Mixed messages

Prof. Lorraine Sherr, based in London, joins the blog today to put a spotlight on taking good care of children during the covid-19 pandemic. Lorraine is a Clinical Psychologist and Professor of Clinical and Health Psychology at UCL and we are honored to have her on our Steering Committee.

Last week the Queen of England told everyone to come together.  The Minister of Health told everyone to stay apart.  We live in an era of mixed messages.  How do we cope under uncertainty?  And more importantly, what do our children make of it?  The reality is: get used to these messages, and try not to gut-react immediately to what you hear.  Pause, check and plan.  Humans are finely tuned to pick up messages.  They are also very good at self-preservation and survival.  The first reaction to hearing something worrying is to try and see how it affects you and the people you love.  In this time when we are living amidst newsfeeds, instant messaging and vast communication networks, we run the risk of heightened reactions.  We run the risk of being constantly on the alert with our emotions darting to and fro.  And the children are caught in the middle.  They too feel such emotions, but have fewer resources to manage them.  In addition they pick up the emotions of those around them.  Caught with a double edge.

Schools closed last week in the UK.  Like millions of children across the world, they have started a new form of learning.  My grandchildren got to choose their own school uniforms.  A princess and Harry Potter proceeded to the living room for their first day.  Their creative mother set up a full programme, while their father shared that they had all been given detentions within the first five minutes.  Parents are juggling working from home and providing schooling.  A fine distraction to some of the more tense realities on the news.  My one tip for today is take some time and read a book.  If you do not have a book, make one.  If you cannot read, you can still tell stories.  Precious quality time is the best potion for children.  A wonderful evidence-based booksharing intervention in the hills of Lesotho has just been trialled with great effect.  All it takes is half an hour, a child and an adult, and the will to be together, to share and learn.  Holding onto our values will be the best ingredient in our shopping basket in this pandemic.

Prof. Lorraine Sherr

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