During the COVID-19 Period

It seems a very long time ago that I wrote the introduction to the first Parent Wellbeing Blog:

I hope 2019 ended well and the new decade has started on a positive note for you and your family. To enable us to work together to help your son/daughter flourish at MCM and in later life we are starting a regular weekly blog/podcast on a variety of Wellbeing based matters. We want parents to be fully aware of what we are doing to support pupils Wellbeing, why we are doing this and what can be done at home in order to bring maximum benefit to our pupils. This is one element of our commitment to incorporate aspects of positive psychology within our wider curriculum so we are thoroughly preparing our pupils for successful and purposeful futures, whatever they choose to do with their lives…”

 

The sentiment is still relevant but the backdrop is much changed. The above was written from a College that was full of smiles, laughter and learning. We now do not hear the laughter or see the smiles due to our microphones and cameras being switched off but it is testament to our teachers and network infrastructure that the learning continues albeit in a virtual classroom.

The backdrop of quarantine due to the current COVID-19 crisis makes it even more important to be mindful of wellbeing. It is in trying times such as these that we are put to the test and we need to have help at hand. We are so fortunate at MCM to have such strength and depth in our pastoral care and staff who go way above and beyond what might be expected, in order to support every individual child. You will see many messages from pastoral staff across the college, in the table below that, I hope, will provide you and your child(ren) with guidance that will help you stay positive throughout this trying time.

Although it is never the same as meeting up in person and having the vibrancy and dynamic of a real classroom, we are very fortunate in being able to have our lessons through Google Meet. This can provide valuable structure, learning opportunities and a normality to our routine in abnormal times. The response to the move to ‘virtual lessons’ has been superb from our staff and our pupils. A great deal of credit for this must go to Mr Ogilvie, our Director of Digital Learning who has directed the overall programme. In addition to lessons, there have been tutor times, both group and 1:1 enabling tutors to catch up with tutees and give them guidance on staying positive, looking after themselves & others and making good use of time. Assemblies and Wellbeing lessons have also added structure to the day and enabled key staff within year groups and houses to communicate key information on staying healthy and having purposeful routines.

As parents you will now have a prolonged time with your children in an environment that, in all likelihood, has restricted movement. This is a disruption to the normal routine but time with children is precious and, as a parent of two girls in their twenties, I know how important it is to make the most of the time and to let the children know how much they are loved. Regardless of whether they are 3 or 18 or any age in between they need to hear this. They might not want to, or be able to, acknowledge how much it means to them but at some point they will and they will thank you.  In terms of things to do and resources to refer to, I will give a few suggestions then pass on some advice from our College Counsellor, Ms Cathy & then from a wide variety of pastoral staff.

Suggestions from me, relevant to pupils and to parents:

  1. Do some exercise every day, getting outside to do so is ideal. If that is not possible then use an app such as ‘The 7 minute work out’. Although the idea of that is high intensity training in a short space of time. You may wish to spread it out a bit to take up more of the day.
  2. Read books that are uplifting and enlightening. Two I have strongly suggested in the past are The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor and Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. Both are true to our vision of [email protected] and are great reads. Books such as Jude the Obscure, Wuthering Heights and The Road are wonderful reads but do not necessarily give you the emotional lift you might need at times such as these.
  3. Have meals together, whether they are cooked or delivered and have discussions and debates around the table. This is something that is often squeezed out of family time due to work pressures but can provide some of the best memories for all around the table (provided the food is good and the points for debate are not too contentious).
  4. Tell stories to each other so you open up about the past, the present and the future. It is important to remember this time will pass and we need to make the most of it. Try the VIA Character Strengths on line assessment and share your core strengths. Talk about your favourite holidays of the past and where you would live to visit in future; your favourite sporting moment & why it means so much to you; your favourite film; favourite food; favourite play…
  5. Ensure the family have the opportunity for uninterrupted sleep (by removing devices from bedrooms at night). Sleep has remarkable powers in terms of boosting our immune system, aiding our memory and contributing positively to our overall wellbeing. If ever we need to be sleeping soundly it is now.
  6. Share jokes and laugh together. Laughter and smiles gives us all a lift and bad jokes do not need to be kept until the are unleashed from a Christmas Cracker. There are ready supplies of Dad Jokes on Instagram and most social media although some are in better taste than others.
  7. Be kind to yourself and others. Don’t let your emotions get the better of you and ensure you embrace all that is good about the extra time we have to explore with our families and in our communities. Acknowledge the character strengths you are accessing; putting to good use, and make sure you do the same for your children.
  8. Refer to the Action for Happiness web site as it is a rich source of guidance on staying positive. Its monthly calendar is particularly good in prompting regular actions so we feel good in ourselves, do good for others and embed good habits. The focus is very much on flourishing which is entirely consistent with the Parent Wellbeing Blog. The site is one that our College Counsellor, Ms Cathy promotes to all pupils and staff on a regular basis.

