On my way home from work yesterday I stopped at the supermarket to pick up some groceries for dinner. As I was confronted with row after row of empty shelves, it felt like a stark visual representation of the increasingly uncertain times we are in. Amid all this uncertainty, it is normal to feel anxious, frustrated, vulnerable, confused, or fearful.

As parents, it is important to look after your own mental health. During this time of uncertainty, your children will turn to you as something known and certain they can hold onto. I regularly talk to students about habits and practices that contribute to overall health and wellbeing – spending time with friends and family, regular physical exercise, having hobbies, eating well, and engaging meaningfully with our work or school. We will need to get very creative with what this looks like in light of social distancing and self-isolation. Here are some practical suggestions to look after your mental health:

  • Stick to a structured routine when working from home.
  • Incorporate some form of physical activity into your day; kick a footy in the backyard, get a skipping rope out, or do a workout in your living room. There are a number of trainers on YouTube and Instagram streaming free workouts for the whole family at the moment.
  • Take time each day to make a phone call and check in with friends and family.
  • If previous activities in your week are no longer going ahead, consider how you could still connect socially with others. Zoom and FaceTime are great tools to socialise with friends and family remotely.
  • Prioritise family time with the kids, whether that be playing a game, watching a movie or doing a puzzle. There are also many museums, galleries, national parks, and zoos offering free virtual tours.
  • Take time each day to do something you find enjoyable or relaxing.
  • Limit your exposure to news reports and social media. Make sure you are receiving accurate information from credible sources such as the Australian Government (COVID-19) Health Alert and World Health Organisation.
  • Acknowledge that this situation is not normal and it is understandable to feel a whole range of different emotions.
  • Practice self-compassion. We are all just doing our best.

This information sheet from the Australian Psychological Society outlines some useful strategies which can help both adults and children cope with the stress or anxiety experienced as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

It is important to continue to have open, honest and age-appropriate conversations with your children. Research shows this is the best way to support children during serious situations. Give them the opportunity to ask you their questions and express their fears and worries to you. Be clear, calm, and focus on the facts – children generally do not require too much detail. Talk through the importance of hygiene practices to help keep themselves (and others) safe.

Parents may find the following advice from Dr Michael Carr-Gregg helpful: https://schooltv.me/wellbeing_news/special-report-coronavirus

Over the coming weeks, we will continue to provide resources and information to support you and your family through this time.

I have been greatly encouraged by the desire of many in our community, particularly young people, wanting to reach out and help the most vulnerable. Continue to look out for one another, foster new routines that build a sense of community, and reach out for help when you need it. We are not in this alone.

If you or anyone you know needs help:

  • Lifeline: 13 11 14
  • Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
  • Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636
  • Headspace: 1800 650 890
  • Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467

Mairead Brannigan
School Counsellor