How can we best support children and young people’s social and emotional wellbeing during Covid 19?
Guest blog by Liz Bowles, Partnership for Children
Schools across the world have been re-opening over the last few months. Already some have had to shut again, or send whole year groups home, because of cases of Covid19. This makes for an extremely volatile and uncertain situation for teachers, school staff, parents and, not least, children. They find themselves in a situation they have never before needed to face. Not only is there uncertainty and no clear path forward, but there are also very real concerns for safety.
We therefore, welcome the opportunity to flag up the work of Values and Visions and Partnership for Children both of which have been supporting teachers in the UK and over 30 countries around the world with their pupils’ recovery through their social and emotional learning resources (see links below).
Social and emotional learning are ever more vital as children find themselves in a world that is faced with accelerating uncertainty. Illness, bereavement, stress, increased anxiety, economic hardship, distancing, shielding, job losses have all come in the wake of Covid 19. All these will have put tremendous strains on very many families and will continue to do so.
Back at school, children find themselves with new routines, distancing and bubbles. Whilst some of us may find it tempting to return to the old normal it simply is not possible. Dealing with the social and emotional needs of children is now something that needs to be centre stage. We know that pupils can only fully engage with learning once their social and emotional needs are met. There are many resources out there, including Values and Visions: Engaging Students, Energising Teachers (V&V)and our own Free Covid-19 Resources (see below), but we’d like also to show how Partnership for Children and Values and Visions provide very practical, evidenced ways to work on 6 specific areas that will help children.
Let’s look at these 6 interconnected areas.
Children will be experiencing a mixture of feelings and anxiety about the Covid-19 situation and all the changes that are happening. If children are able to look at these feelings, they are better equipped to manage them. In the Partnership for Children programmes, children are invited to identify different feelings in themselves and in others. This includes looking at the bodily sensations we experience when we feel nervous – which is a feeling many children may be experiencing right now. Writing a feelings diary helps your child identify feelings and helps them understand that feelings change. Along with this you can create a Feelings Chart and use it to identify and talk about feelings. V&V’s chapters SELF and JOURNALLING have complementary activities for exploring emotions such as Emotions in Action and Overwhelmed? Dump it here.
The ability to communicate with others will be a crucial skill for solving problems and maintaining good relationships in the ‘New Normal’. The programme Skills for Life sessions teaches children straight-forward rules to communicate how they feel and how to be a good listener. They also look at asking for help, which some children find difficult to do, but may be crucial to their recovery. V&V has devoted a whole chapter to LISTENING which works well with this.
Making & Breaking Relationships
Friendship skills will be vital to children. Returning to school they may need to re-build old friendships and develop new ones as children may find themselves in different bubbles from their friends. As well as covering friendship skills, young people will need to cope with rejection and loneliness understanding that not everybody will be their friend. You can get your child thinking positively about renewing friendships and being back at school. It is important to discuss with your child who they can turn to for help. Both PfC and V&V have excellent activities to help you support children in this.
Dealing with Conflict
Children may be reluctant to come back to school as being at home was respite from conflict with friends or they may feel happier at school because of difficulties they have to cope with at home. Skills for Life sessions teach children the skills to examine problems and identify helpful solutions to conflicts with others including situations which involve bullying. You might like to help your child make a Coping Toolbox of things that help them with their feelings or explore Conflict Tableaux in ENCOUNTER in V&V.
Dealing with Change
Throughout the pandemic children have had to face a multitude of changes. Children will cope better with change if they understand that changes are an essential part of life. Skills for Life sessions help children to recognize the positive and negative sides of change and how to develop emotion-focused coping strategies to be able to feel better in those situations that they are unable to change, such as not being with friends in school due to the pandemic. Encourage your child to think about the positive and negative sides of change. Help them to accept and let go of the things they’ve missed out on and to look forward to things they can do in the future. You might like to try the activities in VISIONING in V&V as well to build further on this and help children create the futures they want.
Dealing with Death
This year, children will have been faced with daily news of people dying from Covid-19 and they may have suffered bereavement(s). On returning to the classroom many teachers may feel apprehensive about talking to those children about bereavement. Skills for Life sessions create a supportive environment where children feel more open to discussing their feelings, concerns and questions. To help teachers to be able to do this we, at PfC, have created a short video ‘Talking to children about death’ which can be found on our website. We, at PfC, also have activities to help you and your child find ways to cope when grieving the loss of a loved person or a loved pet or to show they care when someone has suffered a loss. These marry well with V&V’s chapter on GRIEVING and LETTING GO.
By using the PfC Skills for Life programmes in conjunction with Values and Visions, schools can provide an overall approach to ensure holistic recovery and increased resilience for pupils. The guidance and activities from the V&V approach complement the Skills for Life programmes and provide children with many valuable tools and skills that will help them face the coming months with greater openness and confidence.
Liz Bowles, Partnership for Children
Partnership for Children resources and training
Due to the Covid-19 situation Partnership for Children have adapted their full day in-school training into an online training session via Zoom, enabling them to train teachers all over the UK. Over 175 UK school staff have now completed virtual training.
- If you would like to book onto our upcoming training and find out more about implementing Skills for Life programmes in your school, please visit our website
- We also have a selection of free downloadable wellbeing activities for parents and carers of young children aged 3-5.
- Social and emotional learning programmes for 5-11 year olds
- Our Feelings Diary
- Staying Connected
- Renewing Relationships
- Relaxation Activities
- Dealing with Change
- Letting Go and Future Plans
- Coping with the Death of a Loved One
- Sympathy Card
To find out more visit our website or follow us on social media @PFchildren
V&V’s free resources (taken from Values and Visions: Engaging Students and Energising Teachers) can be found on the Resources and Free Activities page and others mentioned above are available in the book.