Adjusting to life in the UK as lockdown eases: information for families
This year, 2020, will certainly be remembered as one of the strangest years any of us will experience in our lifetimes. Dealing with worry about coronavirus (COVID-19), concerns for family and friends, issues with money and work, as well as the practicalities of several months staying at home, has been hard for lots of us.
However, when lockdown is easing and we can start to leave our homes again, go back to school and work, start meeting family and friends albeit at a distance, our worries can change and we may feel just as nervous as before. It can be difficult to cope with the ‘outside world’ and various rules about what we can do and where, as well as not knowing when rules might change again. This can be particularly hard for children and young people so the Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) Patient Experience team has compiled this information to help everyone adjust to the ‘new normal’.
Don’t focus on things you can’t control
It may seem like lots of people are (and have been) breaking lockdown rules but it won’t help to worry about what other people are doing.
If you believe that what someone else is doing is putting you and your family at risk, try to concentrate on what you as a family can control. Continue to practise hand hygiene and social distancing. Encourage others around you to do the same and try not to get cross with people who aren’t ‘following the rules’.
Talk about what’s changing and how you all feel
An important part of resilience is the ability to talk about how you’re feeling. Encourage everyone in the family to open up about their feelings – you could use artwork, writing or emojis if this is easier. Help your child to recognise not only what they are feeling emotionally, but also if it is causing physical reactions, such as, butterflies in the stomach. Remember, change is difficult for everyone but what we can do is try to control how we react to change, even if we can’t do anything about what’s changing.
Remember the good stuff
Although lockdown has been difficult for everyone, some good things have come out of it. Many of us now talk to our neighbours when we see them or help out if someone needs it, and spent lots more time with our families. The Thursday UK ‘Clap for Carers’ was a nice morale boost for those in the health profession who were doing their very best to look after vulnerable people in the community, and it made us feel good to show our appreciation for them. Try to remember the good stuff that happened during lockdown – there are lots of things we have learned that we should continue in the future.
Carry on with family activities you started in lockdown
You’ve probably spent far more time together as a family during lockdown than you manage usually. If you have found family activities that you all enjoy, there is no reason to stop them now.
For instance, a lot of people have connected to nature during lockdown, watching birds outside the window and listening to their birdsong. Try to schedule some time each week to carry on with these activities as ‘family time’ when work and other stresses are put to one side.
Don’t rush to do everything
It’s tempting to hurry to do all the things we’ve not been allowed, now that lockdown is easing in the UK, but don’t feel you have to cram in everything. Before you plan to leave your home, think about:
- Whether you definitely need to do it
- Does it have to be today?
- Will it be open and what facilities will be available?
- How crowded is it likely to be?
- What precautions will you need to take (face coverings and hand sanitising gel)?
Even though in England we can now take longer journeys from home, it might be sensible to limit long distance travel for now. Remember, if you haven’t taken your car out during lockdown, give your windscreen washer a quick top up and also check your tyre pressures.
Remember that restrictions are still in place – lockdown may have lifted for now but we should still all follow hand hygiene rules and social distancing. Don’t forget that some people are still having to shield or self-isolate (stay at home all the time) because they are at greater risk due to underlying conditions or are getting ready for a hospital admission, for instance.
Seeing family and friends
It can be tempting to suddenly catch up with everyone you’ve missed during lockdown but please remember that restrictions are still in place. If you have identified your ‘household bubble’, do not chop and change – it should be the same household all the time until Government guidelines say otherwise.
Remember to be extra cautious if other people are shielding – they will probably still be reluctant to meet face to face (even at a distance) so find other ways to connect. For example, they may still need your support for getting hold of food and medicines. Ask how you can help them, and then make sure it is safe for you to do so.
Don’t think you’ve wasted lockdown time
Lots of people started lockdown with a long list of things they were going to do or learn while they had the chance. For instance, sorting out wardrobes, learning a new language or skill, meditation or reading. Don’t worry if everyday life got in the way of your plans – it can be hard to turn your mind to other things if you are worried. Have a look at your list again and review it to see what you still want to do and adjust your plans accordingly.
Limit news and social media
You may have tried to ignore the news and social media during lockdown or been glued to it for hours, but now could be a good time to set yourself limits for how long you spend each day. Perhaps pick two or three times during the day to look at the news or social media and turn off notifications. When possible, put down your mobile phone outside these times, and focus on other activities.
A lot of families have had money worries during lockdown, particularly if they have not been working. Remember that there are people at GOSH (and elsewhere in your community) who can help. Look at the suggestions at the end of this information for further details.
Recognise ‘down days’
We all have days where we feel more ‘down’ than others and this is completely normal in everyday life, let alone during lockdown and afterwards. Realise that everyone else is feeling like this and don’t beat yourself up if you have a bad day or two. If you are struggling and would like to talk to someone, there are lots of people at GOSH who can help – see the suggestions below.
We can’t get everything right all the time
Sometimes, it can be important to make mistakes and learn from them. Have a look back at what you’ve learned during lockdown and where you could have done things better, then perhaps think about how you could make changes in the future.
