With just a week to go until the half-term break for schools throughout London, this will feel like one of the most long awaited and deserved respites for parents and children alike.
However, while academics are of course a priority during this time, looking after your teen’s mental wellbeing has become increasingly important during lockdown. It can also be challenging – we’re all being pushed to the limits of our emotional reserves as we adjust to a different way of living, with no idea of when or how this will all end.
Leading EdTech platform MyTutor spoke with Alicia Eaton, child psychologist and wellbeing expert, where she revealed her recommended approaches to help create the best home learning environment. These 5 tips should help to reduce overall anxiety levels, as well as help children achieve the best of their ability in their academics during this difficult time:
1. Make a home timetable
School children are naturally creatures of habit, and they’re used to having their life timetabled for each day of the week. Without this structure around them, they can start to flounder and feel lost. As much as teenagers might like to think they crave new experiences and adventure, most of them thrive much better with familiarity and routine. Creating a ‘home timetable’ with routines that will lower stress levels is a good way to stay on top of that anxiety build-up.
2. Hold a weekly family review meeting
Good family communication is the key to raising resilient kids and having weekly scheduled group chats will encourage everyone to express their feelings of anxiety or uncertainty, in a more verbal way. It takes practice to do this, but over time you’ll find that the child that can effectively describe how they’re feeling, is less likely to throw an angry tantrum. Reassure everyone that it’s natural to feel out of sorts and anxious about the future – it would be strange not to feel worried about this right now.
3. Make time to move
Never has it been more important to allocate one hour each day for walking out in the fresh air – even if it’s simply walking around the local streets. If it’s not scheduled into the timetable, it’s going to be very easy to skip doing it – especially if it’s raining. You can make it more interesting for teens by introducing walks in the dark to star-gaze or look for nocturnal animals. Or if it’s really not possible to get out, then introduce a 30 minute kitchen dance and get your teens to choose their favourite music. Regular exercise is one of the most effective ways of changing the brain chemistry and to feel less stressed.
4. Make a meal of a meal
With so few opportunities for going out at the moment, it’s going to be even more important to ‘make a meal of a meal’ to signal the end of the working day. Draw up a weekly menu in your family meetings and ensure everyone gets a turn to choose their favourite foods. When kids feel a part of the decision-making process, they’re more likely to be willing to take part in the preparation and cooking of it – and this has the added benefit of being a mindfulness activity. When your mind is fully engaged, you can’t be worrying about the future.
5. Have a laugh
Laughter is one of the quickest ways to change the brain chemistry and lower stress levels. Schedule a regular comedy movie night and ensure all news channels and other programmes are switched off for the evening. Your teen will benefit from the closeness of a regular family activity and you can use your weekly meetings to give them an opportunity to come up with a list of films they’d like to watch.