Maintaining good habits, including healthy eating, exercise and sleep, continue to be important for all people at this time.
Children are seeing and hearing an abundance of information about COVID-19 on the television, radio and social media, as well as from other people. Their weekdays, weekends, and school holidays will be different to any they have experienced before. It is important that children be supported through what could be a stressful period for them, including reassuring them that being worried and anxious is normal.
Head to Health provides online resources on mental health and COVID-19, including information for parents, which by extension, may also be applied by teachers.
Talking with children about COVID-19 can help them understand and cope with the current situation. The following steps can be used as a tool to have an open discussion with a child about their feelings surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic (for more detailed information, access the Head to Health resource):
Make time to talk.
Find out what the child knows and address any misconceptions.
Explain COVID-19 in a way the child can understand.
Tune in to the child’s feelings, validate their concerns and don’t forget to highlight the positives and things that are going well (e.g. how well children are adapting).
In addition to children’s psychological safety, it is also important to consider other safety concerns that children may be confronted by, including:
eSafety – children will be online more than ever this year. Parents and school leaders are strongly encouraged to go to eSafety.gov.au for specific advice regarding COVID-19 including:
Domestic violence – with social distancing requiring more Australians to stay at home, it is important to recognize that home is not always a safe environment. Evidence shows heightened rates of domestic violence associated with significant social disruption. It is important that schools continue to apply existing measures to protect students who are at risk of domestic violence, whether they are learning at school or at home. See Services Australia’s website for more resources.
School leaders, teachers & support staff
School leaders will play a pivotal role in supporting students and staff to adopt new ways of operating, teaching and learning at this time. In doing so, it is important that school leaders and staff look after their own mental health and well-being by accessing support services available to them.
Schooling systems should continue to communicate regularly about existing Employee Assistance Programs and other support mechanisms that are available to staff, and encourage staff to access them as required. Staff can also talk about how they are coping with colleagues, supervisors, friends or family, who can then provide peer support.
There are also many digital health services that staff can access online or over the phone. They can also connect with a health professional such as their GP, a psychologist or other mental health professional via these modalities.
State or territory education departments may have further guidance.
Continuing clear and consistent communication will help to ensure everyone has access to current and accurate information while schools deploy multiple modes of learning. This will also help students, teachers and parents understand we all have a part to play in slowing the spread of COVID-19.
Schools should continue to keep parents informed through their normal channels of communication with their communities, including:
Newsletters (letter or email) on actions the school is taking.
Where possible, use of school social media channels and SMS.
Schools should continue to communicate key messages to students and parents through:
Where possible, TVs around schools displaying messages relating to physical distancing, hygiene, and mental health.
Where possible, age-appropriate posters also displaying key messages relating to physical distancing, hygiene and mental health.
Provision of posters and/or fact sheets to the parents of children who are engaging in distance learning.
For the latest advice, information, copy and resources, go to https://www.health.gov.au/news
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