A E-ACT Insight by Emma Martin 30 March 2021

As our worlds slowly open back up and children are in school once again, for many parents a key question will be how they can support their child’s learning post-COVID.

There has been much in the news about children being ‘behind’ and needing to ‘catch up’. However, just as important is their emotional wellbeing, in particular connection, play, making sense and resilience. By focusing on mental health, we can help our children to be in the best possible place to learn.

Re-build and strengthen connections

Children do need to catch up this summer – to catch up with friends and family. Social connections have been hugely impacted by the pandemic, so it is important that we give children the time and space they need to enjoy being with friends and family again (and not just via a screen!)

By giving time to rebuilding social connections, parents will be helping their child to feel good about themselves and to practice all the skills they need to help them get on with others in a positive way.

Let’s play!

With opportunities limited during lockdown, by giving children the opportunity to play we can help them to develop their social, emotional and cognitive skills. Most importantly, play helps children to have positive thoughts about themselves which is exactly what we need to encourage right now.

Making sense of experiences

One of the most important things parents can do this summer is to help children make sense of COVID so they don’t store concerns. We can do this by helping them to share their challenges and successes in their ‘COVID story’ through conversations, role play or painting and drawing.

Nurture resilience

Many people have commented on how resilient children have been during this tumultuous time. Whether your child has ridden the rollercoaster with ease or found it more challenging, placing a focus on problem solving and resilience is a sure-fire way to help your child make progress at school.

One way to support your child’s ability to bounce back when things get tricky is to spend quality time doing an activity of their choice with them, whether it’s playdoh, kicking a ball about or playing a board game. By doing so, you are giving them a sense of safety and letting them know you are there for them.

Let’s prioritise their wellbeing

Think back to your own childhood and the things you enjoyed – being free to play, being yourself and being with friends. Let’s not give our children the message they are ‘behind’, but instead let’s celebrate their wonderful achievements during this tricky time. Let’s make this summer one of freedom and play by prioritising their emotional wellbeing – the rest will follow.

Tips for parents – one

When helping your child make sense of their COVID experience, you can take it a step further by exploring their feelings with them; ‘Oh I remember, I think you were excited when we first did home learning’ or, ‘Yes, it was worrying wasn’t it when it was time to go back to school and you weren’t sure what your classroom might look like?’.

By doing this we are helping our children to notice, explore, process and understand some of their feelings, whilst helping them to see these as normal reactions. We are also giving our children the message that we are interested in knowing about their feelings and that talking about them is a safe and positive thing to do.

Tips for parents – two

Avoid talking about a need to catch up or that your child is behind. This places unnecessary pressure on children and will be detrimental to their mental health. Instead focus on their accomplishments during lockdown and home learning.

Maybe you could put some of their work into a scrapbook or put together a photobook to remember this key time in your family’s history. Also look forward with them and help them think about their aspirations. Embrace your child’s desire to learn new things, help them along the way and celebrate with them when they get there.