Ideas for Home Learning
There is much written in the media about the impact of the pandemic on children’s mental health and, as a school, one of our key priorities is ensuring the continued well-being of our children. We all know that if a child is not happy then they will not thrive. Given the announcement made last week, that schools would remain closed to most children until 8th March at the earliest, it seemed timely to update our website to provide parents with advice and a range of resources designed to support children’s emotional and mental well-being.
We know from speaking to you each week, via email, phone calls and Tapestry, that your children are finding it hard to be away from their friends and their familiar routine. We also know, lots of us as parents ourselves, how hard it is to juggle the day to day demands of running a home with the added pressure of Home Learning. For many of our parents, these pressures are further compounded with having to work from home themselves. We understand.
Given the restrictions in place currently and the challenges that we are all facing in terms of time and resources, the information on these pages is designed to provide advice and ideas on how you can best support your child’s emotional and mental well-being while they are away from school.
It goes without saying that if you are concerned about your child’s well-being in any way, please do contact one of us at school. Although we cannot be physically with all of your children in school, their well-being is still our primary concern.
In school the children are all used to beginning their Jigsaw PSHE lesson with a ‘Calm Me’ activity. This is a quiet and peaceful time where the children are encouraged to be still and quiet and, as they become more practised, focus on the present moment and how they are feeling.
The breathing exercises described below are a lovely way to continue this practise at home. At school, we start our Calm Me session by striking a chime, but you could listen to some relaxing music or just enjoy the quiet.
Read through the prompt card before sharing the special time with your child so that you are comfortable with the words that you will be saying. Try to find a quiet spot, away from distractions and sit in a way that is comfortable for you and your child. In school, the children are used to sitting with their legs crossed but if you want to use this as a time to get snuggly – go for it!
Read the words through as your child sits/stands/lays with their eyes closed. It may feel a little strange to you at first, but the children will all be used to it from their lessons at school! Finding time to be calm and quiet in the current circumstances is more important than ever. Five minutes each day will really help your child to connect with how they are feeling and enable them to experience quiet mindfulness away from any thoughts they may be having about the current change of routine.
Talking about Feelings with ‘The Colour Monster’
by Anna Llenas
During this period of school closure, it is likely that children will be feeling a mixture of emotions. Some children are very good at talking about their feelings, but for some this can be much more of a challenge.
In school we are great fans of a book about ‘The Colour Monster’ who finds it hard to understand and separate his feelings so they end up getting into a huge jumble. As the story progresses Nuna, a very wise little person, explains to the Colour Monster that it is much easier to look after your feelings if you keep them separate and know what each one is. Nuna then talks through each feeling, associating it with a colour and giving the Colour Monster examples of when he may have felt that way. The link below is an video of the story being read. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ih0iu80u04Y
Alternatively, if you have a child currently in Reception there is a video of Mrs Boon reading the story as part of their Well-Being Wednesday activities. For children in Year One and Two, you will remember the Colour Monster from last Lockdown! There are videos of Mrs Boon reading it on your Tapestry account from 12th June 2020.
As you are listening to the story with your child, ask them if they can recall a time when they felt happy? Can they tell you about a time they felt sad? How about a time when they felt worried? Using the book as a guide, have a gentle discussion with your children about how they are feeling. Be led by them and try not to ‘force’ the discussion.
Once the children have listened to the book a few times, and are familiar with the concepts you can then use the Colour Monster as a way of talking with your child about specific feelings they may be having. For example, ‘You look like you are feeling very bouncy today! You have so much energy, you look very yellow! What is making you feel so good?’ Or, if your child is struggling, ‘I can see that you are feeling a bit wobbly today. You are very quiet. I wonder if you are having a grey feeling or a blue feeling? Do you want to tell me about it?’
Happy Sad Angry Scared Calm Loved
There are lots of activities you could do around The Colour Monster.
For our youngest children:
- Choose a Colour Monster from the pictures above – can your child make their face and body show that feeling? To make this a little harder, when your child has had more practise, you could mime a feeling to them, to see if they can identify it from your face and your body.
- Draw an empty jar. Can your child draw pictures of things that make them happy, you could scribe their ideas, using their words, to label it.
- Can they make a jar that shows things that make them feel loved?
