We may not live-in tribes anymore, but in many ways, we’re not all that different from our caveman ancestors (as you may have found when you are grunted at as you try to wake your child in the morning!).
Children & teenagers thrive when they are around like-minded people in their own “tribe” and this has been shown to promote a sense of safety, belonging & security as well as helping to develop creativity, empathy & confidence.
Once the hustle and bustle of the Christmas prep (and the day itself) is over things can quieten down, other family tribe members might not be around so much, routines are out of kilter, sleep disrupted, nothing tends to be open for teens to do and so the potential for our children to feel more isolated in that time between Christmas and returning to school is heightened – particularly as we are being encouraged to limit our number of contacts again.
With that in mind here are some top tips to help reduce children’s feeling of loneliness, promote ‘togetherness’ and improve well-being for your tribe this Christmas holiday:
Plan your holiday around the needs of the whole family – Youth Fairy Sian opened up in a recent blog about some of her personal challenges at Christmas and how she has planned, in advance, the small changes she will make to ensure her self-care continues to be maintained during this time.
- Sit down and have a think about the emotional needs of all the family members in your house and bear this in mind when planning what your Christmas schedule will look like.
- Perhaps you need to create a routine, ensure there are specific opportunities planned for them to interact with you or others (rather than staying in their room on social media/X-box 24/7).
- Perhaps the flip side of that – saying ‘No’ to certain events you know will create too much overwhelm and not give them (and you) the quiet time they need.
Write down a family list of things you can do together to encourage a sense of connectedness and take in turns to pick.
- These don’t even have to be things that cost money – play a board game, watch a movie, go for a bracing beach walk!
- Encourage everyone to respect each other’s idea and be open to getting involved in them.
- Make it more fun by adding numbers to the list and using a number generator to pick one for you!
Set up play sessions outdoors
- These will not only help combat loneliness from being around others but we also know being outside in fresh air helps to boost the production of feel-good chemicals and can benefit mental health.
- If you find an activity that involves movement and getting the heart rate up this will likely tire them out more and help them to feel ready for bed and fall asleep more easily at their usual time.
Arrange a virtual playdate
- Your kids can do an activity online with their friends or other family member they might not have been able to see this year.
- Bake something yummy, create something artistic or have a virtual story hour.
Encourage your children to write letters to friends and family who might be feeling isolated.
- They’ll feel really good participating in this act of kindness and the person on the receiving end will also get a lovely boost of serotonin too!
Have a performance
- It doesn’t matter if it’s not up to the local panto standard but asking your children to create a show for you will not only see them collaborating and giving their creative minds a workout but it will likely keep them occupied for a number of hours as they plan and rehearse.
- If they’re not keen to stand there singing or dancing in front of you no problem – how about they make puppets or using toys to play the main characters.
- And if you’ve got a range of ages from primary to teens encourage the eldest to be the director rather than having to play a role – give them more ‘grown up’ responsibility if playing Daddy Pig or Elsa isn’t exactly their style.
Try to maintain healthy habits – okay, so we’re not suggesting you turn into the Grinch and take away all the chocolate, however trying to have some consistent boundaries will likely impact positively on mood and see your little ones feeling more able to engage in positive activities and interactions with the rest of the tribe.
- Over-eating, caffeine (fizzy drinks/chocolate) and lack of early nights will likely encourage our children to feel more grumpy, irritable, over-tired or have trouble falling asleep.
- Our children are also likely to be less active due to the weather and not being at school so all those extra calories are not going to be burnt off easily.
- Think about how you might plan to maintain some semblance of normality, for example, a certain number of early nights, a number of days where sweet treats are not available or offering healthy choices.
Check-ins will let kids know that there is someone who cares enough to see how they’re doing.
- This can be done subtly with teens so as not to feel intrusive – bringing them a cup of tea, popping your head in to ask what they’d like for lunch, inviting them to join you for a walk, telling them you’re feeling a bit lonely and you’d love them to come and help you prep dinner. Get creative and make them feel like you care.
Encourage kids to talk about why they are feeling lonely.
- Ask them to come up with ideas of what they could do to feel a bit better – what have they done in the past that has helped?
- Ask them what they need from you – how can you support them in the way that feels most helpful for them?
If you’re concerned about your child’s well-being over the Christmas break there are a number of places you can reach out to for help or advice:
Young Minds Parent Helpline (Monday – Friday):0808 802 5544
Young Minds: www.youngminds.co.uk
Eating disorders: www.b-eat.co.uk
National Self-Harm Network: www.nshn.co.uk
Papyrus: Advice and support for young people struggling with suicidal thoughts. 0800 068 4141
Childline (Under 19s): 0800 11 11