Educational advisor Claire Bagnall shares her thoughts on how we have help our children navigate their way out of lockdown. She is a regular contributor to our blog page and loves receiving boxes for her children from The Bear Can Read every month.
It hasn’t been long since the last lockdown, I was writing about turning reading with into moments of mindfulness. Yet once again, we find ourselves in emerging through the stages of lockdown and trying to help our children cope with the challenges it brings. Many of us, although still weary as we ease our way out lockdown, started this period of transition, ready for change but unsure of how to proceed. As many weeks of lockdown have now passed, not only are we feeling the strain, but so are our children. I have lost count of the number of times my children have asked me, ‘When will the virus go away? Will I be able to have a birthday party this year?’
So what can we do, as parents and carers, to support our children to navigate these ongoing, challenging times? I believe the key lies in helping to anchor our children’s thoughts in the present moment and to help them to enjoy it as much as possible. A really good strategy for this is to read with them. This can be helpful in several different ways, and there are a number of things we can as caregivers do to enhance its potential.
Firstly, the world in the book is likely to be a world without Coronavirus, and therefore reading the book affords children the opportunity to escape from their troubles temporarily. This is not to say that we shouldn’t listen to our children’s worries and questions or try to stifle them. But children’s minds, like our own, can quickly become overwhelmed with troubling thoughts, and some respite from this can help children to feel more able to face challenges they face in their day-to-day lives when they do occur. In addition, sitting down to read a book together and really focusing on the pleasure of this experience in the here and now helps children to feel present in the moment, with a clear focus on the activity in hand. Snuggling under a blanket to do this can enhance children’s enjoyment of the activity and add to the feeling that it is a special thing to do together.
Why not try this with the books from The Bear Can Read boxes? These are carefully selected to provide just the right level of challenge for your child so that they are motivated to keep going whilst continually learning in a way that will compliment their schoolwork. This may be the best way to wind down after being back to school left them feeling overwhelmed or exhausted.
In addition, books can also be used to support children’s mental health in a slightly different way, by having a direct impact on their understanding of neuroscience and its impact on the body. Certain titles are written specifically to help children enhance their knowledge of the brain, the physical sensations in our body when experiencing anxiety, and strategies to manage these when they become overwhelming. ‘Little Meerkat’s Big Panic’ is an illustrated storybook which outlines Little Meerkat’s experience of having an important new responsibility…being the ‘Lookout Meerkat’. When things go wrong during his first day on the job, the book covers how he thinks and feels, and how, with the help of some carefully considered strategies suggested by other characters in the book, he is able to gain control over his feelings and solve the problem.
For immediate support, ‘Breathe Like A Bear’ is a book of illustrated mindfulness exercises that you can dip into with your child during difficult moments, or at any time, to equip them with strategies they can use in the future. Its ‘bitesize’ format makes it ideal for those times when emotions are running high and the ‘thinking brain’ is less functional, particularly if they have your support.
However frequently you use the above strategies, you can be assured that by reading with your child, you will be supporting them with their mental health, whilst ensuring that lockdown isn’t a reason for your child’s reading progress to stall.