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Top up on tools to help your through the tough times

Diana Jenkins and Kamahl Cogdon, July 21, 2021 7:00PM News Corp Australia Network

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Locked down – again: Sharon Debevc with her two boys Mathew, 12, and Danyel, 14. The boys’ busy sports schedule is completely on hold, while their mum and dad Patryk both work from home full-time, juggling busy careers and homeschooling. Picture: Richard Dobson. media_cameraLocked down – again: Sharon Debevc with her two boys Mathew, 12, and Danyel, 14. The boys’ busy sports schedule is completely on hold, while their mum and dad Patryk both work from home full-time, juggling busy careers and homeschooling. Picture: Richard Dobson.

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Just when we thought things were getting back to normal, Covid-19 is having an impact on our lives again. And that can seem a bit scary – almost like hurtling* along the twists and turns, ups and downs of a rollercoaster ride. It is not surprising that the latest term to come out of the pandemic is “coronacoaster” to capture that feeling. And with Australia’s growing border closures and three states in lockdown, there is a lot of fresh uncertainty – but experts agree there are tools for managing the current chaos.

ReachOut chief executive Ashley de Silva said that first and foremost, “It’s OK not to feel OK”.

The online mental health service’s research confirms parents and children are among those feeling frustrated and overwhelmed* and ReachOut’s youth site experienced a 20 per cent increase in traffic in the past week.

media_cameraReachOut Parents CEO Ashley de Silva. Picture: supplied.

“So we know a lot of young people are wanting some extra support when it comes to their mental health right now,” de Silva said.

“One group we have heard from who are finding things really tough at the moment are year 12 students. They were impacted by Covid restrictions in 2020 and now again in their final year of school with trials just around the corner.

“For anyone going through a tough time at the moment I encourage you to seek support – be that by talking to someone you trust, calling a helpline, connecting with others online or making an appointment to talk to a professional.”

ADJUSTING GOALS CAN HELP

Focusing on one thing at a time is a great way to manage overwhelming periods. Australian Childhood Foundation chief executive Dr Joe Tucci, a psychologist* and social worker, said it helps to have a daily plan, be open about your feelings and continue to connect with others.

Dr Tucci suggests kids sit down with their parents each night to plan the following day.

“Structure and routine help (us) navigate* the experience of life,” he said.

Be sure to include some suggestions to make the days more fun, with time for schoolwork, play and catching up with friends – even if that has to happen remotely for now.

Kids might also ask for “a chance to add some things that they think are important,” Dr Tucci said.

Routine also promotes good mental health and ReachOut’s de Silva suggests starting small.

“It could be having dinner at the same time each night as a family (or) planning some regular family walks,” he said.

Beautiful young couple with small girl in the kitchen media_cameraKids in the kitchen: cooking together is a great way to lift everyone’s spirits in lockdown or while other restrictions are in place. Picture: stock.

Education expert Professor Andrea Reupert agreed planned activities provide opportunities to learn while families connect.

“Try to see it as an opportunity to do things as a family. You can’t go to the shopping mall, but you might be able to go for a walk together,” she said.

“(Parents) might not have had the time and the space to do that previously.”

She recommends that everyone in the family ease up on expectations* over this period.

“Even setting the table can be a counting exercise,” Professor Reupert says. “Or you could ask … philosophical* things like, ‘What do you think about the vaccine rollout and who should have priority?’”

DISAPPOINTMENT HURTS AND YOUR FEELINGS MATTER

Acknowledge the feelings you are having, whatever they are and whatever words you use to describe them, Dr Tucci said.

If a younger sibling is frightened of people wearing masks or news about the pandemic, for instance, it might help to hear you say that you understand that Covid can be scary, rather than saying the fear itself is silly.

Feelings of frustration and resentment are also to be expected. If plans are cancelled, de Silva said to “acknowledge how you are feeling about that and work out what support or self-care might help you to feel better about it.”

Having things to look forward to is also really important, he said.

Australian Childhood Foundation chief executive Doctor (Dr) Joe Tucci, in Hobart with his child study survey book media_cameraAustralian Childhood Foundation chief executive Dr Joe Tucci. Picture: supplied.

