Parenting a child with additional needs through Covid 19

Here is another excellent piece from “Parenting through Covid-19 – helpful hints to keep family life happy” produced by the team at Finn Valley FRC and Springboard Family Support Project. This time they have called upon the expertise of Wendy McCarry, manager of The Bluestack Foundation who is herself mum to a child with additional needs.

Parenting a child with additional needs through Covid 19

Make Self Care a Priority

On an aeroplane, the air hostess tells you; that if the pressure falls in the cabin, to put on your own oxygen mask before you attend to your child’s mask. The key message here is that if you are not ok, you will not be able to help your own child.

We DO have a bigger load

As parents of children with additional needs we know how very much more attending to their needs can take from us as carers, than that of non-disabled children. So, you are not being selfish, or self-obsessed by practicing strict SELF-CARE routines. Be kind and generous with yourself remembering you are doing the best you can within the circumstances. You don’t have to do everything by the book, you just have to survive. When you get the first inkling that you are not managing or not in a positive headspace, seek help. Help is out there.

You are not alone

Try to Stay connected with yours and your child’s network. Check in with their
therapists, doctors, teachers, social worker, and any social networks they are in. While the traditional ways of staying in contact like face to face meetings are no longer possible, most organisations are offering virtual connections through whatsapp, zoom, and other social media platforms.

Address the Elephant in the room

While many of our children with additional needs may have compromised expressive communication skills their receptive skills can be excellent. They may be overhearing and exposed to lots of new information on COVID 19, talk of people getting sick and dying and may be afraid and confused. So, while it is important to stay up-todate with what is happening, it is important that a balance is gained between discussing the issues around COVID – 19 and not becoming over obsessed with social media and too much information.

Expect increased Anxiety

Anxiety often comes from a place of loss: our children have lost their routines, their traditional connections and the familiar, stable faces they are used to. An increase in anxiety can often lead to an increase in behaviours that challenge; meltdowns and shutdowns. You are the one consistent feature they have now. Try to be consistent in your approaches/responses. You are their anchor for stability. Your strength is paramount.

Embrace the opportunity

In the greater scheme of things, we have a choice to see this as a huge burden, which is justifiable or see this as a unique opportunity for creating deeper and stronger bonds with our children. We have fewer external distractions, an opportunity to really focus on our families, on being present, on creating an environment that can really strengthen our familial relationships. Play the games, dance to the music, sing the songs, plant the flowers, bake the cakes, take the time to embrace and enjoy the unique interests, gifts and abilities of our children with additional needs.
This too shall pass.
Wendy McCarry. Manager, Bluestack Special Needs Foundation
Contact: info@bluestackfoundation.com

You can read more of the articles about Parenting through Covid19 here

https://www.cypsc.ie/_fileupload/Documents/Resources/Donegal/FVFRC%20-%20Parenting%20through%20Covid%2019%20Booklet%202.pdf

 

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Infant Mental Health Awareness Week runs from June 13th-19th.           

This week provides an opportunity to focus attention on the wellbeing, social and emotional development of our babies and young children. It highlights the importance of early relationships and a relationship based approach to interventions with infants and families. As our understanding of IMH and its evidence base develops, so also does our knowledge of how to apply this knowledge and an ‘IMH lens’ to interactions with infants, parents and caregivers in health and social services. 

What is infant mental health?

Infant Mental health (IMH) refers to the healthy social and emotional development of Infants starting at conception up to three years of age.

The first 1000 days of life are recognised as a critical period of opportunity to support infant mental health. Decades of research have shown that it is the quality of the early caregiver relationship that is a significant determinant of the infant’s healthy social and emotional development and in turn physical health, right up to adulthood.

 

The National Healthy Childhood Programme has embedded IMH as the foundation of the development of its resources and in the approach of the delivery of the universal child health service. This embedding of key messages can be seen in the My Child suite of books (www.mychild.ie/books) and also on www.MyChild.ie  where key messages around bonding and relationship building have been embedded for the parent/caregiver.

 

In clinical practice the topic of IMH has been included for the first time in the National Standardised Child Health Record. To build on this, the National Healthy Childhood Programme have just completed a suite of three eLearning units which are now available on HSEland for healthcare practitioners / caregivers who are working with children and families.  

 

Throughout the week you will see videos and key IMH messaging being promoted on the HSE MyChild social media pages ( Facebook / Instagram ). Keep an eye out in the National Newspapers for articles from our experts also. (IrishTimes article)  

 

In addition The National Healthy Childhood Programme have developed a series of ten practical videos with HSE expert advice which are now available on YouTube and on the relevant pages on the www.mychild.ie website.

These videos (2-3 minutes each) are aimed at parents/guardians of children (0 – 3 years).

These new video resources are available here while lots more expert advice for every step of pregnancy, baby and toddler health can also be found at www.mychild.ie

There are a suite of posters available focusing on the promotion of IMH messaging to order from healthy.childhood@hse.ie

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