As the process of easing lockdown gathers pace, the rules we need to adhere to are becoming more complex. Younger children may struggle to understand or stick to them. Presenting parents and carers with the challenge of helping them understand and follow the new rules.
In this article, I will look at how parents and carers can approach this issue and offer a useful technique for explaining new rules.
Acknowledge your own feelings about easing lockdown
The starting point is to consider how you, as a parent or carer, are feeling about easing lockdown. Children are perceptive and often pick up on the emotions of parents, even when we try to shield them. Being clear about how you are feeling will help you be better able to relate to the emotions they are experiencing.
Do you have a space to explore your own feelings about the ease of lockdown? Speaking to a trusted friend, a counsellor, or writing about your worries can all help you understand what is on your mind.
Pause, talk and play about easing lockdown
After taking some time to understand your own feelings, can you then provide time and space to understand your child’s thoughts about easing lockdown?
They could be worried about you returning to work, anxious about leaving the house again, sad that they are not able to see all of their friends yet. It is important to understand and acknowledge your child’s views so that you have a better idea of how the ease of lockdown rules may be impacting them.
For younger children, play is a key form of communication. Making use of toys/puppets and other materials such as paints can help explore how your child is feeling about lockdown easing. Older children may prefer to just have a chat.
A helping hand to follow the rules: the ABC’s
For the foreseeable future, a challenging rule for children is likely to be maintaining the 2-metre space between them and others. We will all struggle to resist the desire to embrace family and friends we have not seen in months. For children, this will be particularly difficult as these actions – along with playing with friends or having sleepovers – have never been in doubt before.
One method that could help children understand and follow the 2-metre guidelines is the ABC model set out by play therapist Garry Landreth. This can be adapted to help children understand the rules to keep both them and those they interact with safe.
A – Acknowledge how the child is feeling
Step into their shoes and try and think what is going through their head. Then verbally acknowledge your understanding to them. For example, ‘I can see that you’re really excited to give your Gran a big hug.’
B – Boundary setting
Talk to your child about the boundary or rule that they need to follow. In the case of 2-metre distancing, you can let the child know that they need to give other people space at the moment to keep both them and others safe.
For example, ‘I can see that you’re really excited to see your Gran and give her a hug. At the moment we need to remember to all stay apart so that you and Gran are safe and healthy’.
C – Communicate an alternative
The feeling of excitement can overspill and be difficult to manage. It is important that you try to find an alternative way for the child to express the feeling.
For example, ‘I can see that you’re really excited to see your Gran and give her a big hug. At the moment, we need to remember to all stay two metres apart so that you and Gran remain safe and healthy. I wonder if you could show your Gran the big hug you would like to give her on this soft toy.’
The new rules that come with easing lockdown will be a challenge for children and adults alike. But by acknowledging feelings and adapting our forms of connection we can be with each other in a way that is manageable and safe for us all.
Counselling and support parents, families and children
Here at The Spark, we have a dedicated team of counsellors available to support children and young people in Scotland. Our counselling services are available individually or are available through a large number of Scottish primary and secondary schools.
Check with your child’s school to see if they have counselling in place. Alternatively, find out more about our youth counselling service or freephone 0808 802 0050 to speak to one of our team.
We also provide support and counselling for adults through our Relationship Helpline. This free service is for any adult over the age of 16 in Scotland and offers support, signposting to specialist help and access to free counselling. Freephone 0808 802 2088 during opening hours.
Ross Gemmell MSc MBACP
Counsellor - Children and Young People at The Spark Counselling
Ross is a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and a Children and Young People Counsellor with The Spark. He primarily works with children and young people in schools in Scotland. Ross’s psychotherapy interests include the neurodevelopment of emotions and relationships, play therapy and childhood trauma.