Keep Wales Safe (Health & Well-being)
Ensuring your family’s safety and well-being is the most important thing you can do for your children. You can find guidance on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus on the Welsh Government website and suggestions on how to help support your children’s well-being in the sections below. You may also find the following information helpful if:
- your children receive free school meals: check how you can continue to get free school meals in your local authority area while schools are closed
- you need information in relation to vulnerable children and young people during the coronavirus pandemic
- your children are currently receiving counselling through their school to help support their mental health. They should be able to continue to access this support in some form. Young people currently receiving counselling can expect to be contacted over the coming weeks with further details. Children and young people not currently receiving counselling support, but who may benefit from counselling can access the service. If you have any questions about this contact your school or community based service direct
- you are looking for tools to help you manage your or your children’s well-being. There many free, mobile phone apps that can help that you can find on the NHS apps library
- you or your children are worried about what's happening at the moment. There is plenty of free, confidential support available:
Family Lives - a helpline service supporting families in Wales
C.A.L.L - 0800 132 737 or text 81066(24/7)
Carers UK- 0808 808 7777 (Monday to Friday: 9am - 6pm)
Childline - 0800 1111
Live Fear Free - 0808 80 10 800 (24/7)
Meic Cymru - 0808 80 23 456 (daily 8am-12pm)
Mind Cymru - 0300 123 3393
NHS Direct - 111 (currently available in the following health board areas - Hywel Dda, Powys, Aneurin Bevan and Swansea Bay - including Bridgend). If you are outside these areas, please call 0845 46 47 (2p per minute)
NSPCC - 0808 800 5000 (Monday-Friday: 8am-10pm/weekends 9am-6pm)
Samaritans - 116 123 (24/7)
In an emergency you should always call 999.
Helping your children to understand coronavirus and why things have changed
Your children may be missing their normal daily routines, school, friends, family and activities outside of the home. It is an extraordinary time for everybody and it may be difficult for your children to understand or to manage how they feel. Try to take advantage of opportunities to talk about what is going on and how they are feeling.
For younger children, try and answer their questions at a level appropriate for them. It’s okay if you can’t answer everything; being available to your children is what matters. The Welsh Government’s Parenting. Give it Time campaign provides parenting tips, information and advice for families with children up to the age of 7 years. There are also some great books available to help you explain the situation so children understand why things have changed:
COVIBOOK - supporting and reassuring children around the world - Mindheart’s free book for children under 7 also available in multiple languages.
Coronavirus – a book for children – a free digital book for primary aged children, illustrated by Gruffalo illustrator, Axel Scheffler.
‘My hero is you’ - book to help children understand and fight coronavirus by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Reference Group, available in many languages.
For older children, try and encourage them to share their feelings. It’s important to try to understand their worries, fears or concerns but remember they may also need their own space. They may want to see their friends so it’s important, to help them understand why social distancing is necessary. Meic Cymru has some helpful information to help them understand and deal with the situation, including Coronavirus: Putting things into perspective.
For children with special educational needs, try and answer their questions at a level appropriate for them. You will know how best to communicate with your child; do what feels right.
Finding family routines
A routine can break up the day to make it more manageable and bring a sense of normality to the situation, it can also give a sense of accomplishment. Keeping to a simple routine will be reassuring for younger children and will help them to feel safe. Trust your instincts; you know your children and will have the best idea of what sort of routine will work for your family. Here are some suggestions.
- Try to set times for getting up, eating together, making time for daily exercise as a family, and going to bed. This will help to give your day structure and purpose.
- Get everyone involved in jobs around the house, preparing meals, cleaning, washing and putting groceries away.
- For younger children make the most of bedtime routines and include favourite bedtime stories. This may reassure your children and help them sleep.
- If you are able to help your children with learning at home, make sure you have a routine that is realistic and achievable for your family, taking account of your other commitments.
You may be keen to help your children to learn at home, but find it difficult to juggle the needs of children of different ages. A task that has been set for one age group can often be interesting for another. Consider approaching tasks as a family. Older children may enjoy taking on the role of ‘teacher’ to help younger ones, and younger children often learn from watching and copying their siblings.
Connecting with others
Children may be missing interacting with friends, teachers and family. It might be hard for children of all ages to understand at times, and depending on the level of restrictions in place, why they can’t see friends and family. Helping them to find ways to connect will improve their well-being. Here are some suggestions for how to stay connected.
- It is important to be mindful of Welsh Government guidance and social distancing restrictions, so consider using technology such as video calls or email to stay connected with family and friends.
- Time connecting with others can form part of your daily routine. For young children keeping in touch in different ways will be reassuring and may help them maintain relationships.
- Connect with some of the people your children will have spent time with at school if they want to. Schools are very social places and your children may be missing their friends. Your children’s school might even have put things in place to help stay connected.
- If you want to contact your school or teacher you should use the communication channels your schools has set up for this.
- Make a plan on how you will stay in touch. You may wish to consider:
- writing letters/postcards - not everyone will have access to the internet so this is a great opportunity to get children writing and drawing as they make items to send to friends or family members they are missing
- using the phone - speaking to people helps develop language and communication skills
- going online - there are many platforms available to stay connected. Consider virtual playdates or group chats with family or friends, virtual games and quizzes
- school - through connections that schools may have put in place.
- Where appropriate, allow children time on their own to connect with family and friends. It’s important that children have their own space, but remember to consider their safety and online safety when doing this.