- You could use the pictures of the Colour Monster above to ‘check in’ with your child each morning and before bed, asking, ‘how are you feeling this morning?’ and ‘what sort of a day have we had today?’
- Use feelings words from the story to talk about your day. ‘I really enjoyed our walk earlier. Splashing in puddles with you made me feel happy and the birds singing gave me a lovely calm feeling’. When your child hears you doing this, they will very naturally begin to do the same. This is a really positive way of getting children to express themselves. Bringing feelings into your everyday conversation will mean that when your child is experiencing a ‘big’ feeling they will be more likely and more confident to express it.
- Can your child use feelings words from the Colour Monster to spot feelings in their story books? At bedtime, when you are reading, with help from you, maybe they might ‘spot’ feelings in the characters. ‘Daddy Bear is feeling very angry here, isn’t he? Goldilocks has eaten all of his porridge! I wonder how Baby Bear is feeling?’ or, ‘Stick Man is very sad, isn’t he? He misses his Stick Family.’ Bringing these feelings words into familiar stories helps your child to realise that everyone has feelings. This helps them to realise that however they feel, it is ok.
With older or more confident children, use the concept of a Colour Monster to explore other feelings such as proud, confused, worried, excited, hungry, jealous or tired.
- Choose a feeling not represented in the Colour Monster story. Could your child design a Monster for that feeling. For example, ‘How do you feel when you are proud of something? Can you remember a time that you were proud? What did your body look like? What about your face? Can we draw a Colour Monster that feels proud? What colour helps you to think of that proud feeling? This is a great way of exploring more subtle feelings that can sometimes be difficult to label.
If your child is experiencing ‘big’ feelings such as anger, worry or sadness, reassure them that this is ok. We all feel angry, worried or sad sometimes.
- If your child is able, get them to talk to you about what is making them feel that way (it may be easier for some children to draw or write about this)
- Listen and be physically near your child as they talk, showing acceptance of their feelings
- When your child has finished talking/drawing, tell them that you are proud of them for talking about such a big feeling.
- Explain that by sharing how they feel, they have given that feeling to you, they have shared and so the feeling has got smaller.
- Tell your child that you will put their worries away, into a jar like the Colour Monster, so that you can physically ‘take’ the worries away from them.
- Take time to have a cuddle and tell your child that you will always do your best to help them sort out their feelings
Answering BIG Questions
Lots of children will have feelings and big questions about Coronavirus, lockdown and school closure that they are not able to verbalise. For some there may be questions about how life is going to be for everyone post-lockdown –
- What is to be expected?
- How will our lives change?
- Will coronavirus ever go away?
- Will I get sick?
- Will one of my relatives die?
- How will the world change?
Some children may have questions about family bereavement or the death toll they have heard reference to in the news.
- Be honest – a lot of the answers to these BIG questions are ‘I don’t know’. This is ok!
- Admitting to your child that you don’t have an answer to one of their questions, reinforces that you are sharing their feelings of uncertainty.
- You could say something like ‘I don’t know when lockdown will end/you will go back to school/we will be able to see Grandma. I can see that it is making you feel sad. It is making me feel a bit wobbly too. But, by staying at home, we are helping to keep our friends and family safe. It also means that we get to spend a lot of time together. It is hard now, but it won’t be forever’.
- Try to be physically near your child and accept their feelings, whatever they are. There may not be an answer or a solution, but small people are most reassured when someone they love and trust is close by and listening to their worries.
- A lot of children show their frustration through their behaviour. Anger, impatience and emotional outbursts are all ways that your child is letting you know that they are finding things hard.
- Comment on these behaviours in a neutral way.: ‘I can see that you are feeling angry. Your shouting is telling me that you have had enough.’
- Show your child that you accept their feeling and try not to immediately judge. ‘Your shouting is telling me that you have had enough. Can I help you get rid of that angry feeling? Would a cuddle help?’
- In the heat of the moment, this is really hard – I know! There will be times where you will respond by shouting back or by getting angry. You are a human. It is ok. If you do let your own feelings bubble over, take time afterwards to explain to your child that YOU were having a big feeling and that you showed it by shouting. Tell them that you are sorry for shouting and remind them that you love them.
Sadly, we know that there are families in our school community who have experienced bereavement as a result of Coronavirus. We send our sincere condolences for anyone who has experienced the death of a loved one during the pandemic.
