Mental Health awareness- embrace and prepare changes for the children with lockdown easing
I started writing this piece during the 2nd lockdown. I cannot imagine how children and families have been feeling during these times. I know from being a working mum who had a business from home with young ones around it was exceedingly difficult to work to full capacity. Fortunately, I was able to manage myself and not have the demands of needing to reach targets or take zoom meetings at specified times. I managed to work in-between sleep times and playgroups eventually having a part time nanny to assist as the business grew.
With hope that normality is returning slowly and safely we need to be aware that this can bring up some worry and concern. Everyone at some stage in their life's can suffer from worry and anxiety. It is natural to be concerned at various times and stages in our life especially when we are facing the unknown, normally in children we would watch out for anxious behaviour when facing a new group, nursery, school, or an event such a first visit to dentist or hospital. 2020 brought a whole new level to our mental wellbeing with long periods of being in lockdown, not seeing friends, no activities outside of the home life and unable to attend school. Everyone including nannies worrying about their jobs if on furlough would they still have a job to come back to? How would the children be on their return, and the routine of day-to-day activities?
With a vast amount of experience working with children and young people I wanted to offer some information and simple solutions that may help the nanny and children.
Children are resilient to a certain level but personally I feel this is often said and misunderstood so when a change or a big event occurs it is important to be vigilant in the children's behaviour and when they speak to you.
What are mental health issues?
2. Developing a compulsive behaviour
3. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a common anxiety disorder that involves constant and chronic worrying, nervousness, and tension
Huge changes in life's people can develop PTSD (post traumatic disorder)
· Normally after a dramatic event
· Might be a singular event in a child's life
Events can play on the children’s minds and can cause memory recalls at certain times. They will recall the memory which won’t be a good one and this will often upset the child and can be shown in their behaviour.
In extreme mental health problems
· Wanting to end your life and this can often relate to hormonal changes
· Social changes especially at school with bullying
· Learning difficulties such as dyslexia
· Cognitive disorder
· NLD- nonverbal
· ADHD- unable to focus, can be related to trauma and or lack of stimulation
All these and others can cause children to be frustrated, challenged, and difficulty with communication to express their concerns so it is important to observe, record and inform the parents if you see any behaviour that concerns you
This is a brief on some of the common conditions you may hear about or come across:
· Delay in speech
· Issues recalling or naming letters, numbers, and colours
· Trouble learning
· Misspells words
· Difficulty with learning numbers
Symptoms of Cognitive Disorders
· Rapid changes in mental states.
· Poor short-term memory.
· Disorganized thinking.
· Mental problems - language, memory, perception.
· Inability to recognize language.
NLD Symptoms (Preschool)
· Early speech and language acquisition (talks “like an adult” from a young age)
· Exceptionally good memory; can memorize songs, stories, and other information quickly
· Poor coordination; seen as “clumsy” or always “getting in the way”
· Asking questions constantly, being repetitive, or interrupting the regular flow of conversation which can be misinterpreted as annoying
· Relies mostly on adults for social interaction and can keep their distance from other children of the same age
· Does not physically explore the world; prefers to ask questions to understand what is going on around him rather than doing
Signs of hyperactivity that may indicate your toddler has ADHD include being overly fidgety and squirmy. Not able to sit still for calmer activities such as reading and mealtimes. Being very noisy.
In very young children remember there are times when their behaviour could lead you to think they had a condition, but children should have freedom to discover and explore and it is important to recognise that they will want to try things out, run around and many wish to make noise 😊. This can then make them seem over excited and does not mean they have a symptom of the above. If you find a child is pushing the boundaries (which most children will it is normal) and you do not have any further concerns, it's important to maintain good behaviour practice.
How do we help children maintain mental well-being and recognise the signs?
1.Firstly we need to just be aware of any changes in a child that are consistent, so if you normally have a happy child going to nursery/school and they become upset and quiet you may want to investigate this further not an integration but gently find ways of communicating
2. Offer routine children feel secure knowing what they are doing and when.
3. Children need to feel loved and encouraged in what they are trying to achieve
4. They respect boundaries and like to know that those looking after them teach them the difference of right and wrong
5. Give children the desire to be passionate about life and explore their world in a safe enjoyable way with your help and interest
6. Give children purpose and a sense of worth – praise them for trying and achieving
7.Encourage them to continue with something and help them so they have fulfilled something.
8. Do not shelter children from all challenges children need to understand that these need to be dealt with. We all learn from experiences good or bad and that can help us cope better next time
9.Give children changes to grow and develop remember the early years foundation of 5 areas Intellect, social, communication, physical and emotional
10. Helping them have self-worth- promoting what they do good as well
How can you help a child as a nanny?
1. Know your charges
2. Keep a routine going and gradually change this DO not rip it up and start a brand new one. This unsettles the children
3. Talk to the children in a relaxed manner and help them understand changes that will occur due to lockdown slowly easing
4. Observe them every now and again whilst they play- take notes and think about what they were saying, the behaviour and if you have any concerns
5. Keep the nanny diary going and watch for little behaviours that keep occurring and ask the parent to do the same
6. If you are worried about a child's anxiety, try to find out what is upsetting them by setting up activities, home corner scenarios, chatting about their day so the child feels they can freely speak- DO NOT feed the answers to a child.
7. Allow them to speak and you listen
Many children will have outgrown some of the activities that you would have taken them to within the past year. Look at all previous clubs and groups and ones which you can continue to go to once the lockdown is over. Speak to the parents and decide those you feel will still benefit the children and which ones you may have to change. Prepare the children and show them the website, discuss the group and if possible, go past the venue on your walks. This will assist them accepting change.
When restrictions are lifted you can then make sure that the children are able to meet up together before going to the new activities it will help them feel safe and secure with knowing children who will attend with them. Children like familiarity.
Keep certain aspects of the routine the same so that there is not a huge difference to everything they have been doing. This will offer reassurance.
Be aware that children need consistency in life this helps them feel safe and secure. Changes will have to be made due to our current situation but as gradual as you can this will help them thrive and deal with the adjustments you need to make to the routine.
As a nanny many of your charges would have been home with a parent(S) and they may feel upset being away from them when they return to work. If your parents are still working from home have time when the children are with your sole charge this will help them with the separation when they do return to their place of work.
Any preparation you do now will help the children, family and your role go smoothly.
We wish you all the best.
Margaret Cowell (NNEB)