COME TOGETHER

Think about activities the whole family can enjoy together twice a day, such as taking a walk, kicking a football, playing a board game and cooking.

“Playing together and being curious and laughing is really key,” Dr Tucci said.

According to de Silva, good communication also builds closeness. Chances are the adults in your life are in awe of how well you’re dealing with everything. If it would make you feel better to hear them say that out loud, let them know.

Also ask any questions you have about what is going on – if your parents don’t know the answer immediately, most of the time they will be able to go away and find out.

And if your mum and dad are open to bending normal rules of the house during lockdown, it can be another way to bond as a family. After all, Professor Reupert points out that structuring the day still allows for a bit of fun.

“If the kids want to wear pyjamas … and (parents) want to wear pyjamas and just keep the top half formal for Zoom meetings, then do that,” she said.

SMART Cover media_cameraEnsuring the whole family gets outside every day is a big part of how mum Sharon Debevc is managing Sydney’s current extended lockdown with husband Patryk and her two boys Mathew, 12, and Danyel, 14. Picture: Richard Dobson.

ENJOY THE SIMPLE LIFE

Caught up in Sydney’s extended lockdown, mum of two Sharon Debevc said keeping sons Danyel, 14, and Mathew, 12, motivated has been really challenging this time around, particularly as she and husband Patryk are both working from home full-time.

“Both my kids are incredibly sporty … so I’ve gone from being out of the house five nights a week with kids running around training, to being home seven nights a week,” she said. “Keeping the guys busy has been really important … but I’ve found one of the most important keys is trying to keep some sort of routine in place: what time we’re getting up (and) going to bed and ensuring everyone is getting outside every single day.”

THIS WON’T LAST FOREVER

Australia has a lot of dedicated* and clever people working to get us through the pandemic, Dr Tucci said.

“There is a virus and it does make people sick but there are very smart people working on keeping us safe and healthy,” he said.

“There are doctors who look after people if they get sick, there are police officers and others who are looking after us to make sure we do the right thing.

“Sometimes these rules aren’t fun but the rules are there to keep us healthy and to fight the virus.”

Asian father carrying two child girls and spinning around with fun in the park media_cameraThere is still plenty of fun to be had despite all the uncertainty, but it is OK if you don’t feel OK while Covid-19 continues to put lives in a spin – let’s face it, this is not an easy time for anyone. Picture: stock.

EXTRA SUPPORT IS ALWAYS CLOSE AT HAND

As well as relying on friends, family and teachers, young people (and parents) can explore tips, share stories and get support from each other in a personal and non-judgemental way at free online services including reachout.com and childhood.org.au

GLOSSARY

  • hurtling: moving at high speed, typically in an uncontrolled manner
  • overwhelmed: overcome, affected, burdened by something
  • psychologist: specialist in the study of human behaviour and mental and emotional disorders
  • navigate: plan and direct the course of something
  • expectations: strong belief that something will happen or be the case
  • philosophical: relating to questions of reality and our existence
  • dedicated: committed, hardworking

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. What is the latest pandemic term and what does it describe?
  2. What was the percentage increase of traffic to ReachOut’s youth site in the last week?
  3. Which group of high school students is finding this period of uncertainty particularly tough?
  4. What are at least three activities listed in the article that families can still do twice daily?
  5. What simple household chore can be turned into a counting exercise?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Corona Park
The ‘Corona Coaster’ is a ride we are all about ready to get off! Work with a partner and create a map of your own theme park using all Covid-19 terms. Start with drawing a rollercoaster called ‘The Corona Coaster’ and keep adding. For example ‘Sanitiser Shuttle’ – you can be as creative and imaginative as you like. Share your theme park with your classmates and see who has the funniest names!

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social, Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
“It’s OK not to feel OK” is a good statement to help you deal with life in lockdowns and dealing with this pandemic. Covid has caused a lot of things to be cancelled and changed and that is disappointing, and that is OK. Write a list of things that have recently left you frustrated and/or disappointed. Writing them down might help you express that it’s OK not to feel OK!

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social, Critical and Creative Thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
I Spy Nouns
Nouns are places, names (of people and objects), and time (months or days of the week).

How many nouns can you find in the article? Can you sort them into places, names and time?

Pick three nouns and add an adjective (describing word) to the nouns.

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