Specialist learning resources created to support children and families during Coronavirus

5th May 2020

Sheffield Hallam University has joined forces with an organisation that supports mental health and wellbeing in schools to create specialist resources to help parents and children deal with anxiety caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Academics working in the Sheffield Hallam-led social mobility partnership, South Yorkshire Futures have teamed up with Trauma Informed Schools UK (TISUK) and Nifty Fox Creative to develop resources aimed at supporting parents to help children to understand and deal with the current situation.

There is also advice and guidance for schools and settings to enable them to support the mental health and wellbeing of their staff who may still be coming into work to support the children of key workers.

The resources are being distributed to schools and parents through councils across the region from today (Monday 4 May) and are also available on the South Yorkshire Futures website.

South Yorkshire Futures is committed to improving education and raising aspiration for young people across the region as well developing a dedicated and talented workforce to support them.

The resources focus on how to talk to children about the situation, the importance of play and how this can help children and young people to open up about their feelings, helpful activities as well as support for the health and wellbeing of the workforce.

TISUK is a non-profit educational organisation that aims to provide appropriate training for schools, communities and organisations so that they become trauma informed and mentally healthy places for all. By appropriately training school staff they can help to deliver interventions addressing mild to moderate mental health problems in children.

More than 800 teachers a year train at Sheffield Hallam, with the majority going on to work in schools in the region. All trainee teachers at the University receive input on trauma informed practice to ensure schools are mentally healthy places for children and teachers so that teachers can support the ability to learn of the most vulnerable school children.

The two organisations saw a need for trauma informed resources to support parents, carers and schools to support children and their families’ mental health and wellbeing during the unprecedented current lockdown situation.

Sally Pearse, Strategic Lead for Early Years at South Yorkshire Futures, said:

“People tend to think of trauma as a significant event like a car accident but in fact trauma is the response to any event that frightens us or makes us feel that our life is out of control and when we are not supported to cope with this.

“Many adults will be experiencing this pandemic as traumatic, particularly where we have no-one available to help us make sense of what has happened. On top of this people will also be trying to support their children who have lost their familiar structures and routines and may have lost their sense of the world as a safe place.

“The trauma informed principles have never been more important to help support children who are suffering anxiety and trauma as a result of the current situation and the resources we have produced will hopefully support that.”

As part of a wider response to support families and children, the University also hosted a virtual conference to support organisations working with vulnerable children and young people across South Yorkshire during the Covid-19 crisis.

Experts in education and leaders from children’s charities and support organisations shared ideas on how the most vulnerable people in the region can be supported through education practice. Topics included trauma, poverty, home environments, transitions, bereavement, pupil and staff mental health and wellbeing.

Almost 400 participants joined the conference which was designed and delivered in just nine days.

Julie Harmieson, Co- Director Trauma Informed Schools UK, was involved in organising the virtual conference as well as the specialist resources.

Julie added:

“These circumstances make it difficult to manage our anxiety and inevitably our mood and behaviour will be affected. Just as our mood and behaviour may change, so will a child’s.

“Their fear can manifest itself in many ways including nightmares and change in appetite which are understandable and normal responses to high stress and anxiety. One of the most important things to do to support children at this uncertain and ever-changing time is contain their emotions by being steady for them.

“Structure is important, and routines certainly help to maintain a sense of normality, but there is powerful evidence of the buffering impact of play. It increases the sense of emotional connection and safety, reduces stress hormones and is a wonderful opportunity to talk about a child’s worries at the same time.”

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