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Advice for parents in Children’s Mental Health Week

IT’S Children’s Mental Health Week, and parents and carers across the country are looking for ways to help their children feel less anxious.

To help, Kate Devine, Insurance Expert at MoneySuperMarket has offered some top DIY tips for home-schooling while specialist Mental Health Nurse Nikki Webster offers some expert advice on the balance between work and playtime.

Kate Devine says: 

  1. Create a space dedicated to learning

“Distinguishing a study zone is vital for home learning. Set up a space solely for schoolwork, that way your children will learn to understand when it is time to learn. The kitchen table is a perfect spot as it has little distractions and separates the study zone from anywhere where your children might usually play. Alternatively, try settling up a corner of the living room or lounge area as this still provides some space away from distractions.

“Don’t try and recreate a full classroom in your home, and don’t take on the role of a teacher. The goal is to make home-schooling less of a chore. Be creative, patient and use it as an opportunity to engage with their learning.”

  1. Make sure you have the right learning equipment 

“Google Trends shows an increase of 150% for ‘office desk’ the last 12 months, as home-schooling and working from home has become the new normal. With that said, it is important to try and provide your children with the right learning equipment to make your job just a little bit easier.

“A good desk and chair are probably the most vital. You want your children to be comfortable in their new learning environment.

“If you can, incorporate a tablet or laptop into their schedule. There are plenty of online resources and apps available that make home learning easier and more enjoyable for your children, including BBC Bitesize and Mathletics.”

  1. Follow your own timetable

“Home-schooling isn’t ideal for everyone, so don’t feel pressured to stick to normal school hours. Create a schedule that works around you and your children. Create a daily plan, but don’t worry if things go a little off during the process.

“If you’re also working from home, try and plan lessons while you’re having a meeting, or when you need to get your head down.

“Also, be realistic for yourself and also your children. Schools aren’t expecting you to provide non-stop lessons for 6 hours a day, so don’t worry about not doing enough. Start with an hour or two and add more if your children are responding well.”

  1. Make sure you include breaks

“Children need breaks adding into their day, especially when learning from home. Many children may feel confused and overwhelmed over the sudden changes, so it’s important to make the transitions as easy as possible.

“Short breaks in between sessions are good for resetting focus and can help children concentrate when it’s time for learning. If you have a garden, make sure you’re encouraging playtime outside to burn off some energy and get some fresh air.”

  1. Celebrate achievements 

“Make sure you are encouraging and praising your children on their learning. Lockdown provides challenges for all of us, and especially for children who have been taken out of school and away from their friends. Learning from a new environment presents a challenge in itself, so any small wins should be celebrated along the way.

“Try rewarding their learning with stickers to monitor their progress. This will help them work towards something and stay motivated during lockdown.

Make sure to use positive language and motivational techniques to keep them going, and reward them with their favourite toys and hobbies during their free time for their good work.

“With people spending more time at home due to social distancing measures, our research has shown there is concern about additional accidental damage occurring, particularly in those households with children at home.

“Ensuring you have a comprehensive home insurance policy in place which includes accidental damage cover will protect you from hefty prices for one-off repairs or replacements, and also give you some peace of mind. Just remember to check the single item limit on your policy and list any household items over that value. Typical items here could be jewellery, but also computers, antiques, musical instruments and designer goods.

“If you do need to make a claim, it is always worth comparing the cost to repair or replace the item against any excess you will need to pay and any loss to your no-claims discount. If you can pay for the repairs yourself your no-claims bonus won’t be affected which may result in lowering your home insurance premium.”

Registered Specialist Mental Health Nurse and ACT Therapist, Nikki Webster adds: 

“Working from home is incredibly challenging and requires an amount of focus greater than needed in school. It is ideal if a separate area for studying can be set up so that home learning is separated from play areas. This allows children to establish better routines and remain more focused.

“Making learning as fun as possible will definitely help.  If school allows, move away from the screen and learn in a fun way, for example move outside if it’s dry and complete a garden scavenger hunt.

“Collect items from around the garden such as leaves/stones and utilise these for your maths lesson (count up, make into an array, etc). Or make a collage for art out of materials found in the home.

“Short breaks throughout studying time will be vital for all children and help with engagement – we shouldn’t expect them to be able to sit for prolonged periods with minimal social engagement or activity.

“Remind your child that they don’t need to get things ‘perfect’; all they can do is try their best and you are their to support them with that as much as you can be.”

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