 

Enough from me, now over to some words from the College Counsellor, Ms Cathy

Magnus Cowie – Deputy Head Pastoral

It’s hard to follow on from the great tips and advice from Mr. Cowie. What I would like to add is to say, there is no rule book written for how to deal with Covid-19. We are all doing our best. Whatever it is you are doing, you are doing fine. 

 

If you are totally relaxed and taking each day as it comes and you are adjusting and tweaking your life accordingly, you are coping just fine. You should feel very proud. 

If you are worried, crying, not sleeping,  feeling agitated, it’s normal, you too are also coping just fine. You should feel very proud. 

If you feel you or your child are struggling, try to imagine doing things that will reduce the worry, then simply do them. Write them down in order of easier/realistic to harder. Then one by one do those things. Take action and do things differently. 

 

You need to have thoughts and actions that are helpful to you. Worry doesn’t help anyone. It only makes you feel worse and does not give you a solution. So if you spot you are doing it, STOP, make a change. Do one of the things Mr. Cowie mentioned above. Try a new App and gain skills in how to relax, get active, keep your mind busy etc. 

 

I’ve included some great references to help you maintain a healthy body and healthy mind. Have a look around them. Hopefully you will find something really useful for you or something that assists you in supporting someone else. 

 

If matters get too challenging reach out to speak to a health professional or you can be put in touch with me and I will help where I can. 

llttf.com

(Living Life to the Full) Some resources you pay to download and some are free.

Also, click on specific link for Covid-19

www.actionforhappiness.org

Also, click on specific link for Covid-19

biglifejournal-uk.co.uk

Great & positive things to do with children. Age-specific areas

Some resources you pay to download and some are free.

youngminds.org.uk

Also, click on specific link for Covid-19

www.getselfhelp.co.uk

Also, click on specific link for Covid-19

https://www.mind.org.uk

Also, click on specific link for Covid-19

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk

Also, click on specific link for Covid-19
https://www.ocduk.orgAlso, click on specific link for Covid-19

 

The end of this Blog has tips from a variety of staff across the whole College community. You will notice that some are written to pupils and some are written to parents. 

I hope the content of this article and the various suggestions below are of help to you and your family. 

Miss Cathy – College Counsellor

 

 StaffSuggestion for staying positive and true to the principles of [email protected] in the weeks ahead
Mrs Eaton-Jones

(Head of Prep School)

It’s OK to feel sad, worried, nervous and even have a few tears. And then, count your blessings, they are always abundant, take a deep breath, hug your family and then write the next list. Be kind to yourself!

Mrs Lockyer

(Head of Prep Wellbeing)

Remember that your form tutors are always there for you – they are only an email and Google Meet away if you need them.  Make the most of the form time meetups when you have them.
Ms Brigden

(Head of Year 6)

Set aside time for yourself, each child and your partner, giving them undivided attention. It must be hard in a busy and full household particularly if you are working or assisting with online learning. However, schedule time for giving absolute undivided non-school based attention. Play, listen, share or create on a 1:1 basis.

Mrs Browne

(Head of Year 4)

The best way to make sure you maintain your composure is to stick to a daily routine. Set an alarm for yourself. Get dressed, don’t stay in your pyjamas all day. Use one of the many workouts online to get your body moving. Commit to a home schedule to make sure you are keeping your mind and body active. Make time for the couch, make time to learn a new skill, use the apps that are for free during this time. We always complain that we never have enough time but now we do so do those things that ‘you never have time for’.
Mrs Elliott

(Head of Pre-Prep)

Know how proud your teachers are of you and all that you have achieved so far. You are stronger than you imagine. You can overcome everything with faith, courage and perseverance.

