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Your family’s emotional health and wellbeing during the summer break

Child looking out of window

Looking after your emotional and physical wellbeing is especially important right now. We’ve all spent long periods of time at home without our normal routines. We’re also now moving into the school holidays after a long period of home schooling. It can all feel very tiring.

Families have experienced unexpected changes to their lives and routines. Parents are having to balance many different roles. You can feel pulled from one direction to another, and you might feel lonely and isolated. As parents you may have children at home full time as well as trying to do your jobs. You may have employment and financial concerns, health worries, and you may need to care for vulnerable family members, or elderly parents. It is perfectly understandable that this may feel stressful.

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help daily life feel as manageable as possible for you and your family. Keep reminding yourself that you can only do your best, and you don’t need to make every day perfect. Your own self care is equally important so be kind to yourself.

Coping with isolation, restrictions and the holidays

Consider starting a conversation with your child about their mental health and how they feel during these uncertain times. You could do this while enjoying an activity together such as painting or going for a walk. If your child doesn’t feel like talking, let them this it’s okay and you’re there if they need you.

Contact with our support networks is particularly important right now – you and your family can keep in touch with people using free apps such as Facetime, Zoom or Skype, or maybe you could write a loved one a letter. If you’re in touch with other parents from your child’s friendship group, come up with some ideas together for staying connected, perhaps arrange a virtual meet up for your children. People are now starting to meet up in small groups of up to six for socially distanced gatherings in the garden or at a local park.

There are many free activities your children can join in with online – this will help them stay entertained and giving you a quick break. Remember your wellbeing is important too. You can find free online classes for young people in dance, P.E. workouts, yoga, art and more.

Get some fresh air and exercise together every day – whether walking, running, going for a bike ride, doing a workout or some fun games the garden. This is so important for wellbeing and helps to lift everyone’s mood.

Ask your children what their favourite indoor activities are. Write their ideas down on strips of paper and keep them in a container such as a bag, bowl, box or hat. In moments of boredom or if you sense they’re feeling upset, invite them to choose something they enjoy doing. Depending on their age, activities could include crafts, making playdough, painting rocks is very popular (once you have decorated them you can hide them in the woods for other children to find and hide again). For older children try some baking or cooking, watching their favourite film or playing a video or board game with you, or maybe a family quiz or a themed meal.

Keeping to daily routines can be very helpful. A daily or weekly meal planner might help to structure your time, breaking up the day and giving your family regular opportunities to get together. It might help to create a plan for your day each morning or at the weekend. Don’t be hard on yourself if the routine is difficult to stick to – it’s unavoidable, and you can always try again the next day.

Make sure you rest and get a good night’s sleep, as stress can make you feel more tired than usual. You and your family need to take time to relax, and a good sleep and wake routine is helpful. Try to get outside in the natural light each day even if it’s cloudy. If you can get out in the morning that’s even better as natural light in the morning helps to reset our natural body clock. Have a relaxation period before bed, maybe read a book. Meditation and mindfulness can help you to relax before bed or at the start of the day; you can find some helpful meditation videos online.

Look after yourself

We often think about our family's health, wellbeing and feelings before our own – remember you are equally as important.

Make sure you take time out for yourself. It might be difficult to find time, or even space, for yourself, but it’s important that you do something each day that you enjoy. It might be watching a television series you’ve been meaning to start, having a soak in the bath, doing some exercise or reading a book. You could take up a new hobby such as painting, gardening, knitting or crochet. If finances are tight try creating a Pinterest board for future projects. Whatever it is, make sure you take some time for yourself to relax.

Don’t feel guilty for looking after yourself, you need to find ways to take care of yourself so that you can continue supporting your children.

If you find yourself comparing what other families are doing or the way they’re coping, remember we’re all doing our best and everyone's situation is different.

If parenting feels hard right now it’s because it is hard right now. Always remember- it's okay not to be okay.

For more help supporting your family at this time, visit our COVID-19 pages

If you feel that stress, low mood or anxiety is affecting your health and wellbeing and stopping you from doing the things you want to do, talk to someone you trust. You can contact your GP, School Nurse or another professional who can refer you to local support services for additional support. 

Berkshire CAMHS offer a host of services to support the mental health of children and young people up to the age of 18 years old. Please contact us if you need further support or advice or would like help to understand what services are available.

About the author

Vicki Livingstone is a Professional Lead Nurse, CAMHS