How to get support for life outside of work

Support, advice and resources in relation to Covid-19 for relationships, family and finances.

Support for parents or carers of children

Information for parents or carers of children

As staff and a parent of children of any age, you may likely have additional worries and pressures at this time. We have collected together some key content for you on parenting in the current context, tailored for you as a staff member.

This includes parenting topics such as dealing with working from home or dealing with isolation, stigma, worries about your family’s health, and how to deal with worries and questions your child might have. Most of our topics are in bitesize chunks that should take no more than five minutes to read.

If you have five minutes...

Key workers

The British Psychological Society has produced two documents specifically for parents who are key workers, to support you at this time:

Working from home or self-isolating

You may be feeling really stressed that you can’t be at work – or attempting to work from home, and struggling with having children around if childcare isn’t an option

For parents who are working at home/self-isolating at home the following four reminders may be helpful:

1) Make a plan

Time management is a problem and a solution! Creating a schedule for you and your children will help – with hours for specific tasks, and routine. Remember you can plan it around what works for you in terms of work, or other demands on you. Don’t forget to allocate time for play and down-time. Let others know when you are contactable, and when you may be busy with the children.

2) Find ways to keep your children entertained whilst you work

Many colleagues have found the Chatter Pack website a useful source of online resources to keep children busy

3) Be kind to yourself

This is a difficult situation, and you are doing your best. You are human. It’ll be ok if your child’s day doesn’t look like you’d hoped a home-school day would like. Take each day as it comes. Some days will be better than others. Notice and enjoy the special moments in your days together. Take the pressure off yourself, your colleagues will understand that you have children to care for.

4) Empathy

You are now trying to live, learn and work within the same four walls as each other, this will often feel tough. Others around you may also be facing similar or different challenges, colleagues, friends and family. Some people in your life may also be feeling very isolated and lonely at the moment. Making space to recognise and appreciate differing and unique needs of one another through this time – both within your household, and outside, will be important. Colleagues may need to get medication for others during the day, and have other demands on their time which mean they are having to work differently. Flexibility will be key, things are very different for everyone, and we all adjusting in our own ways.

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Dealing with stigma

Sadly there will be times when some health and social care workers may experience some tricky situations where they find friends, family or the wider community want to avoid speaking with them due to the nature of their work. You might be worried that your kids are being judged if they are attending school or receiving other childcare.

Things that may help:

  • Try to understand that people have a wide range of reactions when they are scared or they don’t understand something
  • Now is the time to fall back on your other trusted sources of support; turn to your colleagues or friends and family who are more understanding
  • Concentrate on doing what you need to do in order to keep yourself well and safe
  • Reach out for extra professional support if you need it
  • Try to soothe your children and help them feel safe when you can; if they are young (below aged 13 years say) help them to manage any negative things that other children might be saying to them at their childcare setting as you ordinarily would
  • Help them understand how they can respond helpfully (walk away; let a teacher know; tell the other person they don’t like what they’re saying to them)
  • With teenagers it’s a good idea to just keep lines of communication more open if you can, especially if they spend much of their time on social media. Communication with friends is great, but as we know this can sometimes be an avenue for others to pick on them.

How to deal with worries in children and young people

Your child may understandably be concerned or worried by what they see, read or hear in the news, online or at childcare regarding coronavirus. They may have more questions because of your work role.

There are some important things to consider that may help your child manage their worries:

  • It’s good to talk to them honestly but calmly about what is happening and to not ignore or overly shield them from what is going on in the world. Please see our next section which includes some booklets developed to help you with this
  • Children look to adults in their life for comfort when they are distressed, and will take a lead on how to view things from you. You don’t have to have all the answers; sometimes listening is best and this in itself will reassure your child that they can talk to you
  • Try to tune into the level of their understanding or interest to decide how much detail to go into. This will be especially relevant if you talk to them about what you are seeing/doing in your workplace
  • Allow them to express their worries, even if they seem small things to you
  • With teenagers or young people losing touch with friends, routines and things related to school, exams and their future will feel devastating to some. Try not to be too hard on them - the years between 13 and 18 can be especially challenging in terms of developing an independent identity.  Peers are central to wellbeing at these ages
  • For all children, continue to encourage whatever healthy routines you can and promote their friendships (perhaps offering them support to Facetime and speak with their friends if they are younger). 
  • The psychologists at Sheffield Children’s Hospital have developed this self-care pack (opens document) for children which may be helpful for you and your child at this time.

