read about in Tom’s blog in this edition, which together with the practical ideas in Amanda’s blog we hope will be of help in this challenging time for us all.
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