COVID-19 has drastically changed the way that we live. Families are facing a whole new set of challenges as we transition into life after the Circuit Breaker. These changes can be tough on everyone, can trigger anxiety and have negative impacts on mental health as we come out of lockdown. The Australian International School (AIS) Wellbeing Team have been actively working with staff and students to help address these feelings as we enter into Phase Two, while also providing some helpful strategies to use while we work together to get Singapore back on its feet again.
Life after the Circuit Breaker: what will Phase Two look like?
The past few months have been tough, but the silver lining is that it has allowed parents to better understand their children as learners and to be directly involved in their education. It has enabled us to spend more time together as families, building positive relationships and close-knit connections while enabling our children to feel happier, safer and more relaxed during these rocky times. Schools have welcomed students back and more of Singapore’s economy will re-open over Phases Two and Three, albeit with some social limitations set in place. Life as we now know it will be different – again – in a couple of months, so we have more change ahead.
The AIS Wellbeing Team have outlined some things to watch out for in our kids, and some advice on what we can do to help.
Look for the signs
It’s hard to untangle what is ‘normal’ behaviour anymore. Our routines have been hijacked by new work and learning schedules. There’s been no social respite and many are facing some very big losses and tragedies both here and abroad. We would be hard-pressed to find families with children that are loving the status quo lately! Having said that, we still need to pay attention and keep checking in with one another. Here are a few things to look for that might suggest your child isn’t coping.
Sleeping: If you have teenagers, they will need at least nine hours of sleep. If your child’s sleep patterns are broken or they’re not sleeping at all, this can be a red flag for anxiety or depression.
Diet: Many behaviours can be linked to food, mood and environment. Is your child eating a lot more or less than normal? Overeating as well as not eating enough can be an indication that your child might be having a difficult time. Restricting certain types of food can be another thing to watch for as well.
Emotion regulation: Mood swings and emotional outbursts are normal at the best of times. We are all feeling frayed around the edges right now.
But, if your child is uncharacteristically moody, angry or sad, it’s helpful to explore why they might be feeling this way.
Social connections: The sheen may have worn off on the Zoom parties now, but this doesn’t mean that we don’t still need a social outlet. If your child isn’t expressing any interest in connecting with their peers (remotely), talk to them about this. They might need some advice about other ways to connect with friends.
A decline in academic performance: Children are learning in a completely new way and it will take time for them to adjust. If your child’s academic performance has significantly declined, speak to their teacher to see if they have noticed anything.
What can I do to help?
Self-care: ‘Fit your oxygen mask to yourself before fitting it to anyone else’ as the adage goes. To be of use to others, you need to take care of number one: you. It’s important to seek support right now if you need it and carve out some time out for yourself. The way a child responds to stress is by mirroring the reactions of those around them. Try to remain calm and positive and show care for each other.
Active listening: Listen and ask questions. Effective and active listening skills enable you to hear and understand any worries or anxieties your child may have.
Circle of control: By focusing our energies and problem-solving abilities on what we can control, we can relieve anxiety and improve our mental health and capacity to cope.
We are all doing our best, and we need to be realistic and pragmatic about what life after the Circuit Breaker holds. Lifestyle adjustments are going to continue for the next 12 months at least. If you have any concerns about you or your child, please reach out to a health care professional.