Mrs Fryman's message to Parents & Carers
Friday 3rd April, 2020
It's a very peculiar end to what has been the strangest of all spring terms for us all. I think we've all done a great job of adapting to our new circumstances so far and I know, from the messages and emails we've received, that many of you have established some effective routines which will help you and your children in the coming weeks. Who knows what benefits will be felt in the future from our enforced confinement? I hope we can all look back and recognise qualities in each other such as resilience, compassion and creativity ... to name but a few.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all St Matthew's wonderful staff for all their support, their flexibility and positive attitudes as they've adapted to our new ways of working. As ever I am proud to work with so many dedicated and caring people - although we are physically 'distanced' our community does feels more connected than ever in so many ways. It's also worth noting that, behind the scenes, Warrington Local Authority is doing an incredible job of providing a well-coordinated response and support for schools.
Watching the news I have been very concerned to see how anxious some parents are feeling about their primary-aged children 'falling behind' and many seem worried that the changes brought about by COVID 19 will result in their children not making the progress they/school had 'expected' before the impact of the crisis was felt. If any of you are having similar concerns, please let me reassure you that because this is an 'unprecedented' time, any academic expectations will be re-evaluated and all those working in the education sector will work together to re-evaluate academic benchmarks and to work out how best to move forward. First and foremost in any plans will be the emotional support children will need when they reverse the transition from home back to school. I urge any parents who are feeling concerned about their child's academic progress to try to put any anxieties aside for the time being and focus on what you do have control over - which is to support your child with the home-learning set by teachers and keep a positive outlook for you and your family.
Each year teachers ask children to do a 'Stress Bucket' activity. We ask the children to write down all the things they are anxious, or concerned about in the bucket and then think about which things they can change, what they can’t change and need to accept, what they should do urgently and who can help them. It seems to me that it might be a very useful thing to do with your children and perhaps you would find it beneficial to do for yourself?
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP YOUR CHILD?
News of the coronavirus COVID-19 is everywhere, from the front page of all the papers to the playground at school. Many parents are wondering how to bring up the pandemic in a way that will be reassuring and not make children more worried than they already may be. Here is some advice from the experts at the Child Mind Institute.
How can I respond to my child's Coronavirus anxiety?
I think the first response is perspective. While it's important to acknowledge that this situation does require monitoring and is going to increase the anxiety of both adults and children, keeping perspective is important.
Find Out What Your Child Already Knows
Ask age appropriate questions. For older children, you might ask, "Are people in school talking about coronavirus? What are they saying?" For younger children, you could say, "Have you heard grownups talking about a new sickness that's going around?" This gives you a chance to learn how much children know — and to find out if they're hearing the wrong information. Follow your child's lead. Some children may want to spend time talking. But if your children don't seem interested or don't ask a lot of questions, that's OK.
Offer Comfort — and Honesty
Focus on helping your child feel safe, but be truthful. Don't offer more detail than your child is interested in. For example, if children ask about school closings, address their questions. But if the topic doesn't come up, there's no need to raise it unless it happens.
Speak calmly and reassuringly. Explain that most people who get sick feel like they have a cold or the flu. Children pick up on it when parents worry. So when you talk about coronavirus and the news, use a calm voice and try not to seem upset.
Give children space to share their fears. It's natural for children to worry, "Could I be next? Could that happen to me?" Let your child know that children don’t seem to get as sick as adults. Let them know they can always come to you for answers or to talk about what scares them.
Know when they need guidance. Be aware of how your children get news and information, especially older children who go online. Point them to age-appropriate content so they don't end up finding news shows or outlets that scare them or have incorrect information.
Help children Feel in Control
Give your child specific things they can do to feel in control. Teach children that getting lots of sleep and washing their hands well and often can help them stay strong and well. Explain that regular hand washing also helps stop viruses from spreading to others. Be a good role model and let your children see you washing your hands often!
Talk about all the things that are happening to keep people safe and healthy. Young children might be reassured to know that hospitals and doctors are prepared to treat people who get sick. Older children might be comforted to know that scientists are working to develop a vaccine.
Put news stories in context. If they ask, explain that death from the virus is still rare, despite what they might hear. Watch the news with your kids so you can filter what they hear.
Children and teens often worry more about family and friends than themselves. For example, if children hear that older people are more likely to be seriously ill, they might worry about their grandparents. Letting them call or Skype with older relatives can help them feel reassured about loved ones.
Let your children know that it's normal to feel stressed out at times. Everyone does. Recognising these feelings and knowing that stressful times pass and life gets back to normal can help children build resilience.
Keep the Conversation Going
Keep checking in with your child. Use talking about coronavirus as a way to help children learn about their bodies, like how the immune system fights off disease.
Talk about current events with your children often. It's important to help them think through stories they hear about. Ask questions: What do you think about these events? How do you think these things happen? Such questions also encourage conversation about non-news topics.
The following video clips are also useful resources for children:
Coronavirus: Your questions answered
Coronavirus: Here's some advice if you're worried about it