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How our Family Wellness Project are keeping connected with children during COVID-19

Thu, 21 - May - 2020

Nicola, a Family Support Worker with our Family Wellness Project, explains how she's been keeping connected with families during coronavirus. 

Life before coronavirus

Before the world became a strange and scary place, my typical day would begin with gathering resources for the children and families I would be meeting with that day. As every child and family is unique, that means that the support I provide will be unique to them.

As I cover the Southern Trust area, often I would spend a lot of time travelling to and from different schools and homes to meet with our families.  As I would be in and out of different schools often I would enjoy getting to know the staff and after a long drive at times, a smiling face when you walk through the door is the best.

Typically I would then spend about an hour with the child I was there to see, we would work through our booklet, have a chat and do some drawings. The children get to express whatever is on their mind through these chats and drawings and we work together to build our “Wellness Toolbox”, a list of self care tips and strategies to help when things get tough. We also play games at times, these games can help build a child’s confidence or help them to express their feelings more articulately. Getting to see the progress each child makes every week is amazing and shows that what we do is so worthwhile.

When my session with the child was over, I would give their parents/carers an update on how things went. It can be comforting for a parent/carer to hear when things are going well and it can also highlight if there is anything that they can work on at home. Having a holistic approach creates a constant for the child and their families and can make communication better.

Then it’s off to the next school...

Things now are very different.

Now I begin my day with a cup of coffee in front of my laptop catching up on emails and preparing for the sessions I will have that day.  When I first realised I could no longer see my families and children face to face, I was very apprehensive. So much of what I do is based around trust, facial expression and drawing etc. So the thought of conducting sessions over the phone with children was a daunting one. Thank goodness for technology and the amazing support of the children’s parents/carers. Having video calls available meant we could still see each other and anything that was put on paper.  It is great to know I am providing one constant for the children, they know I am still there to support them even though they are at home and things are very different. Keeping that connection is so important.

I love getting to hear how creative people are keeping themselves busy, from Facebook Live P.E classes, to making chalkboards and bubbles in the garden. Even though it’s a strange time, these activities are helping in a big way to support each child’s mental wellbeing. And getting to see those smiling faces everyday even helps me to forget what’s happening in the world for half an hour and my focus is fully with that child.

This time of uncertainty has also highlighted the need for some parents to avail of our adult WRAP programme. After all, parent’s mental wellbeing is extremely important as it can have a huge effect on children. It has been great for parents/carers to take 20 -30 minutes for themselves once a week to complete their WRAP booklet with me. It’s a time to express any fears or frustrations and figure out a healthy way to deal with these feelings. It can also help to simply speak with another adult for a while.

Overall, this transition wasn’t as scary as initially thought. I have actually really enjoyed working through any challenges and trying something new. I am hoping that sometime soon I can see families in person once again, but until then, our virtual world is keeping us together and the Family Wellness Project will be there to support children and families in any way we can.