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Talking to your child about why school is different for them now

We know your child may wonder why they are still going into school now, and why school is different for them. We’ve produced two booklets for you to help explain this to them.

Talking to your child about Covid-19 and what we mean by social distancing

We know your child may be asking lots of questions about Covid-19. Maybe because of your job they are asking a few more questions.

We have produced two booklets for you to help explain a bit more about this, one is for younger children and one is tailored more for children aged  8-14 years.

Covid-19 information for younger children (opens document)

Covid-19 information for 8-14-year-olds (opens document)

The Children’s Commissioner has developed a helpful resource for talking to children about Coronavirus (opens document).

If your child is still attending school, they may be asking questions about why school is different or why they are still going. We have produced two booklets that may help you explain this to them.

Covid-19 information for younger children still attending school

Covid-19 information for older children still attending school

Worries about COVID-19 and your family

You might be especially concerned about bringing the virus back into your home from work or perhaps that your children could be risking others’ health and/or lives.

The main advice here is to stick to the guidance you are receiving from work – and to remember that it has been written by experts, in order to keep you and your family as safe as possible.

Try not to pay your thoughts about this too much attention once you are home (this will sometimes feel really tough). Try engaging in some distraction and fun together, even for a short time so that you can all decompress.

You can also consider some of our anxiety management and relaxation tips on this website, which may help you at this time. 

Questions about death

Death is part of life and it is important to be truthful but gentle about this. Perhaps you already talk to them about this being part of your work so this would be no different. Perhaps you have experienced some losses within your family so you know that loss is hard and sad but that with time life and feelings become more manageable. Anxieties about you or others dying may be slightly more elevated at the moment.

Things to consider if this is the case:

  • It is best not to shut down these conversations or to say “don’t be silly”
  • It is sensible to listen, hear their worries and offer reassurances such as “It’s natural to worry as many people are dying; I’m protecting myself at work and we have a lot of people helping us to clean and make sure we are safe”
  • Keep responses factual, gentle but with this wrap- around reassurance that adults will look after children and young people especially
  • When the time feels right, steer conversations around to more hopeful topics like what you will do when this comes to an end and fun things you will be able to do again.

Do you have a child at university?

Student Space is a really helpful resource for supporting student wellbeing at this time. There’s a range of resources on topics such as studying, grief and loss and social connections. 

If you can find 10-20 minutes...

The websites below provide further resources and information to help you as a parent, and also to provide support to your child.

Young Minds has tips for parents and young people, including coping with coronavirus if you are a child with an eating disorder.

MIND has lots of information on mental health support for children and young people.

Kooth is a free, safe and confidential website for children to receive online support from counsellors.

Papyrus is a website dedicated to the prevention of young suicide, and provides lots of useful information and support.

For free online counselling for you, as a parent you could also consider QWell.

Managing relationships at this time

Managing relationships at this time

Relationships are central to our happiness, health and wellbeing. The outbreak has led to significant changes to our daily lives – personal and work. For the vast majority of us it has had some impact on our relationships with friends, family and partners. Some of you may feel this has brought you closer to some people in your life, you may also feel other relationships in your life are more strained or more of a concern to you. 

Here are some tips for navigating relationships during this challenging time

  • How to stay connected with friends and family: If you are self-isolating, working remotely or working long hours then it could be harder to keep in touch as frequently as you would like or in the usual ways. Connection is vital though so try to make the effort to stay in touch with people via social media, video and phone calls, and text messages. Even sending a few words in a text is doable when you are working a lot. This can make a big difference to your friendships and relationships and help you keep in each other’s lives in a meaningful way. If you have limited relationships outside of work then you may benefit from staying connected with your work colleagues. At the very least make the effort to smile or wave at others when you are out or in work; these social connections can’t be underestimated in their importance for us all staying well.
     
  • Check in with thoughts and feelings: Families are like teams and these teams are in a big state of flux and change. Emotions and reactions can differ at different times; it is important not to assume that everyone in the same family is having a similar reaction. Having open communication where possible is the key to everyone having a voice and hopefully avoiding miscommunication or upset. For those people who live away from loved ones, open communication is also important. Try to make time to check in with thoughts and feelings and have an open mind towards others’ views. Having a family “game plan” can help enormously; work out what the family rules will be on different things like hygiene, for instance; who will be in charge of disinfecting shopping/post; deciding how essential tasks like shopping, home-schooling or other chores will be handled at the moment. This will help household members feel clear on a shared set of rules and will allow everyone to feel safe and contained. Keeping some rituals will help too, like set meal times or special family/couple time on Saturdays when you sit together or making a set time to call someone special.
     