Our school ELSA, MRs Parker-Swann will be able to help with individual cases, so if you are finding it difficult to know how to support your child, please do get in touch and we can pass your details on to her. In addition, more gernealised advice can be found at the Child Bereavement UK website: https://www.childbereavementuk.org/coronavirus-supporting-children
There is no clear way to help your child deal with a bereavement, what follows are some ideas that may help.
What can you do:
- Find a quiet time each day to be physically close to your child. Read a story, listen to music, build with Lego or draw.
- Do something together so that they know that you are physically and emotionally ‘there’.
- During these quiet times where hands and minds are occupied, children are likely to ask questions or talk about how they are feeling.
- The Colour Monster can be useful here too. If you can see that your child is sad or are hurting, comment on this using the Colour Monster from the story. ‘I see that you are feeling a little blue today. You look like the Colour Monster when he is sad. Can I help you with that feeling?’ Your child may choose to open up at this point, or they may not wish to engage at this time. Be led by them and try not to force a discussion until they are ready. Remind them that you will always listen and that these special quiet times are ones that you really enjoy and look forward to.
- Setting aside a time to reflect at the end of each day, is a good way to give children time to express what they are thankful for and be optimistic in spite of the challenges that they are facing. This can be as simple as asking them ‘tell me three good things about your day’. Doing this whilst snuggled up at bedtime is a lovely way of reminding children that you are ‘tuned in’ to how they are feeling, and that you are there for them.
- Some children will want to share and talk, others will prefer to hide their feelings away. This is all ok. We all deal with things in different ways. The important thing is that you create an environment where your child knows that they will be listened to and understood if and when they are ready to talk.
Books that May Help Start a Discussion about Death:
Life is Like the Wind by Shona Innes and Irisz Agócs is a gorgeous picture book exploring the difference between life and death. ‘Life is Like the Wind’ introduces the concept of death to young readers by likening life to the ever-moving wind. When the wind is present, things move and fly and flutter about. When the wind goes away, things become very still.
Badgers Parting Gifts by Susan Varley is a very well renowned and lovely story for helping children begin to think about the death of a loved one. When Badger passes away, his friends are grief-stricken, but one by one they remember the special things he taught them during his life. By sharing their memories, they realise that although Badger is no longer with them physically, he lives on through his friends.
Wherever You are, My Love will Always Find You by Nancy Tillman
Whilst not directly about death, this is a beautiful, heartfelt exploration of the unconditional love that a parent has for a child, even when they cannot be together. While death is not explicitly mentioned, this book is a lovely resource for offering reassurance to children who have experienced the loss of a parent or a loved relative.
The invisible Strings by Patrice Karst.
A heart-warming and simple story where a mother tells her children of the magical string that connects us all to the people we love, no matter where, or how far away they are.
Self-Care: Looking After Yourself
“Tea pots need to be refilled if they are to carry on pouring cups of tea. Parents need to be cared for and supported if they are to carry on caring and offering support.”
- You need to look after yourself if you are to look after your children
- Try and re-claim a little bit of time for yourself so that you are equipped to support your children through the coming weeks. As a parent of two, working at school, home-schooling and washing/cooking/cleaning I know how hard this is. Some days it seems impossible. It is important to try though, even if it is just fifteen minutes sitting on the sofa when your children are in bed. Looking after yourself is just as important as putting the washing away, filling in that form or sending that email.
- In the same way that you acknowledge and empathise with your child’s feelings, you should offer yourself the same regard. It is ok to be upset, angry, stressed. We are all human. Tell someone and share the load so that it gets a little lighter.
- We are all physically disconnected at the moment, and our support networks have become virtual. Take time if you are able, to stay connected to people that can offer you support in the form of messages, phone calls and the dreaded video call!
- When snuggling with your child at the end of each day, when they tell you their three good things, try finding one or two of your own. They may be hard to find, but getting into the habit of thinking about something positive does lift the mood.
- Please get in touch with us at school if you are finding things difficult. We will always listen and support you in whatever way we can.
If you would like to spend some peaceful time connecting and reflecting with your child, you may like to take a look at these collective worship materials which have been designed for parents to share with their children at home by some of our friends at the Diocese of Guildford. Children are used to having an 'assembly' time every day and these might help to fill that gap for them.