As millions of Australians grapple with the latest lockdown, working from home, remote learning and the lack of social interaction outside of the home, Catholic schools in the Diocese of Parramatta are putting the focus on wellbeing for families during this difficult time.
In their recent chat discussing the challenges of lockdown and juggling the pressures of work and learning from home, experienced Wellbeing Leaders Anoushka Houseman from Santa Sophia Catholic College Box Hill and Melinda Bowd from St Luke’s Catholic College Marsden Park have provided valuable insights and tips as to how we can take care of our ourselves.
“The advice we give to parents is the same we give to our students and that is to go really gently at this time,” said Melinda. “As lockdown and remote learning goes on, juggling too much and not taking care of yourself can be overwhelming, so we need to ensure structures and routine are in place.”
Anoushka says structure and routine is something that can affect wellbeing the most.
“There is a lack of routine that goes along with lockdown,” said Annoushka. “Sleeping, eating well and exercise are where we can start to take care of ourselves.
“Daily gratitude practice is another thing we do in schools that has been shown time and again through research is the key to wellbeing and happiness – we tend to focus on what is going wrong and the news doesn’t help with that, but we need to take the time to celebrate what is actually positive in our lives and how lucky we are in many senses.
“I’m personally grateful for digital technology. Can you imagine if we did this 30 years ago and we weren’t so connected digitally, I’d hate to think what the impact would be from a learning and mental health situation!”
For families in the Hawkesbury region who have been challenged in numerous ways over the past two years from bushfires, to lockdown, floods and lockdown again, the wellbeing of students and the wider community has been in focus for some time.
At Bede Polding College Windsor, students and staff engage in a program focused around Gratitude, Empathy and Wellbeing (GEM) to which Principal Mark Compton credits the resilience shown by their community.
“There has to be a synergy between learning and wellbeing for young people to flourish,” Mark said. “I have been amazed by the resilience, the grit and perseverance of our community.”
He said the school moved away from the traditional daily homeroom and separated students into GEM groups with teachers who act as wellbeing mentors and coaches where they focus daily sessions on character strengths (such as grit or resilience) and explore what that looks like.
“The mark of our character is how we respond when we face adversity,” he said. “Adversity is everywhere we look, even more so in a pandemic. It is a mindset and gives our students, our teachers, our community and our parents the skills to recognise and take ownership of how they react to this.”
Mark also highlights the importance of gratitude to wellbeing, particularly noting how heartening it was to receive an email at the school from a Year 12 student who recently took the time to write her words of thanks to teachers and staff.
“We were not in any way disadvantaged as the school made us a priority and gave us an avenue to communicate with teachers and get any help we needed remotely,” the email read. “I would like to thank the teaching staff for their ongoing support and reliability through this time, they have been nothing short of amazing!”
As schools continue to support students and families during remote learning and lockdown, we have compiled some of the best tips provided by schools and leaders of wellbeing:
- Try to keep to normal routines and structures each day.
- Ensure appropriate change of clothing each morning (not PJs).
- Stick to normal sleep routines and ensure not too much or not too little.
- Try to set small achievable goals/plans for the day so you know what you’ve accomplished by the end of the day.
- Try to ensure a well-balanced diet and follow usual routines for snacks and meals.
- Make sure to take breaks – exercise, go outside or practice some mindful activities.
- Check in with your kids on a regular basis and ask them how they are doing.
- Encourage a focus on what is going well / what each person in the family is grateful for – practising gratitude has been shown to be a critical part of wellbeing and happiness.
- Focus on the positives – e.g., more free time, increased COVID testing, lockdown keeps most people safe, hospitals have great facilities to manage cases, most people recover, we can use technology to connect with others (eg Facetime, video calls), more time to play games as a family.
- Talk to your school about any concerns or questions you have.
EXTERNAL SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
- Parent Helpline NSW 1300 1300 52
- Lifeline 13 11 14
- Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
With thanks to Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta.