Written: July 2020
Although we wrote this article early on in the coronavirus pandemic, it might still be helpful for your family as things continue to develop.
You might have seen on the news, or read reports online that racial minorities in the UK have been at higher risk of coronavirus given the over-representation of Covid-19 related illnesses.
If you are a racial minority and have read about this, it might have made you worried for yourself, family, friends or your community.
Children might have heard that coronavirus is disproportionately affecting racial minority children too, perhaps through conversations with you in the home, via social media, or from their peers. Some children may have had direct experience of coronavirus and in some cases have suffered the loss of a loved one. You may be managing your own grief during this time too. We want you to know that you don’t have to deal with any of this alone.
We have set out some pointers that could help you address some of the anxieties the pandemic might have raised for you. You might read this, and by the end think that some of the tips might help, whilst others might not, and that’s okay - you know your family best, and what works for them; and we have signposted to further support at the end of the article.
Reflecting during uncertainty
Before opening discussions in the home, a good place to start is in thinking about how you feel about coronavirus and what it means to your family. It is understandable and totally normal to feel a range of emotions considering the amount of information there is out there ready for you to access.
Ask yourself some key questions:
How has the pandemic been affecting me, my emotions and behaviours?
A good way of figuring out how something has been making you feel and impacting your life is to separate out emotions from behaviours; you could create a list to help you figure this out.
Here is an example of some of the emotions that families have told us they have experienced, and how it has affected their behaviours:
Recognising the impact of the type of emotions the pandemic has raised can help in figuring out where you might need some support; be it from family, friends, community or members of your faith group. If you do wish to seek further support, it can also help you better explain your circumstances.
How is the pandemic affecting my family life today?
Has it been affecting family life negatively? Can I work on this myself, with a partner or someone else close to me perhaps, or do I need further support?
Sometimes it’s easier to take things one day at a time. There’s no rush, and there’s no need to think big. Take small steps, and address each issue one at a time, to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Recognising if you do feel overwhelmed however is fine, and just means you can take some steps to getting the support you need. Again, you could list these out as above, if you think it could help.
Is the pandemic causing me upset or distress on a daily basis?
Could my children also be experiencing similar feelings and should I seek further support for me or them?
Ongoing feelings of worry can be really hard for anyone to deal with, and recognising you might need support is not always easy, but it’s a step towards getting your family to where you want to be. Think about the type of support you want - is this from friends or family, or someone else? We know that sometimes people find it easier to talk to someone who doesn’t know their family or community.
What have been the positives in my family life?
Can I continue to build on the positives?
Recognising and acknowledging the positives, big or small, are important to maintaining balance. Ask yourself: ‘what challenges during the pandemic am I most proud of my family overcoming?’
Here are some examples of what families have told us have been the positives for them:
Having conversations with your children
We know that the return to school this year has looked really different. Lots of families have shared concerns with us about feeling worried that their family might be at heightened risk of coronavirus now that their children have returned to school, particularly if there are younger children in the home, and perhaps you and/or your children have had these feelings too. Your school’s priority will always be to ensure the safety of your child, and will be regularly reviewing school protocol as things develop, but it’s important that you share any of your concerns with them too. It’s okay to reach out and let them know how you and/or your child are feeling on an ongoing basis, particularly if anything changes - this will mean they will be able to provide any additional support you all might need, but also means they can let you know if they notice any mood or behavioural changes your child might have in school, so that you are better able to support them at home.
Having open conversations around school life in the home is a good way to keep connected with what your child is thinking and feeling about their school life. Encourage conversations around what the highlight of their day has been, and what they are looking forward to doing the next day, to keep a positive momentum flowing. Be open and ask about the safety procedures the school has in place to protect children from the virus - not only is this a good way to check your child’s understanding and answer any questions they have, but also a good way to keep the topic out in the open in your household. If you are ever unsure about anything, reach out to the school to clarify, they are always there to help.
Whilst your concerns are completely valid, try to remember that your child going back to school is not just beneficial to their learning but is also an opportunity for them to reconnect with friends, teachers, and other staff who they might not have seen for months, and give them back a sense of normalcy, and it’s okay to remind them of this too. Your child’s development will benefit from being able to see their friends as it helps to increase their confidence, improve important social skills and to learn from others.
Tips and questions to help you navigate the conversation with your child
1. Have check-in’s with your child - when you feel it’s most appropriate; you know your child best. You could ask questions like:
- ‘What have you been hearing about coronavirus recently?’ ‘How did that make you feel?’
- ‘Have you heard anything that might have worried you? If so, how did it make you feel?’
2. Be led by your child - pressuring your child to talk to you about coronavirus could lead to potentially increasing worries. You could ask:
- ‘It’s important that we do sometimes talk about how you are feeling. When would be a good time to talk about it? Is there ever a time you don’t want to talk about it?’
3. If you have a young child who doesn’t always feel like talking, you could try making a ‘worry jar’. Take an old jar you have at home, label it ‘worry jar’ and leave a pen and piece of paper next to it. Encourage your child to write any worries they may have on a piece of paper, tear it off, and put in the jar. At the end of the day, sit down with them and discuss any worries they wrote down, asking questions like:
- ‘What worries you about this?’
- ‘What can I do to help you feel less worried about this?’
- ‘Is there anything we can do together?’
- ‘Is there another adult you would rather talk to about this?’
4. You may also want to make a ‘good feelings’ jar to reinforce positive feelings and thoughts whilst encouraging your child to speak about any worrying thoughts - especially because thinking about the positives maintains balance.
5. Debrief from time to time with a friend, family member (or support worker, if you have one). Someone is always there ready to listen, and perhaps they are experiencing a similar range of feelings within their household too and can give you some advice on what worked for them.
Take your own advice. Ask yourself: If a friend or family member came to me with a worry around uncertainty, what would I tell them? Sometimes, we are harder on ourselves than others, and find it easier to be positive to others. Take one day at a time - you’ve got this!
Control what you can. Even if it’s the small things - they all count. Some things are going to be out of your control, so focusing on what you can, for example: like meal planning for the week, or having clothes ready the night before a stressful day will help take the edge off and give some comfort and structure. Don’t worry if things don’t always go to plan - there’s always tomorrow!
Reflect on the positives. Many of us have overcome some challenges in our past, and are currently working through a pandemic, one of the biggest challenges of our times - and are working through it. Give yourself credit for working through such challenges, and reflect on the positives; because it hasn’t been easy - but you are doing the best you can.
Take some time for you. Sometimes stress can make us forget that we are worth some off time, but try not to let it. When you can, take some time for you, because you are worth it. We are all currently experiencing circumstances we have never faced before, dealing with change in ways we have never had to before, and ultimately have had to learn to adapt like never before; but by the end we will all show resilience the world has never seen before. So here are some words, just for you, to encourage you to engage in some much deserved self-care:
- You are a great parent
- You are resilient
- You deserve time to yourself
- You are strong
- You are enough
If you ever feel like you need further support, you can call 0800 157 7015 to speak to one of our Barnardo’s project workers, or self-refer into See, Hear, Respond here, where we will help you get the right support you need.