Remember to congratulate yourself for what you achieved – any time you have spent home schooling is still better than nothing and your child will probably have learnt new skills during lockdown that are just as important.
Keeping in touch with school
It can be really stressful for you and your child not knowing what will be happening in school, but whatever your situation, schools will be trying their best to keep your child safe both now and as the situation changes.
It may be worthwhile getting touch with your child’s school before they go back to discuss any concerns you have. They might be able to send a short list of achievable tasks your child can cover before they return. Further resources for studying at home can be found at the end of this information sheet.
Have some down time
For many people, lockdown has shown the importance of having downtime or time on your own. Even within the family, everyone should have a chance to be alone if they want to – whether it’s going for a walk or having a relaxing soak in the bath after the children have gone to bed.
If you’ve been working from home during lockdown, it is just as important to balance your work and home life as when everything was normal. It can be tempting to have a quick look at emails when you get up or before bed, but it is far healthier to stick to your usual work hours and then put away your laptop or phone or turn off notifications overnight.
Make plans for the future
It can be difficult to look too far ahead and make plans as the situation is ever-changing but it is important to think about the future even if plans aren’t yet concrete.
Perhaps you could start by making a list of all the people and things you’ve missed during lockdown and gradually work your way through it over the coming months. Don’t feel you have to rush through the list – enjoy each person or thing as it happens.
Planning for restrictions coming back
There’s a lot of talk currently about a ‘second wave’ which may be worrying you. This is by no means certain so it’s not helpful to worry about it now. Keep following hand hygiene rules and social distancing but just enjoy the lifting of restrictions at the moment, and deal with any future changes if and when they happen.
Look after yourself
If you’ve been worried about your family during lockdown, you might not have been looking after yourself as well as you usually would. Many people have found they have been eating different or more food during lockdown or their sleep has been disturbed. Try to find ways as a family to make sure everyone looks after their wellbeing as this will help as life slowly gets back to feeling as normal as possible.
Helping with worry
If you (or your child) are worried about leaving the home now that lockdown has eased, try to talk about which aspects are particularly concerning.
- Is it being outside again?
- Other people or crowds?
- Having to wear a mask?
- Lack of toilet facilities?
- Using public transport?
Think about the areas of concern and what you could do to get around them – for instance, not going to crowded shopping centres, travelling outside of rush hour or making sure you know which toilets are open and where.
Perhaps start with a short trip outside the home rather than an all day excursion. Gradually increase the amount of time you spend outside the home and try different places. If you have a setback, don’t worry but go back a step to a shorter time outside or somewhere less crowded.
Reassure your child that you are doing everything in your power to keep them safe. It may seem like the lockdown and restrictions have lasted a long time, but life will get back to normal in the future and we all need to be prepared.
Ask for help if you’re worried
If your child shows any changes in their behaviour or you are worried that you can’t help, ask for support from your family doctor (GP) in the first instance. They will be able to talk to you about sources of support in your local area and how to access them.
If you are struggling, and would like to talk, there are lots of people at GOSH who can help – see the suggestions below. This can be as simple as having a chat with your specialist nurse or we can arrange more formal support with our psychology team. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You are an important part of your child’s team, and we are here to support you throughout this challenging time.
Further information and support from GOSH or if you are in the UK
At GOSH, psychosocial teams are groups of highly trained professionals, including social workers, family support workers, family therapy and clinical psychologists, with expertise in caring for children, young people and families in hospital. All wards and departments can get in touch with the psychosocial service.
The Patient Advice and Liaison Service (Pals) team can give you confidential advice and support about any issues that crop up while you are visiting or staying at GOSH. Drop into the office in main reception, call them on 020 7829 7862 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care team offer spiritual, religious and pastoral care to staff, families, and children of all faiths or none. They visit the wards regularly and also provide a 24-hour on-call service every day of the year. Visit the Chaplaincy Office by St Christopher’s Chapel, ask a member of the ward team to contact them or email GOSH.Chaplaincy@gosh.nhs.uk
The Children’s Hospital School can offer support and advice about any education issues, including resources for activities at home. Have a look at their webpages at www.gosh.nhs.uk/your-hospital-visit/hospital-facilities-and-services/welcome-childrens-hospital-school.
Support organisations for specific conditions can be very helpful and the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (Pals) at GOSH can put you in touch with a relevant organisation. The umbrella organisation Contact (previously called Contact a Family) produces helpful information sheets. You can telephone them on 0808 808 3555 or visit their website at www.contact.org.uk
Sibs is a UK organisation especially for children, young people and adults with a brother or sister who is ill or has additional needs. As well as information, they hold regular family days so your other children can meet others in a similar situation. Visit their website at www.sibs.org.uk for further details.
Family Lives (formerly Parentline Plus) is a registered charity that offers support to anyone parenting a child. Call them on 0808 800 2222 or visit their website at www.familylives.org.uk
Adviceguide is the online Citizen’s Advice Bureau service that gives you information on a wide range of topics, including benefits and employment, and debt and legal issues. Visit their website at www.adviceguide.org.uk