education

Practitioner Insights: Back to school after the coronavirus lockdown – Tips for parents and carers

Practitioner Insights: Back to school after the coronavirus lockdown – Tips for parents and carers

The transition back to school will undoubtedly be challenging for pupils and their families – from difficult experiences at home to re-adjusting to their normal routines. Drawing on the experience of our Education lead practitioner Gail McNelly, this post explores practical tips for parents, carers, and families.

We know that families living in precarious situations, facing financial hardship, and going through other challenging times have borne the brunt of the lockdown period. For many of the families we work with, the closure of schools, afterschool clubs and centres has been particularly tough, in addition to increased mental health and wellbeing concerns. Due to these challenges and more, it is important that parents and families are informed and feel supported during this transition.

Tips for parents, carers, and families

  1. Try your best to stay informed

As schools continue to review their safeguarding and child protection guidelines, it is also important that as parents you stay informed of policies as they change. Try your best to engage with the school by speaking to teachers and anyone else involved in your child’s learning about any concerns you may have. You can also read more information for parents and carers about returning to school post-lockdown including the policies on wearing face coverings.

  1. Get talking

Our recent Motivate to Educate (M2E) survey found that 75% of parents felt that Covid-19 has impacted on the mental health and wellbeing of the family, including 50% indicating an impact on family communication.  It is therefore more important than ever to talk to your child about what is going on and how they are feeling about going back to school. This may include talking about going back to the normal school routine which is one they will have to re-adjust to. Here are some more practical tips and conversation starters you can start to implement by Young Minds.

  1. Explore different activities with your children

Connect with your child and their interests by doing activities together like cooking, decorating, exercising, family yoga, making art, playing board games, or going to the park. You could help them to explore their feelings and ways to manage them by reading our previous #PractitionerInsights post and utilising the Time for Us pack. There are also online resources to support home learning including these checklists from the Education Endowment Foundation.

  1. Re-introduce daily routines

One parent who took part in our M2E survey said the lockdown had affected their “routines, family time and having a bit oschoolwork.” Further to this, Gail found that the lockdown period saw many children turning to technology and gaming which, in some cases, had affected their daily routines including eating and sleeping patterns. As schools re-open, it is important to help your child return to their normal sleeping and eating routines, particularly during the first few weeks of school which they may be the most challenging. You could start by checking out this guide on improving sleep by the Mental Health Foundation.

  1. It is okay if you struggle

For those of you who have felt particularly isolated, concerned, or fearful during this lockdown period, returning to school will of course be challenging and daunting.  Things will take time to get used to – try to stay patient with yourself and your children. You could explore different coping strategies that work for you when you are feeling stressed out like connecting with nature, meeting friends and family and breathing techniques. How you look after your own wellbeing will impact on the wellbeing of your children.

More helpful links

Relief and support during Covid-19: A list of links and resources by Kineara

Supporting autistic children during the coronavirus pandemic plus some helpful resources by Kineara

Practitioner Insights – Tips for schools and educators

Helpful resources and downloads for parents and families by Family Links

Find out more about our education services

Posted by kineara in Education
Practitioner Insights: Back to school after the coronavirus lockdown – Tips for schools and educators

Practitioner Insights: Back to school after the coronavirus lockdown – Tips for schools and educators

As schools reopen their doors in the coming weeks, the transition will of course be challenging for everyone involved. Drawing on the experience of our Education lead practitioner Gail McNelly, this post focuses on how we can begin to identify and respond to these heightened challenges, namely safeguarding, child protection and wellbeing concerns in order to support everyone at school.  

  1. Recognise the challenges facing pupils and their families

While generally experiences have been varied during the lockdown period, we’ve seen how families living in precarious situations, facing financial hardship, and going through other challenges including mental health and wellbeing have borne the brunt of the lockdown. Some of these families have felt particularly isolated and fearful, while others have experienced loss and bereavement. Together with reviewing policies and procedures as things continue to change, it is vital that school staff are aware of the different challenges that families have faced in order to identify how best to safeguard and protect wellbeing at school. You could begin by engaging and regularly checking in with pupils and their families to find out about their concerns.

  1. Introduce creative check-ins and wellbeing activities

In our recent Motivate to Educate (M2E) survey, 75% of parents indicated that Covid-19 has impacted on the mental health and emotional wellbeing of the familyincluding 50% indicating an impact on family communication. Thus, in addition to these wellbeing activity ideas for schools by Place2Be and Young Minds, Gail suggests that checking in with pupils through an “emotions meter” and “emoji game” could be very helpful for pupils and school staff alike – this is something that Kineara will be developing further. Talking to children about any concerns they may have, what they liked about lockdown, what they didn’t like about lockdown is important – and integrating this into a group activity could be even more effective. “Teachers could check-in with pupils by integrating it with the register,” suggests Gail.

  1. Connect with pupils in a way that resonates with them

Some pupils may be reluctant to share things or even follow guidelines during this time which can impact further on their safety and learning and those around them. If you are supporting a pupil 1:1, show that you are here for them. As you get to know your pupil, try to engage in a way that resonates with them. Don’t ignore the elephant in the room – ask them how they are feeling about the pandemic and acknowledge this without minimising or dismissing their concerns. Try to have open conversations by doing different activities like reading or drawing together – this will help to break the ice and allow them to express themselves better.

  1. Adapting to digital teaching and learning

“Although different organisations including Kineara were running online check-ins and other virtual services, it hasn’t been easy. We were giving them tips and sending ideas for different family activities which some of them were doing. However, a lot of  parents were even scared to go out for a walk because of the virus so I did do some work around that,” explains Gail. One parent and survey respondent who took part in our M2E programme highlighted social distancing as a barrier, “We can’t do many activities outside like swimming, going to church, clubs and cinema due to social distancing.” This means that it may take some time for pupils to be back in school every day, particularly pupils with SEND, which could result in a combination of in-school and virtual teaching – the NSPCC has put together this helpful guide relating to this including how to undertake remote teaching safely.  In the coming months, this reality could also mean a wider review on adapting teaching and other services in the mid to long-term.

Are you a school or service that has adapted the way you deliver? Do you have any suggestions, feedback or advice you would like to share? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch today.

Helpful links and resources

NSPCC has put together this transitioning back to school resources pack

Young Minds has a range of resources for schools, teachers and support practitioners including tips to support pupils during Covid-19 and the transition back to school

EEF has launched a range of resources to support schools to address the impact of Covid-19 school closures on pupils’ learning and support home learning.

My Tutor has shared this interview with NHS Psychologist on what parents can do to prepare their kids to return to school 

Support, guidance and activity suggestions for schools by Mentally Healthy Schools

5 ways to help keep children learning during the COVID-19 pandemic by Unicef

Posted by kineara in Education
Practitioner insights: 6 ways to support autistic children during the coronavirus pandemic 

Practitioner insights: 6 ways to support autistic children during the coronavirus pandemic 

The coronavirus pandemic is unlike anything most of us have had to deal with. With schools closed, routines and support services disrupted, and increasing concerns all round, it’s easy for us to feel like we’ve lost control. As Kineara’s practitioners continue to provide school-home services and adapt to the changing circumstances, our priority concern is, and will always be, about the safety and wellbeing of the people and families we work with. 
 
In light of this, combined with Autism Awareness and Stress Awareness Month, here are our top recommendations from Gail McNelly, Kineara’s Motivate to Educate (M2E) Lead Practitioner, for parents and carers of autistic children. The hope is to encourage positive coping and wellbeing for yourself and your children during this challenging time.

