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Emotional Support For You & Your Family

25th, Jan 2022

Dr Kerry Sweeney is a Consultant Child Clinical Psychologist at Kingsbridge Private Hospital who has worked for 20 years with children, adolescents and families delivering therapeutic services including her work with adopted children who have experienced developmental trauma and neglect. Dr Sweeney recently spoke with us and kindly offered her specialist advice on how we can continually support our children emotionally.

Undoubtedly the last 21 months of coping with the pandemic have impacted widely on our society. Many families have struggled, many parents have worried and continue to worry about their children. However, we know that what really makes a difference for children and teenager’s emotional wellbeing lies within close caregiving parental relationships.

A useful way of thinking about the impact of the stress is the analogy of a ‘stress bucket’. Any adversities we have experienced, from even before birth to the current day can be dumped in the bucket. Having a difficult day can result in the bucket spilling over if the bucket is pretty full. Therefore, over eighteen months of additional stress and uncertainty for children, teenagers and families has filled our stress buckets more so than pre pandemic for most!

So how can parents continue to support their children emotionally through the uncertainty of the pandemic?

Focus first on children’s emotional regulation/well-being

Talking to your children and communicating as a family is so important but before that you need to focus how to regulate your child’s feelings through day-to-day regulatory activity.

Sensory regulation within home and school settings are core to a child’s emotional well-being. Children can concentrate better, form friendships and show more settled behaviour at home and school if they are emotionally regulated.

Simple day to day regulating activities to connect with your child

Enhancing emotional regulation doesn’t need to be difficult. Getting outdoors with your child to explore, play and reconnect can reduce anxiety and improve emotional well-being and social interaction. Here are some simple ideas.

  • Go to the park or forest with your child and encourage all activities to climb, crawl, pull up and swing.
  • Encourage your child to do physical fun tasks throughout the day such as lifting shopping and heavy books for example.
  • Build a den inside or in the garden and see what sensory toys/cushions/lights your child enjoys.
  • Simply encouraging your child to engage in various activities which help with regulation; swimming, cycling, trampoline, running, dancing, music and yoga can make a big difference.
  • Gardening, which involves digging and planting can be such fun and helps children feel more emotionally regulated.
  • Baking and cooking can also be so much fun and can really help with regulation and connection.

Family Focus 

Ensuring you plan plenty of family time is important. Those meals around the kitchen table allow for connection, which is particularly important during times of stress. Planning the days to be as consistent as possible; routines and consistency help us all feel better regulated. Consistent routines around nurture such as bath-time, warm towels, rub on lotion, cuddle and read books are essential for younger children. This will help with all aspects of their development and well-being. Older children could be encouraged to enjoy pampering and movie nights by the fire; perhaps a comedy to have a good laugh!

When might you need to seek help for your child/family?

Most children and teenagers are very well nurtured and supported by their families, teachers and friends. However even despite this, some children can continue to struggle with their emotions, which can impact on how they behave, socialise, manage school and day to day life. There may be a need to access professional support; sometimes a parent support session might suffice. At other times children/teenagers would benefit from psychological support. However, parents should remain part of this support as supporting and empowering parents to care for their children is important.

Dr Kerry Sweeney also encourages PACE Parenting, a therapuetic model which promotes a way of thinking, feeling, communicating and behaving that aims to help make your child or teenager feel safe. To find out more about PACE Parenting, please click here.

Get in touch!

Dr Kerry Sweeney offers a range of therapeutic models for children, teenagers and families. Her clinics are held within the Maypole Clinic in Holywood on Mondays and Wednesdays from 12pm - 2/3pm. Appointments and enquiries can be made by contacting Kingsbridge Private Hospital directly via email - info@kingsbridgeprivatehospital.com or by texting Book Now to 66777 

For further information on our Child Psychology Services, please click here

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