Back to School: 5 tips for supporting children’s mental and emotional well-being

Back to School: 5 tips for supporting children’s mental and emotional well-being

Recent research from the Kaiser Family Fund reports that more than 25% of high school students experienced worsening emotional and cognitive health during since March 2020, and more than 20% of parents with children ages 5-12 reported similar worsening conditions for their children.

As we move into the new school year, helping to provide our kids and teens with the necessary support, structure and tools to help them manage their feelings and adjust to ongoing changes of daily life is imperative. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance states that “students benefit from in-person learning, and safely returning to in-person instruction in the fall 2021 is a priority.”

Below are a list of tips and suggestions on how to better manage children’s emotional health and wellbeing as we head back to school:

Tip No. 1: Share information. The CDC is a great resource for learning how to talk to your child about COVID-19. It’s important to provide children with appropriate support sooner rather than later. Talk with your child, be emotionally supportive and understand worries may extend beyond the anxieties that may come with heading back to the classroom for a new school year. Be proactive about learning what steps you can take to help reduce the amount of stress in their lives and help provide a strong support system for getting through possible challenges that may arise.

Tip No. 2: Help them feel secure. Going back to school may be daunting for children, especially after the stress and disruption of the pandemic. The CDC emphasizes — Be reassuring about their safety and validate their feelings by emphasizing that it’s OK to feel upset, scared, anxious, down and even angry. You might also share how you manage your feelings to help them learn from you. Make sure your children know they can ask questions at any time. For adolescents, consider walking them through the use of self-care tools like the Sanvello app to help navigate difficult emotions.

Tip No. 3: Listen and watch. Parents, friends, teachers and family may often be the first line of defense for a child who may be struggling with their mental and emotional well-being yet unable to articulate their needs. Let them know you are here to listen and it’s safe to share how they’re feeling. Pay attention to more than just their words – it’s critical for parents to be aware of their children’s moods and uncharacteristic changes in behavior so they know when it’s time to seek expert support.

Tip No. 4: Help define boundaries and create regular routines. Consider limiting exposure to news coverage – including social media – and prioritizing and establishing a regular routine that provides children with structure when not in the classroom as this may help better manage children’s emotional wellbeing. For example, consider after-school activities, sports or hobbies that interest your child.

Top Tip: Take Action. Make sure to discuss your concerns with your pediatrician or family physician as soon as possible. Your doctor may recommend a plan of action or even a counselor who might help find ways to reduce any unhealthy stress and improve overall health.

Why Canadian dads are more involved in raising their kids than American fathers

Why Canadian dads are more involved in raising their kids than American fathers

Thirty-five years ago, Canadian and American dads were doing a similar amount of child rearing, relative to mothers. Surveys from the mid 1980s showed that Canadian men spent 38% of the time that Canadian women spent on child care, and American men spent 35% of the time that American women spent on child care.

Today, there are significant gaps in fathering between Canadians and Americans. Canadian dads spend significantly more time taking care of their children than their American counterparts. For example, Canadian fathers spend an average of 14 hours on child care each week, while American fathers average about 8 hours a week.

As a sociologist and Canadian studies scholar, I am interested in how social policies affect fatherhood in different countries. I collected data on more than 5,000 men in the two nations from 2016 to 2018 for my upcoming book on the similarities and differences between American and Canadian dads. This data looked at how dads interacted with their children – whether they acted warmly and affectionately, if they provided emotional support and how they disciplined their children.

My data shows Canadian dads were much more likely to show warmth, provide emotional support, engage in caregiving and use positive discipline. In fact, American dads outperformed their Canadian counterparts on only one of the survey measures – the use of spanking and other harsh disciplinary tactics.

Why have Canadian fathers pulled ahead of American fathers in caring for and showing affection toward their children? I believe the answer lies, in part, with four types of social policies in Canada that help fathers be more engaged at home.

1. Family leave

When it comes to family policy, there are major differences between the U.S. and Canada.

Canada has guaranteed paid family leave for mothers and fathers. As part of their employment insurance program, Canadian parents get 35 weeks of shared paid benefits, paid at 55% of regular pay. On top of that, fathers get five exclusive weeks of leave.

Canada has guaranteed paid family leave for mothers and fathers. As part of their employment insurance program, Canadian parents get 35 weeks of shared paid benefits, paid at 55% of regular pay. On top of that, fathers get five exclusive weeks of leave.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is the only rich nation in the world that doesn’t guarantee maternity leave, and one of three rich countries – along with Oman and the United Arab Emirates – without a paternity leave option.