1. Keep your day as close to the school day as possible

Autistic children may feel anxiety about unexpected changes and events, as highlighted this month by the National Autistic Society. Giving children advanced notice about practical activities, space to express themselves, and time to come to terms with the various changes are very important during this time. “Most children with autism thrive on routine and structure,” says Gail, “Keeping to a good routine as close to the school day as possible can help you and your child maintain some control during this unpredictable time.”

2. Create a visual timetable to support daily routines

Supporting autistic children in understanding and navigating the COVID-19 situation is often best when combined with visuals. A visual timetable, for example, helps children to “know exactly when they are learning, eating, and have free time to play, as well a process information in multiple formats” says Gail. You could also customise a visual timetable with an interest of theirs – for example, with football, you could include space for football stickers and pictures.

3.  Observe their play, get involved and follow their lead

Making the most of your time together is now more important than ever. “You could spend time doing fun and creative activities,” says Gail. Much of what works will depend on your child but some ideas include: “Reading stories, baking fun biscuits, singing songs (nursery rhymes for younger children), trying different exercises, yoga or relaxation techniques, or using sensory objects to have calming down time.”

4. Build on strengths and talk about their interests

Supporting autistic children, Gail uses a variety of tools and resources to build on their individual strengths. Some of these include custom-made emotion cards to help communicate how they are feeling, bite-sized visual instructions and practical breathing/relaxation exercises. 
 
Working with one M2E pupil, Gail found that Talib loved trains and had memorised almost every journey. Therefore, she suggested that dad take him on train journeys and make it a reward for him. If this wasn’t possible, simply talking to Talib about trains, or buying a toy train as a reward and acknowledgement would help to strengthen positive relationships.

5. Be available to answer any questions

It’s normal for your child to feel nervous or anxious about COVID-19, so talk to your child about what is going on and answer any questions in a clear and easy-to-understand way. “An autistic child has a different way of understanding, learning and communicating,” says Gail. She adds that getting to know your child and what works for them, providing reassurance to your child, and letting your child feel their emotions, are all helpful ways to support their wellbeing.

6. A final message for parents

“If both parents live together and are available, take turns to have a rest at a certain point in each day,” says Gail, “I would also advise parents to take 30 minutes each day doing something to de-stress like guided visualisation, yoga or reading.” 
 
Gail also highlights the benefits of introducing family routines, particularly sleep routines, to deal with hyperactivity, anxiety and strengthen relationships. Reflecting on one M2E case, Gail explains, “He would have a warm bath with lavender, a short massage and a short story before bed. He was also given a worry book and a happy book where he would express his feelings and share them with mum during the sessions.” 
 
“Parenting is a very tough job but learning about your child and how they think is also a learning for ourselves. We must find new routines, different structures and work hard together to creates some positive changes within the family home.” 

Useful links 

Find out more about Motivate to Educate. 
 
Join the conversation on Twitter. 

Posted by kineara in Education
Kineara’s response to coronavirus closures

Kineara’s response to coronavirus closures

23 March 2020

 

Last week the UK Government made the decision to shut down schools as the country continues to address the coronavirus spread throughout the UK. This was in addition to several other Government measures to increase social distancing and offer some relief to people effected by the virus.

 

At this time, our priority concern is for the safety and wellbeing of our staff and the people we work with, many of whom are being particularly impacted by the virus and its broader consequences. For families who are already in precarious housing, on low incomes, living in overcrowded homes or with children with complex needs, the coming months will be particularly challenging.

 

We are thankful that at this time we are able to temporarily sustain our services, despite having to reduce the level of support we can offer. Whilst the schools are closed, and social distancing is being advised, we won’t be able to run sessions or make visits to our clients in the way we usually would.

 

But, we are doing what we can to overcome the disruption and continue to provide the best support we can over the phone, via calls and video chat. We have been speaking with our school and housing partners to make arrangements about how we can provide school-home services and housing support going forward. We also are connecting with local voluntary services so that we can make sure people have access to essential support through this time. We hope that, with enough planning, we can continue to support you in meaningful ways, including support for the impact of the coronavirus. We’ll continue to review our work as we go forward.

