Buster Books have published Feeling Good About Me, an activity book suitable for children to complete. Written by Ellen Bailey and Lesley Pemberton, it aims to help children with understanding and exploring their emotions. Lesley has written a special and timely piece for the FCBG all about the Effects of the Pandemic on children.
The Effects of the Pandemic on Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing
As a qualified art therapist working in schools, I’ve seen the impact the pandemic is having on children and young people’s mental health. Child Line, the national helpline for children, reported a 29% increase in calls from younger children (under 11) and state that young people have said they are worried about feeling lonely and isolated during the lockdowns.
Students are worried about their schoolwork and if they have fallen too far behind as well as prospects for the future. Some positive impacts have also been recognized, with children expressing the joy of having more family time and many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder have found online learning better for them.
Our book, Feeling Good About Me, aims to help children think and learn about their own wellbeing and find positive ways to maintain good mental health, as well as aiding them in thinking about how they relate to others.
It’s certainly not an alternative to therapy, and many children really benefit from talking to someone who can show them compassionate empathy for what they might be experiencing. Therapy can also help them develop a sense of their own identity so they can begin to find solutions to problems they might be facing and find ways of calming themselves when their anxiety becomes overwhelming.
A lot of parents will already be aware of some changes in behavior to look out for in children struggling with their mental health. Obvious ones include being more withdrawn, tearful and not wanting to engage and join in with activities they usually enjoy. Also, lethargic behavior that is persistent as well as aggressive angry outburst can all be signs that a child may be in distress and suffering with their mental health.
I find in my therapeutic work that the acronym first devised by clinical psychologist Dan Hughes of PACE really helps me when approaching youngsters who are finding things tough. The letters stand for:
· Playful – as teachers understand very well, if children are presented with things in a playful way, they are much more willing to engage and participate
· Accepting – just having someone notice and communicate that they accept things are hard for the child can be very significant. Unconditional acceptance is at the core of a child’s sense of safety
· Curiosity – responding without judgment is how we can help children to reflect on the reasons behind their behavior without being confrontational. It helps to show the child you understand and are interested in what is happening to them and what they might be going through.
· Emphatic – responding with empathy to the child will help them to know that you care and understand what they might be feeling or thinking
Educating children about their mental health and wellbeing, and the steps they can take to look after themselves is vital and charities such as Blue Smile are doing just that. The royalties from our book will be helping fund vital work where councilors and therapists can support young people in schools and there are many other organizations with ideas and online resources to help practioners support their classes moving forward. Look at companies such as Young minds, Place to Be, NSPCC, Anna freud Institute and Blue Smile to name but a few.
The key is to get children to explore what they can do for themselves. It’s no good identifying that they want to learn to play the violin if that’s not possible at the moment, but they might be able to learn about an eggshell they found on the way to school that morning. If children can take ownership of their own ideas, they are much more likely to try and include these into their lives – and will get more out of doing so. Resources like Feeling Good About Me can be a good start in helping children focus their attention on good mental health and how they can aspire to live happy, fulfilling lives in the future.
Feeling Good About Me by Ellen Bailey and Lesley Pemberton is out now! (Buster Books, paperback, £7.99)