Being active and having fun are good for our bodies and minds. Always remember to follow the latest Welsh Government guidance and social distancing restrictions when finding ways to stay active. Here are some suggestions you could try.
- Consider making dedicated time for exercise. This could be by playing games, practising a sport or by following an exercise routine.
- Discover and explore new activities or sports together as a family.
- If you have outdoor space, encourage your children to use it as often as possible.
- While daily exercise outside the home is allowed, take full advantage by going for a walk or bicycle ride as a family every day.
- Play is important and forms a valuable part of their learning experience, especially for younger children.
- Take every opportunity for younger children to be active. You could sing and dance together or they could be encouraged to balance on one leg, crawl under tables and chairs, hop, jump and spin round on the spot, or practise simple ball games.
- It is important that older children stay active and have fun. Encourage them to do things they might enjoy, e.g. take part in a sport, dancing, walking, running and cycling. There are many activities that can be done independently, depending on age, or as a family.
- Children will no longer be able to attend the activities or groups outside school where they would have been active. Consider if these activities could be accessed in different ways.
Talking and taking notice
The best thing you can give your children is your time and your company. Talking with them and listening to what they say can help them to feel appreciated. Talking will already be happening throughout the day, while carrying out daily activities, such as making food, walking, cleaning and learning. Here are some other opportunities you could use.
- Take some time to enjoy the moment and the things around you, notice the weather and changing seasons.
- While out on your daily exercise, talk about what they see and hear, take photos, find ways to notice new things and most of all have fun.
- It is important to set time aside to just talk and listen. This will sometimes be prompted by your children’s behaviour, a situation or event. Help them to remember the positive things that have happened during their day, share thoughts and feelings.
- Notice if your children are frustrated, maybe take a break, have a snack, change activity or get some exercise.
- Notice when your children have an interest in something and use this as an opportunity to explore the things they enjoy.
- Talk about what your children are missing and make plans for the future.
- Remember everyone, especially children will also need some down time. Support children to slow down, be still and notice what makes them feel calm and settled.
Families have had to adapt in many ways because of coronavirus and it’s important that we be kind to one another. Here are some things you could do to encourage kind behaviours at home.
- Encourage positive words.
- Praise your children when they do something kind or helpful and be sure to tell them exactly what it was that you liked. This will strengthen your children’s self-esteem and confidence and make them more likely to repeat that behavior.
- Talk about situations and explore feelings. If you fall out, when you are both ready, share what happened and how it made you feel and why. This discussion is likely to guide what happens next or what happens the next time a similar situation arises.
- Encourage your children to think about others. Think about people who may be isolated and on their own. Discuss kind things that you could do to help make other people happy. These might include:
- putting pictures up in your house and at the window
- sending cards, drawings and letters to people through the post
- doing kind tasks for neighbours and family such as dropping shopping at their door
- connecting to them via online platforms.
- Visit Coronavirus (COVID-19): Looking out for each other safely webpage for ideas on staying safe while helping others, entertaining the kids and information on how to access help.
Moving on (starting school, moving class or school, leaving education
Restrictions in some form will be in place for some time to prevent the spread of coronavirus and your children may be worried about what will happen for them next. Try to take advantage of opportunities to allow them to share their feelings and questions with you and speak to your school in the first instance if you need advice and support. They know your children and are best placed to help.
When restrictions allow the return to school, children may be worries about:
- fitting back into friendship groups
- being behind with school work compared to their class
- how social distancing will change school life
- starting primary or secondary school or moving onto a new class
- starting further or higher education or for some leaving education completely
- how their results will be effected.
Secondary schools will be working with their local primary schools to provide help and support for children due to move up to secondary school in the autumn. Some schools may arrange transition activities to prepare children moving to the next stage of their schooling; this should help address worries children may have about this move. Some schools may still be able to arrange site visits at the appropriate time, and following social distancing measures. If you have any concerns about starting school or moving on, contact your school.
If your children are anxious about what this situation may mean for their results and their futures, reassure them that they will not be disadvantaged by the current situation and that the work they have done and continue to do is valued. Speak to your children’s school first if you need advice and support. Further information about how grades will be awarded this summer can be found at Qualifications Wales and careers advice about post-16 options can be found at Careers Wales.
Online safety and online access
Children will probably be spending more time online. The internet can provide your children with a world of information and learning opportunities and it may be the place they are having contact with friends and family. It is important to make sure they stay safe online.
The Welsh Government has recently issued Stay Safe. Stay Learning: Online safety guidance for parents and carers. This includes advice, guidance and support on a range of online safety issues such as bullying, gaming, misinformation and social media. It also contains resources including:
- activity packs for you to support and explore online safety with your children
- advice about live streaming lessons; some schools may be live streaming lessons, this is something they will have given great thought about to ensure the safety of all children. If your children’s school have decided to live stream lessons, here are some things you may wish to think about for primary and secondary aged school children.
- advice on what to do if you have concerns and where to go for help and support.
If you do not have access to a suitable internet-connected device for your children to access online learning activities from home, there is help available. If you have not yet been contacted by your school and are struggling to access online activities contact your children’s school or local authority for help.
If you have an internet-connected device but do not have the know-how and confidence to use it you can find help on Learn My Way (LMW). It is a website which helps individuals to develop basic digital skills at a pace and location convenient to them, for free. It includes courses about online basics, video calling, managing money online and accessing health information.