Mrs Felton

(Head of Year 3)

We are so proud of the mature responses towards a tricky situation that you have all shown. We have been blown away by your independence and adaptability. Although we have all missed each other’s company, we love seeing your posts on SeeSaw and you put a smile on our faces every day. Keep up the good work! Use this time to learn something new – everyday is a school day (even if we’re not actually in school!) Enjoy time with your families – they are lucky to have you!
Mrs Finn

(HM Iskandar)

Keep active and exercise regularly. Remember that the more you move, the better your mood.

Mr Gough

(HM Taylor)

Be kind to yourself and others – simply regather yourself by remembering this when your emotions get the better of you. Stop worrying about what others are doing – if it is out of your control then you are focusing on the wrong things. Be kind and set an example.

Mr White

(Head of Year 7)

Helping your parents in the house will be well received by them and also give you a sense of purpose each day. You could set the table, help to cook, wash up, hoover, take the rubbish out, etc. You could even challenge yourself to cook a three course meal for your parents.
Ms Nixon

(Head of Senior School Wellbeing)

It is important to maintain a sense of positive purpose during this time by considering what you want to achieve from each day. Ticking things off a to do list releases dopamine in the brain, so set tasks for each day and place a focus on the things that you can do, rather than can’t.

Mr Holden

(Head of 6th Form)

If you struggle with anxiety, expressing yourself in writing can help you worry less about stressful tasks. Keeping a journal allows you to express overwhelming emotions and observe your thought patterns, rather than simply reacting to them. Journaling can help you to prioritise your problems, concerns, and fears. This can make it easier to figure out what is upsetting you most and focus your attention accordingly.

Also – as none of us can go to the gym or exercise outside right now you should tune into The Body Coach TV – all home based exercise – and he is currently doing live workouts for children whilst the schools are closed @ 5pm Malaysia time.

Mrs Ashworth

(HM Butler)

As a family we have tried to reduce screen time as school is mostly screen now. Jigsaws, Twister, Monopoly, Pictionary and Risk have been great. We have argued, laughed and a few tears on the way but that is life; we are together ‘warts and all’. As others have said, it is good to talk about our worries and fears, as well as our hopes. It has been an opportunity to reconnect with family and friends (email and messenger). We have also started cooking new recipes.

Mr Gardner

(HM Thompson)

Students who no longer have examinations with extra time on their hands, should focus on the future and work towards their self-development rather than dwelling on what has happened. This could be academic development or just trying to learn new skills. Preparation for IB courses and university courses could be a focus or learning something new like photography skills. There are so many online resources and courses which can be tapped into, take control of the situation and use the time productively. Don’t waste an opportunity to utilise what is usually scarce resource – TIME.

Mrs Tomlinson

(HM Wallace)

Be thankful for what you have and not to dwell on what you don’t have or can’t do! Structure and routines may help to get through this difficult period. Remember that everyone is going through the same and perhaps you could make a difference to someone else by an act of kind kindness. Perhaps now is the time to get in touch with old friends or family members.
Mrs Tennant

(HM Honan)

It is important to express any fears or concerns that you might have at this difficult time. Verbalising or writing down your worries will allow you to process them, so I would encourage all to talk openly to friends and family or to record their thoughts in a journal. It’s important to give time to the positive at the same time e.g. What are my fears? What are my hopes? Try to also record/ verbalise three things you are grateful for every day.

Mr Gibbon

(HM Wills)

1. Boost your immune system – eat healthy and maintain exercise routines
2. Structure your day – Having a set schedule for meal times and a set bedtime can help you to stay on track. Planning out activities and setting goals can also help keep you motivated and stop you from feeling down
3. Maintain social contact – reach out to friends via phone call or messages. This is very important for your mental health
4. Avoid conflict – even those we love dearly can get on our nerves if we are stuck with them all day every day so be mindful of others and make an effort to be patient and tolerant

Mrs Davies

(HM Steel)

I often say that it is important to remember to be grateful for the little things even if we don’t always feel that way inclined. At the moment this is so true. So take time to think about all the things that we can still be grateful for, whether this be a lovely sunset, family time, having the time to watch a good film, having the time to draw a great picture and facetime friends or even having the opportunity to have a bubble bath.