  • Really stop and listen to each other: We don’t behave in the same way at home as we do when we are out with friends or we are with work colleagues; our more social and off duty interactions take place whilst we are multi-tasking, travelling or even when we are shouting between rooms! Practising good listening at home or via the phone is vital for keeping everyone feeling safe, heard and connected. The next time your partner, mother, son, or friend requests your attention then take a moment to really tune in to them; face them if you can, breathe slowly and open your mind so that you can hear what your loved one is saying. You don’t have to agree with them but you can validate them to show that you have truly listened and heard them, saying things like “uh huh, I understand” or reflecting back to them what they have said can be useful ways of showing your support “I get it, it’s a difficult time right now”.
     
  • Dealing with increased anxieties: Anxiety is a normal response to danger yet sometimes it can get a little out of hand at times. There is a lot to worry about right now so people’s sense of danger can easily be heightened and sometimes become overwhelming for them as well as for those around them. Knowing the best way to support someone you care about with high anxiety (particularly if you’re not feeling the same way or if you are too busy) can be hard. It might be tempting to tell them they’re overreacting or even to laugh at their worries. Of course this can seem minimising so try to listen and reassure that you care about them. Listen to worries rather than trying to “fix them”. Validating and agreeing that we are in worrying times might help them feel understood. You could make a gentle suggestion once you’ve listened such as them stepping back from the news or taking a walk outside to clear their minds a little, but don’t be cross if they don’t follow your advice. Family and friends are not our patients; our roles at home are different. When you work in patient facing settings where you have to ignore a lot of your own anxieties and “get on with things” it can seem as though other people have little to worry about. Try to remember that we are all human and that anxiety is a normal part of life. Offering an ear can often be all that someone who is anxious needs.
     
  • Preventing conflict: This can sometimes be hard for people in usual circumstances but clearly when tensions are high then arguments can and do happen. Try to use the other tips on “listening” and “checking in” to prevent tensions where possible but when things do tip over into an argument then it is always best to breathe deeply and walk away where you can. Having some separate time, even if it’s just having a bath for an hour or talking to a friend instead, can bring tensions down and may make it easier to apologise and move on after. If you tend to argue or bicker anyway this may transfer into what you each think about the virus or working situations. Remember you don’t always have to agree but you can listen and be respectful. If you’re working hard on the frontline whilst your partner is working at home or has been furloughed or is in charge of the kids, this could be a massive upheaval for you all. Try to respect each others’ work spaces and responsibilities. Intimate relationships often work best when we have more going on in our lives and we have a balance; seeing each other all day, every day can be a shock to the system for many. Making sure you are telling each other what you appreciate about each other will help ease relations and keep everyone feeling good. Finding time to connect with other friends and family outside of your relationship will help to keep things healthier.
  • Kindness and humour: Whether at home or at work, ensuring we relate to one another with basic kindness and respect makes the hardships we are all facing not only more tolerable, but also worthwhile. Appropriate humour can also be good medicine in times of crisis; so called “black humour” is often used by teams working in traumatic situations in order to survive at times. Used sparingly this can lift spirits at home also. It can relieve tension and create some distance and perspective. 
     
  • When things are getting worse: Times like these can also bring out deeper issues in our relationships with others. If you feel as though you need extra help then do reach out. Make use of staff support available to you, and also places like Relate have great information about relationships but also you can still access counsellors remotely there too.
     
  • A note about controlling or abusive relationships: Increased and limited social contact can make abusive or controlling relationships even harder to manage and/or leave. Please know that agencies are still working to support and help people in these types of relationships. Here are two important numbers:

Police: 999, press 55 when prompted if you can’t speak

Refuge UK wide 24-hour helpline: 0808 2000 247

Support with other aspects of life

Derbyshire County Council has a dedicated website with up-to-date information on a range of topics for life outside of work at this time. It has relevant information on a range of topics such as financial support, carer support, keeping safe at this time, and healthy living.

For information on staying healthy warm and well this winter please visit our website pages. You’ll find lots of local and up-to-date information on topics such as saving money, additional financial support and looking after your home.