The founder of a Sibling Loss charity has reached out to parents across the UK to ensure that their children’s mental health is protected throughout the current COVID-19 crisis.
Petra Williams formed the Gateshead based charity Darcey's Dream when her daughter
Darcey Leigh Stephanie Williams tragically got her wings and became an angel on 1st February 2017. Darcey was just nine and a half weeks old when she passed and changed the lives of everyone that loved her forever. The charity was formed to provide support for bereaved families that go through their worst nightmare of losing a child in any circumstances and in particular to help siblings that get very little or no support at such a traumatic time.
Now, with the UK on lockdown, Petra has opened up the charity’s resources to help support children with their mental health. Measures taken have included opening up 24/7 talking services via telephone, video phone and messenger and helpful advice on the charity’s social media pages as Petra explains:
“Corona Virus is horrific and is affecting us all but I urge everyone to make sure your child's mental health is protected through all of this. Education is important but kids can always catch up on school work but trust me, it takes a lot more work to repair a child's mental health and sometimes it's not possible at all.
“There are a lot of changes children are experiencing right now. Including not being able to go to school, the park, play centres, being isolated from their friends and family and seeing the effects of stress on their parents. Children don't deal with change easily and some find it extremely difficult.”
Some of the ideas that Petra has suggested to protect a child's mental health in this crisis include:
· Establish a new routine. Write it down on a chart, chalk board, piece of card so children can see it. Visuals are the best for children. Make sure time is set aside for talking, comforting and family time. This is where you can schedule in home schooling too but don't make it all day every day. Remember you'll be doing one to one teaching with them which is a lot more intense and tiring than class teaching.
· Maintain getting up times, bed times and meal times to establish a routine.
· Try to do activities regularly eg dancing, football at home or in the garden on the specific days that they are used to doing it on. Keeping active is great for their mental health.
· Record video messages for their friends and send them back and forth etc or facetime their friends so they can talk to them and keep their connections.
· Make a feelings thermometer on a piece of paper or card. Draw a giant thermometer and let the child colour it in with their favourite colours. Cut an arrow out of a bit of paper and put some blutac on the back. Write the feelings Excited, Happy, Sad, Upset, Worried, Anxious in the different sections of the thermometer and allow the child to move the arrow up and down throughout the day. This will allow you to monitor how they are feeling and help you to see if they need to talk.
· Try to be as honest as you can about the current situation and the virus as children thrive on honesty. Please don't scare them with death stories.
Petra has created a support group that is open to the public to get support through this extremely tough time. This is the link to the support group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/275952490061713/
Myself and other family support workers for the charity have extended our talking services to everyone if they need help supporting children or are lonely and suffering with their mental health in isolation. I'm a message away so please don't ever struggle in silence. I'm here and will do anything I can. Let's make sure our children's mental health is protected through this,” said Petra.
The full list of advice is available on the social media sites:
Petra recently featured on ITV’s Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway when she was presented with a new house to thank her for the huge amount of charity work she has done.
"Please don't ever struggle in silence. I'm here and will do anything I can. Let's make sure our children's mental health is protected through this,"