We Need To Talk: About our children in lockdown

Pic: Giselaatje from Pixabay

Over the past two weeks, EastLondonLines has examined different aspects of mental health under lockdown that might be causing people a problem, alongside counsellors from Hackney and Tower Hamlets. This week, ELL discusses another aspect of mental health during the coronavirus pandemic with a therapist from Lewisham – coping with children at home after nearly 50 days of lockdown.

Tanya Campbell-Rochester, 45, has been practicing as a therapist in Lewisham for the past six years, specialising in counselling for children and adolescents. 

She also volunteers as a therapist at Croydon Drop In (CDI), a council funded charity that offers children and adults counselling, hypnotherapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Campbell-Rochester spoke with ELL about mental health issues that children may be facing during lockdown and how their parents can support them in the third edition of We Need To Talk.

“I would say mental health issues might [come from] not being able to visit their friends and family, being in that enclosed space for such a long time. Not everyone lives in a house, so if you’re in a flat, that might bring on anxiety as well,” says Campbell-Rochester of what might be causing some children to suffer from mental health problems such as anxiety as a result of the lockdown.

She says that all children of an age that attend school are most likely to be suffering at the moment. “They are the ones that are still at school and obviously a lot of their time is spent at school, now it’s all at home without that social involvement with their friends. It’s probably just taking a whole effect on their lives really because it’s so long that we’ve been in this lockdown, they might not see an end to it”.

The internet and social media can offer children a way to remain in contact with their friends though, something which Campbell-Rochester says can be a good thing. However, she also says that it is important for parents to monitor the amount of time their children spend online.

“Sometimes [the internet] can do more harm than good because they [children] might constantly be on the phone. I’d advise against that, otherwise some children may spend all their time on social media. That would build a platform where they are talking to someone else on social media rather than with someone face to face,” she says.

Campbell-Rochester says that social media can also bring in dangerous scenarios such as having a child communicating with a person online that has not been truthful about their identity.

This comes after GOV.uk reported that the Minister for Digital and Culture, Caroline Dinenage had issued new guidance for parents to ensure that their children are safe online. The advice includes reviewing security and safety settings on internet capable devices, checking facts and guarding against disinformation.

Campbell-Rochester says that the world of news media can also have a damaging effect on children because of rumours and misinformation that is easily disseminated online. “Seeing people on their social media saying ‘oh [lockdown] is going to be on for another year now’ doesn’t help. Children believe things like that,” she says.

Counsellor Tanya Campbell-Rochester. Pic: Tanya Campbell Rochester

Subsequently, children suffering from mental health issues can have an effect on the emotional health of their parents too, a side effect that Campbell-Rochester says might put pressure on parents.

“The parents might have the pressure of having a child that isn’t being themselves because they are in their own world now, even more so than before. They might not want to spend time with their immediate family, brother, sisters, their mother or father and having that change in their life is going to have a big impact [on the family],” she says.

Campbell-Rochester also says that sometimes, parents can exacerbate the problems a child may be experiencing by trying to fix the problem for them and that parents need to work with their child and their problems. “Parents may unknowingly feed into [the problem] by trying to help the children but it might not be helping them, it might be having a reverse effect. That can put pressure onto their relationship as well,” she says.

However, there are approaches and methods that parents can take that can reduce the impact coronavirus may be having on their child. Setting a daily schedule with the children is something that Campbell-Rochester says can have a positive impact. She says parents should allow the child to be directly involved in how the day will be managed, ensuring the child is given the opportunity to say what they would like to do and what they want to change about how the day will run.

“Some parents may have to go out to work, especially if they are a key worker, so even if they can spend half an hour a day being with their child and talking to them to find out what is going on, it can help,” she says. 

“Do things that you probably wouldn’t normally do, find that niche time that you can do now because you’re at home. It could be something you’ve always wanted to do together,” Campbell-Rochester says, also recommending going for walks and keeping up with fitness as good activities for parents and children to do together.

Aside from advising on practical methods of support, Campbell-Rochester also recommends website Young Minds as a good resource for parents and children facing mental health issues to get information and professional support. She said that Young Minds provides users with information about looking after themselves mentally, support guides, information for parents as well as a contact number and email address that puts people in touch with professionals. She also said that the organisation provides newsletters with guidance too.

Campbell-Rochester says parents should be mindful that support for their children should continue after lockdown has been lifted as one of the main effects coronavirus may have on children mentally, could actually occur in this period as children may not want to leave their homes and return to school.

“Children may see their home as their new safety net. If they have got anxiety already, going outside might add to that. They might think by going outside, they may get the virus,” she says.

“Sometimes that can be forgotten as parents might be going out as everything is okay now, but it is always good to keep [support] up and maybe stay in touch with someone who can help them on a regular basis,” she says.

Below is a list of resources that may be useful.

Samaritans

NHS Every Mind Matters

The Therapy Directory

Mind

Getselfhelp.co.uk 

Anxiety UK

Young Minds

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