Honest and regular communication is key to coping with social isolation and the sense of being plunged into unsettling limbo, says Sydney Catholic Schools’ psychologist and education specialist, Sandra Reynolds.
She recommends starting a conversation with your child and keeping up a semblance of routine for children studying from home, even if this just means not being in your pyjamas all day.
“Check in with them on how they’re feeling about this new way of living,” Ms Reynolds advised.
“Monitor how much (COVID-19) media exposure they’re getting, especially for younger children.
“It’s important you’re able to talk them through it, so they’re not feeling scared or confused about what they’re seeing.”
As classes remain suspended during the COVID–19 pandemic, so do opportunities for students to socialise, play sports and experience other school-based rites of passage, Ms Reynolds said.
There is also the added pressure on students to remain engaged in a virtual classroom devoid of human interaction.
All these things can lead to stress and anxious feelings, all the more so in students who were already afraid of being left alone, Ms Reynolds said.
“Students should be encouraged to stay connected with close friends and family, via telephone, video calls and messaging,” she said.
“Taking pictures of your daily activities and sharing them with a friend can help reduce feelings of loneliness and boost motivation to get things done. This generation is particularly fond of visual communication, so pictures are a great way of sharing.”
She said teenagers may be worrying about the potential loss of their rites of passage – their graduation, their formal.
“These are the conversations parents need to be having with their kids, exploring how they feel about this loss,” Ms Reynolds added.
She urged parents of children experiencing high levels of anxiety over the recommended extra hand washing during the pandemic, and children already managing obsessive compulsive behaviours around hygiene, to maintain any treatments and ensure they access available support services at this time.
While it may seem to children like no one has answers right now, it is important to help them understand that, although necessary, the changes to their routine are temporary and short term, Ms Reynolds said.
She said Sydney Catholic Schools also offers counselling services, including remote counselling, to help build students’ emotional resilience and teach them to find ways to cope with the changes.