Studies from across the world consistently show that men who take paternity leave tend to be more involved in their children’s lives, have better relationships with family members and help their partners recover from childbirth more quickly.

2. Social inequality

Kids are feeling anxiety about a ‘return to normal’

Recently, I scheduled a playdate for my 6-year-old with a good friend she hadn’t seen in months because of the pandemic. She was so excited — until, suddenly, she wasn’t. As the day approached, my daughter grew more and more irritable. The day before, she demanded that we bake cookies and make signs for her friend. When I told her we couldn’t, she exploded in an angry meltdown.

After she calmed down, I sat down with her to try to figure out what was going on. She tearfully admitted that she was terrified: She worried that her friend wouldn’t like her anymore, which is why she was trying engineer the perfect playdate — to ensure that she could win her friend back after months of being out of touch.

If you, as a parent, have been experiencing anxiety about the “return to normal,” your kids are likely to be harboring similar feelings, perhaps even to a greater degree. “We’ve gone from pause to fast-forward,” says Rebecca Schrag Hershberg, a clinical psychologist who specializes in early-childhood social emotional development and mental health. “It’s just really overstimulating. For all of us, and certainly kids.”

On the one hand, these struggles can seem counterintuitive. Isn’t this exactly what we’ve been waiting for — for things to get back to the way they were? For our kids to once again enjoy birthday parties, camp and visits with extended family? Absolutely — but we also need to remember that big transitions can be hard for children. Going from hardly seeing anyone and not doing anything, to seeing everyone and doing everything, can be confusing and overwhelming.

It’s been more than a year since we led “normal” lives, which is a very, very long time for kids — especially toddlers and preschoolers. They may not remember what things were like before, so the return to normal may actually feel like a departure from normal — the changes may feel jarring instead of reassuring. Compared with who they were before the pandemic, little children right now “are facing the world as completely different people,” Hershberg says.

Some may also be struggling because they don’t understand why the activities they were told were unsafe during the pandemic are suddenly safe again, so it can be helpful to explain why. You can tell them, for instance, that there are scientists and doctors in charge who conduct research to figure out what’s safe, and that you listen to them and do what they advise. The very idea that there are people in charge of these big issues can be reassuring for kids, Hershberg says, and can help them understand that you have good reasons for changing your behavior.

Children are also still processing the challenges […]

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Tatler Experts' Corner: My parents divorced when I was 10 and it was awful. Now my partner and I are separating, how can we manage it without harming our children?

My parents divorced when I was 10 and it was awful. Now my partner and I are separating, how can we manage it without harming our children?

As part of the Tatler SOS Experts’ Corner, we delve into the subject of legal arrangements surrounding relationships. Here, Adèle Ballantyne from Eleda Consultancy shares her advice on managing a peaceful divorce without causing harm to your children.

When we have, as children, witnessed our parent’s painful relationship breakdown, it often leaves deep emotional scars that can impact on our own adult relationships.

If we then find ourselves in a situation where our own relationship has irrevocably broken down, fear for our children’s future happiness is kindled. We may find ourselves trying hard to ensure that they don’t have to experience what we went through.

As we begin the process of relationship breakdown, there is often a plethora of advice from family, friends and eventually legal professionals and certainly in the past the emphasis has been on ‘the fight’; who gets what?

Often it is the children, who as parents we want to protect, that inadvertently suffer and end up in the middle of that fight.

With the imminent advent of ‘No Fault’ divorce and the media coverage of celebrities who have chosen a kinder way to go their separate ways (think Gwyneth Paltrow and Adele), the narrative around how we separate is changing.

So, just how do we separate without causing emotional harm to our children?

INFORMATION, EDUCATION, TRAINING and SUPPORT are the four key elements to getting it right for you and your children.

When you get together as a couple, you never imagine that you will end up separating and so if it happens you find yourself in new territory. It can be so hard to know whether what you are doing is right.

Firstly, there is no hard and fast rule as to how you disconnect, every couple is unique and how you uncouple is entirely up to you.

Like most major decisions in life, we rarely make them without getting INFORMATION. So, get as much as you can from professionals who understand the process and who have much experience working with separating couples. The more information you have means you have more choices.