Having a routine is important but that routine does not need to be the same every day.

  • Getting up every morning at a similar time and planning to achieve 1 goal in the morning and 1 goal in the afternoon/evening is fully achievable and reminds us that having a “positive sense of purpose” is key and pivotal to our well-being.
  • Push yourself out of your comfort zone-another favourite phrase! Do a Yoga, Pilates or Zumba video on-line, don’t be afraid to do something you never thought you would try or something you wouldn’t normally feel comfortable doing or have the confidence. Make a recipe from Youtube. Look on Youtube at how to remove the egg out of an egg, clean it and paint it or felt-tip it if you have no paint!. Play board games and laugh at some  of the bizarre, competitive behaviours that appear as a result of these activities. (We have laughed at Miss Rich and had a great time playing Scattergories and Monopoly here in House) Here are just a few ideas to help you keep pushing yourself to become the very best version of you.
  • For Upper 6th (and also Hundred pupils), you are justifiably experiencing a roller coaster of emotions. Thankfully, you are not going through this on your own. Do keep in touch and knowing that the uncertainty will eventually pass and that so many people are in the same predicament as you, should give you a little bit of comfort, particularly when you are able to look at this from a logical perspective; not always easy at the minute. Look at MOOCS (on-line courses that are being offered for free at the minute) as they are great and will help you to keep your hand in and prevent your brain from switching off.
  • Finally, know that people care even if we don’t always feel that this is the case. Use this time to write letters, phone, e-mail, make video clips and “stay connected” to people we care about.
Mr Calverd

(HM Munawir)

Don’t be dismissive of ‘cheap tricks’ that work on cheering you up: If I’m feeling down I love watching fail videos on YouTube. They always make me feel better, and they’re easy to get started with! Failing that, remember ‘there is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be diminished by a nice cup of tea’; stick the kettle on.
Mr Fuller

(Head of CAS)

Seeing the opportunities that are still possible. This includes still being able to communicate with others (make sure you keep in touch with family and friends on the phone or through video calls on a regular basis), being able to be creative (by drawing, writing, sewing etc) or learning a new skill or language.

Mrs Church

(Head of Senior School Outreach)

Be mindful of your children with Additional Needs. For some the gift of time – less travelling and school based activity will be a gift, for others the change in routine will be a challenge. Help children to understand how these changes are impacting on them academically, emotionally and psychologically. Remember to have frequent breaks, for water, a stretch, a run up and down the stairs to reboot and refocus. Help children to break down the tasks at the beginning of a lesson or activity – many beaks will have already done this but perhaps asking your child to articulate what they have to do for lesson x today will help them organise themselves and get started. If they need prompting say, OK – how are you going to start this task or where will you find this information. I’ve noticed that with research based work pupils can use the first bit of research they find and then when better research is identified they don’t want to change what has already been created. A good idea is to list the research ideas and then evaluate the best ones before creating the final version of the task.  Motivate them with rewards to stick at the tasks that are more challenging, in fact find ways to reward as much as possible. Fun time with parents who are often working but are now home will be seen as a treat.

Most strategies helpful for those of us with additional needs are helpful for everyone!

Mr Clarke

(Director of Co-Curriculum)

The old saying that ‘we are not always able to control events, but we are always free to choose our attitude towards them’ is never more true than at present. Life has changed dramatically and the challenge for all of us is to find the positives in these difficult times. Perhaps you have always wanted to learn a new language but have never been able to find the time. Or perhaps you would like to learn an instrument or improve your ability in the kitchen. Whatever it is, find a pursuit that you would like to engage with and get better at. You may have had your most important recent focus (exams) taken away from you. You need to replace it with a new focus. Having a positive purpose in the coming weeks and months will be essential for all of us.
Mr Lennard

(Director of Sport)

I thoroughly enjoy a quote, so here is one to ponder ‘With change, comes new opportunities’. This current situation has afforded new opportunities that most of us haven’t even explored. For senior pupils, you now have an opportunity to set yourself apart from the crowd with a potential project, business plan or idea prior to university. Teachers and younger pupils can set personal challenges that will stretch them both physically and mentally. Take this time to reflect, organise and then attack your personal journey again.

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