Families Under Pressure

King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & NeuroscienceSouth London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and Maudsley Charity have produced ‘Families Under Pressure’, a series of 12 parenting tips to help families struggling under the Coronavirus pandemic.

The tips are based on decades of research from the UK’s leading experts and rooted in the experience of NHS teams working with families and feedback from parents. The animations feature the recognisable voices of a host of well-known parents including Olivia Colman, Rob Brydon, Holly Willoughby, Romesh Ranganathan and Sandi Toksvig among others.

Watch all the animations below and make sure to visit the dedicated website, where you will find further informative resources, to provide parents and carers with tips on how to respond when children play up: www.familiesunderpressure.org.

Tip 1: Keeping positive and motivated
Tip 2: Making sure everyone knows what’s expected of them
Tip 3: Building your child’s trust and self confidence in you
Tip 4: Getting your child to follow instructions
Tip 5: Promoting better behaviour
Tip 6: How to limit conflict
Tip 7: Keeping calm when your kids act up
Tip 8: Using sanctions carefully
Tip 9: How to communicate better with your child
Tip 10: Helping your child cope with anxiety

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Tip 11: Helping your child manage negative feelings

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Tip 12: How to boost positive emotions

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Tip 1: Keeping positive and motivated

Being a parent is a special and important role. But sometimes it can feel like a thankless task. As a person and a parent, you are special and important, and you need to look after yourself.

Tip 2: Making sure everyone knows what’s expected of them

Clear house rules are an essential starting point for managing children’s challenging behaviour. These rules are important during the current times when families are under pressure because they set out clear boundaries about – what you want to encourage and discourage your child to do.

Tip 3: Building your child’s self-confidence and trust in you

In times of uncertainty, children may start to doubt themselves and feel insecure in their relationships. Children who feel positive about themselves and confident in their place within the family are less likely to misbehave There are lots of reasons why children misbehave and become disruptive and disobedient[MJ1].

Tip 4: Getting your child to follow instructions

Want children to follow instructions? Discover the keys to helping them listen and understand. If you want your children to follow your instructions then you need to be sure that they are listening to you and that they understand what you are saying.

Tip 5: Promoting good behaviour

Being smart about how you use rewards can really encourage children to behave better. Selectively using rewards can encourage better behaviour in children and help them to follow agreed house rules.

Tip 7: Keeping calm when your kids act up

Parents are only human! They over-react when their children misbehave. This is likely to increase conflict and make it harder for their children to follow the family rules.

Tip 7: Keeping calm when your kids act up

Parents are only human! They over-react when their children misbehave. This is likely to increase conflict and make it harder for their children to follow the family rules.

Tip 8: Using sanctions carefully

Use sanctions as a last resort to encourage children to follow rules. Proper use of rewards can encourage children to follow agreed house rules.

Tip 9: How to communicate better with your child

Active listening: It is helpful to explain to your children that it is normal to worry when facing challenges and uncertainty. You can listen to your children’s worries and encourage them to ask questions, check that you have understood them, and try to answer questions with factual information/examples. Of course, you may not have all the answers. It is helpful to acknowledge when you do not know the answer, then try to find some answers together, or tell them what is being done by others to find the answer.

Address misinformation: It’s a good idea to limit children’s exposure to news and social media as they might unnecessarily increase anxiety. You can watch the news and social media together, so that you can help them interpret the news with terms they understand, correct misinformation, and discuss unhelpful behaviours they might see in others.

Modelling: Try to discuss with your children when you are calm, to model the behaviour you’d like them to have. Maintaining a predictable routine also helps them feel safe.

Tip 10: Helping your child cope with anxiety

Reduce unhelpful thoughts: To reduce worries, you can encourage your children to talk about their thoughts to you, to write them down, and then to put the list away. Try to limit discussions about worries at a special “worry time” once a day. It is helpful to explain to them that instead of worrying about things they cannot change (the “what if…?” or “why…?” questions) they can use problem-solving to identify actions they can take to get what they want (the “what can I do to…?” question). For example, instead of asking “Why is my school still closed, what if it stays shut?”, suggest that they can ask “What can I do to keep in touch with my school-mates, how can I keep up with my school work?”.

Reduce unhelpful behaviours: Only give reassurance a set number of times daily because those interactions will only keep the worry going. If needed, you can also offer little rewards for engaging in just the necessary amount of protective behaviours (e.g., hand-washing) and time away from you (if they are clingy).

Tip 11: Helping your child manage negative feelings

Normalising: It is helpful to explain to your children that it is normal to be irritable and feel upset when things are tough, but the bad feelings will pass with time, and there are things they can do to manage big emotions next time they arise.

Calming Tool Kit: You can encourage your children to practise techniques to manage their big emotions. For example, they can find a quiet space to calm down, take deep breaths, distract themselves with exercise/music/reading, or talk to a trusted person. They can use grounding techniques, which involve paying close attention to their senses – the details of what they can see, hear, smell, taste, and feel around them. For example, listening out for lyrics and different instruments in a piece of preferred music, focusing on brush/pencil strokes when painting/colouring, or eating mindfully noticing textures and tastes as they come. They can also create a box of calming activities (e.g., touch: playdough, fidget cubes or spinners, and stress balls; smell: essential oils, candles; hear: favourite music; good memories: photos). Finally, they can imagine being in a safe or fun place.

Reflecting and acting: Because it is hard to think rationally when experiencing big emotions, is it important to encourage children to reflect on their emotions, thoughts, and behaviours once they are calmer. In this way, you can help them think how to be kind and to avoid blaming themselves or others. Over time, they can learn to notice early signs of feelings erupting and to use the above strategies in a timely fashion. Early on it is helpful to offer praise and little rewards when children are able to use those strategies.

Tip 12: How to boost positive emotions

Acceptance: Parents must recognise that they are not superheroes: it will be impossible to entertain children 24 hours a day and all children will get bored at some point; parents are not expected to suddenly know and teach them the whole curriculum. It is important that parents are kind to themselves.

Scheduling activities: When old routines are lost, it is helpful to build new routines by writing down a plan together with your children.

Remember essential activities: It is important to ensure that your children keep eating and sleeping at regular times and to ensure that your children maintain a good social connection with friends and family – in person or even through video calls and social media.

Identify positive activities: You can write down together with your children a list of what is important to them (e.g., being creative, being a good friend), and what they can do to get what they want (e.g., drawing, texting their friends). It is important to ensure variety in activities (education, exercise, creative activities, socialising), and encourage your child to try something new.