When we embark upon something new albeit an evening class or a job, generally we need EDUCATION to help us succeed. There are many professionals out there who can provide much needed understanding for newly separating parents. Somewhere, out there is the right professional for you. Someone who will help you to understand, not only the dynamics of relationship breakdown, but can provide you with coping strategies to get you through what might possibly be one of the most important changes in yours and the lives of your children.Every day we hear about individuals who jump out of their comfort zone and take on a life changing challenge, maybe competing in […]

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Nexus of Good: Building emotional resilience

Nexus of Good: Building emotional resilience

Children from low socio-economic background lack the essential skills to cope up with emotional and financial instability caused by poverty. Currently, 128 million children are enrolled in the Indian public education system. These children live in poverty, with most having a household income of USD two or less a day.

Their vulnerabilities lead to reduced attentiveness, lack of curiosity, demotivation, powerlessness, shame and anger. These factors result in reduced motivation to learn, relationship building skills and emotional resilience. Apart from affecting their academic performance, this also takes a toll on their mental and emotional well-being, overall productivity and life choices. More specifically, this makes them less likely to pursue higher education, decrease employability and disrupt their positive mental health.

Children from the low socio-economic background in India generally lack the resources to access private education and rely rather on public education. Within such systems, at the government and the teacher level, there is a general alignment on the need to focus on the holistic improvement of underprivileged children.

However, the government and the teachers currently lack the expertise to equip children with the necessary skills to tackle the ill-effects of poverty, cope up with their reality and go on to become productive and healthy lifelong learners. As a result, there is an alarming gap between the skills our most vulnerable children need and the skills that the public education system provides.

It is in the aforementioned context that Richa Gupta, Vedant Jain and Malika Taneja founded Labhya Foundation, an educational non-profit that enables children from low socio-economic backgrounds with necessary skills to cope with the ill-effects of poverty and become life-long learners through Social Emotional Learning (SEL) interventions at scale. The founders themselves came from the realities of social adversity, financial instability and emotional distress. They had to cope with their realities of financial and emotional instability at a young age. However, there was a clear understanding that their journeys had been driven by unique opportunities and access that not all children from low socio-economic backgrounds have. This understanding drove Labhya Foundation’s inception in 2017 and continues to define its mission, vision and work through the years.

SEL is the process of exploring one’s emotions, maintaining healthy relationships and understanding one’s role and purpose in the long term. It is considered one of the most powerful tools for social change and poverty reduction: every USD invested in SEL programmes yields USD 11 in lifelong gains in health, education, and employment. (Columbia University)

Labhya Foundation partners with state governments to co-create localised statewide SEL programmes for all children enrolled in public schools of partner states. Through these programmes, they co-create a 30-minute daily SEL class or “Happiness Class” for all students between grades K-8.

For effective co-creation […]

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Understood Study Reveals Academic, Emotional And Financial Realities And Implications Of Remote Learning

Understood Study Reveals Academic, Emotional And Financial Realities And Implications Of Remote Learning

In April 2021, Understood’s “Pandemic Learning Impact Study” surveyed a total of 1,500 parents of both neurotypical children and children who learn and think differently across the U.S. to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted children academically and emotionally. The report found that children who have learning and thinking differences, like ADHD, or specific learning disabilities like dyslexia, are experiencing considerably more challenges than typical children. 59% of parents of those with learning differences say their children are a year behind because of the pandemic.

Understood’s “Pandemic Learning Impact Study,” which surveyed 1,500 parents, found that those with children who have learning and thinking differences, like ADHD , or specific learning disabilities like dyslexia , are experiencing considerably more challenges than children without learning and thinking differences.

“As we look to the next normal while still in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we need to understand the full impact remote learning had on our nation’s children, especially those with learning and thinking differences,” said Fred Poses, CEO of Understood. “Our study findings validate that those with learning and thinking differences are especially vulnerable at this time and that our mission to help these kids thrive is more important than ever today and moving forward.”

Academic Repercussions

The study unveiled that in the remote learning environment, nearly three-quarters (72%) of parents have become aware or noticed their children have a learning and thinking difference. And an astounding 59% of parents of those with learning and thinking differences say their children are a year behind because of the pandemic and may never catch up, while only 16% of typical parents — those whose children have not exhibited signs or have not been diagnosed with a learning difference — believe their children are behind in their studies.

In addition, 44% of parents of children with learning and thinking differences say their child’s legal right to access an equitable education has been abandoned since the move to remote learning.

Emotional Consequences

Children with learning and thinking differences have been particularly impacted emotionally by the pandemic’s schooling changes, which has driven high levels of concern and anxiety at home.

Almost half of all parents (48%) have noticed behavioral changes in their children since the start of the pandemic and an equal percentage (48%) of those with learning and thinking differences report suffering high to extreme levels of school-based anxiety since the pandemic, […]

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