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Mental Health Awareness week: Newbury teacher says 'kindness the new norm for adults and children' during coronavirus outbreak

Amanda Bailey suggests how to instil in children kindness to themselves

Geraldine Gardner

Geraldine Gardner

geraldine.gardner@newburynews.co.uk

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01635 886684

Reassure your children about coronavirus

THE theme of this year's Mental Health Awareness Week - May 18-24 - is kindness.

Whether giving or receiving kindness, leading clinical research findings show that it can significantly improve an individual's self-esteem and emotional well-being.

Newbury teacher and family lifestyle coach Amanda Bailey looks at how kindness has come to the fore during the current coronavirus crisis.

'Although isolated, something extraordinary has happened during the current outbreak, our communities have come together like never before.

Covid-19 has become an amazing catalyst: kindness the 'new norm' for adults and children alike. Children enjoy making and searching for hearts, rainbows, teddy bears, brightly painted stones on daily walks.

Refuse collectors, delivery drivers, postmen and women are delighted with notes, artwork & sweet treats left by thankful children. Clapping, saucepan banging and talking with neighbours have become part of many family's Thursday evening routine as together we show thanks to the NHS and all key workers.

Children have also received kindness... from the famous - the nation’s new PE guru, Joe Wickes, David Walliams, reading from his short story collection - and from their teachers and school staff caring for vulnerable children and children of key workers or using learning resources at home, as well as surprise packages, video-call storytelling and shared art activities with grandparents on-line.

Information does not persuade people, real experiences do, you truly know it because you've done it, you know what life can be like. An extremely important kindness to nurture in children is kindness to yourself, sometimes referred to as self-compassion; helping build self-confidence, courage and good self-esteem.

Keep ears open to negative self-talk, especially when something is proving difficult, or when your child has made a mistake or a poor choice. Accept their emotion, then remind them of appropriate skills, knowledge and understanding, encourage them to try again, have a go. Ask, what are you going to do next?

Imitate and model positive self-talk, problem solving and showcase the importance of mental health, ensuring there is space, peace and quiet time for your own emotional well-being.

Notice if your child regularly speaks in a negative way, starting sentences with: 'I can't', or 'I never'.The voice in their head; their self-talk is also likely to be negative and self-defeating. Foster a positive self-fulfilling prophecy by encouraging your child to talk and think about themselves in a kindly and optimistic way.

Describe and praise your child, inspiring and reinforcing their positive words and actions. Encourage your child to speak to themselves in a positive way, starting with words such as: 'I am'  'I can'. Statements should always be personal - 'I'  present - 'am' and positive.

Nurture, encourage and foster healthy emotional development by giving your child focussed attention each and every day.

Express and reframe negative statements in a positive way: acknowledge the emotion your child is experiencing, not the words. When calm, if appropriate ask your child why s/he thinks/says something, or consider what you believe the words may be trying to communicate and what steps you could take, remembering real experiences persuade.

Stop and think, whether direct or indirect, over time some words and actions, even if unintentional, or 'joking' undermine a child's confidence and self-esteem.

Show gratitude, encourage your child to focus on what s/he already has, spend time at the end of each day sharing things you are grateful for, encouraging your child to see the part s/he played.

One of the unintended consequences of this strange time is that Covid-19 has broken down barriers of difference and separation with the amazing potential to allow our children to grow up in a world showing more compassion, respect, care and KINDNESS to ourselves, others and the world itself.'

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