Christmas is going to look very different this year. In the article below, Internet Matters ambassador Dr Linda Papadopoulos gives her expert tips on how to ensure kids are getting their emotional five-a-day and how to reflect on 2020 to give kids a sense of control for 2021. With many families spending the festive period apart, they will be relying on tech to stay connected. Internet Matters is here to help with expert advice on how to help their kids get the most out of the time they are on online over the festive period.

How to ensure kids are getting their emotional five-a-day

We know we should be eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day to maintain our diet and health, but emotionally speaking, it’s really important that kids are doing things which feed into their sense of wellbeing. Let’s explore what their emotional five-a-day might look like.

So, what would our emotional five-a-day be?

Meaningful connection

It doesn’t have to be really deep long talks all the time, but it’s important to have a cuddle and to speak to them about something that touched them that day – whether it’s in a good way or a bad way. It’s important kids feel like they’re being listened to.

Play

A lot of kids are spending a lot of time online playing games but play is just as important offline. If you can, organise playdates within their bubble. Make sure they go out and take a walk or play with their pet or sibling, or with you. Moving and engaging in physical play is really important for their emotional wellbeing.

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Sense of purpose

Talk to them about a sense of purpose – what is it that you’re planning to do today? Even if it’s planning to have a pyjama day where you’re going to be doing very little, having that plan in their mind about what they’re going to do is really great. It makes them feel contained, safe and in control.

Relaxation

This year will have been a really taxing time for kids – going from online learning to offline learning, with many children sent home from school and not seeing their friends. Make sure that you do things that are relaxing both for them and for you so you can enjoy your time as a family – this is really key.

Give them a sense of mastery

Every day should be punctuated by something that gives kids a sense of mastery or pleasure. Reflect on what the best part of the day was and ask them what stuck out in their mind. By beginning to train their mind to look out for the good stuff this will stand them in good stead to developing good mental health. Focus on this rather than the worries that might have come up as a result of this year.

And that’s how to ensure your kids get their emotional five-a-day!

How to reflect on the year and give kids a sense of control for 2021

In addition to ensuring your child gets their emotional five-a-day, I also wanted to talk about why it’s more important than ever to reflect on the year we’ve just had and the importance of giving children a sense of control for 2021. As the festive season comes at the end of the year, looking back and taking stock on everything that’s happened is an important family ritual to begin. It allows kids to make sense of difficult situations and celebrate the good things that have happened.

Control

One of the first things you’ll want to speak about is control. This year has been a really difficult time for everyone when it comes to feeling out of control – especially for kids – who can tend to absorb other people’s anxiety. Have a conversation with your kids and make a point of asking questions like:

  • How did it feel having to live with all that uncertainty this year?
  • What was the hardest thing about it?
  • What did you feel you were able to control?
  • What do you think we did as a family to help?
  • What should we have done more of?
  • What did you learn about your ability to cope with difficult situations?

This is key: explain that even though this year was really tough, they got through it.

Try to draw out from them what they did. They might say, ‘It really helped listening to you about X’, or ‘It really helped when I read my favourite book or played my favourite game as it took my mind off it’. Whatever they do, it’s about reinforcing the idea that they can’t control everything but they can always control their response to a situation and that’s something you as a parent are there to help them do.

Communication

Like with everyone else, their ways of communicating will have been hindered or at least changed by what happened this year. Speak to them about how that worked and ask what the hardest thing about it was. What did you find surprisingly easy? Maybe through communicating online they became better friends with someone they were playing a game with – which is great. The next question is how do you take this forward into 2021? How do we make sure this grows and it’s something that you get something positive out of.

Talking about worries

Worry is a fascinating thing. For many kids and adults, it serves as a protective function. People think, ‘If I worry about something then somehow it might not happen.’ Of course, that isn’t the case. Use this time of reflection as an opportunity to speak to your kids about what they might be worried about going into 2021. For a lot of kids, it might be going back to school if they’ve got used to spending a lot of time learning at home. It could be that they’re worried about spending less time connecting online – or the exact opposite.

Speak to them and get them to discuss their worries with you.

Talk about the things they might be over-worrying about helping point out that perhaps this is an exaggerated worry that won’t happen and it’s something you can help with. Ultimately, what you want to do is ensure that while they feel this has been a difficult year there is some good that’s come out of it. While there were challenges they were resilient enough to cope with them.

For more tips and advice please visit https://www.internetmatters.org/.

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