 

We are also preparing a list useful links of local services, mutual aid groups, and community support for our website in coming days, so that anyone who we have worked with now or in the past can find out what is on offer in their area.

 

The families and households we are currently working with will be, if they have not been already, contacted by their practitioner in the coming days to make ongoing arrangements.

 

We know that for many people this will be a stressful and worrying moment. At Kineara, we are always focused on how best to support people through challenging times – and for the next few weeks, we know many people in London and the UK will face many challenges. We will do the best we can to help you through it.

 

 

The Kineara Team

 

 

 

Posted by kineara in Community, Education, Employment, Housing, Latest
International Women’s Day Special: Get to know us!

International Women’s Day Special: Get to know us!

On International Women’s Day, we sat down with the Kineara team to look at the progress on gender equality, some of the challenges facing young women today, and what this year’s #EachforEqual theme means to us. As a team of diverse women with different backgrounds, specialities and passions, we’re proud to turn our attention to #IWD2020, celebrate the achievements of women in our communities and around the world, while raising awareness of what still needs to be done!

What does the International Women’sDay slogan, #EachforEqual mean for you?  

Mel: To me, it’s about everyone doing their bit to achieve equality. It also reminds me that equality for women is about inclusivity, diversity, and an understanding that women do not have a singular identity. In addition to being gendered in society, we are also classed, racialised, divided by sexuality or immigration status – so #EachforEqual for me is also about social equity for all. 

Gail: For me it means being strong as an individual and supporting individuals to see their full potential, empowering inspiring and celebrating the differences we have, and the strength with have because of our differences. 

Sandra: I think for equality to be truly meaningful, everyone must be taking part and working towards the same goals. To me the issue it is not about women being victims in a society that is not inclusive in the same way that minorities struggle to have equality; instead it is about changing our mindset to fully take advantage of the opportunities that are there, as well as challenging social norms and the language that we are using. Women and men are not the same, but their traits and qualities should be valued equally.  

Liz: EachForEqual: to me this is a great reminder for each one of us doing what we can to enable equality and break the chain of inequality and oppression. As a woman, this could start with enabling equality by standing up for myself and speaking up in situations where equality is threatened. ALL inequality is interlinked, so if we each take steps to address inequality for ALL we will build a better world for ALL.  

Tam: For me, #EachForEqual is about collective action, diverse and reflective representation in all fields and spheres of life, and of course, social, economic and political equality and equity for all around the world. 

Tell us about your interests/passions and
 how this complements your work at Kineara?
 

Mel: I am Kineara’s communication lead, so I get the pleasure of sharing the work of our brilliant practitioners to the world. My role means I get to touch base with all the women in our organisation, who I am always inspired by. With a background in social justice initiatives, one thing that drives me is seeing leaders who don’t traditionally take up these roles, including women and black minority ethnic people, building capacity, power and their voice in the non-profit sector, and I am proud Kineara is an organisation that provides space for that.  

Sandra: I work as a support worker in housing on our project in Bexley. I am passionate about housing as a human right and not a commodity. Although the housing market is a global problem, working with individuals locally on a daily basis to improve their housing situation helps to improve their wellbeing and contribute to collective change.  

Liz: I support the system, monitoring and evaluation within Kineara. Most of my work currently centres around within our housing project. I am passionate about social equality and I’m therefore driven to advocating and supporting people in their time of need. This passion extends to the activities I partake in both in and outside of work. 

Tam: As Kineara’s communications officer I work closely with Mel, our comms lead, to scope and deliver internal and external communications for Kineara. This includes supporting strategic planning and research, copywriting, producing innovative content, writing blogs/articles and managing social media. My passions include working within and strengthening communities, exploring creative arts, social justice and women’s empowerment, so I feel there is a clear synergy with Kineara’s mission and core values!  

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges facing young girls and women today? 

Mel: Women face many different pressures and challenges today, but one thing that has been on my mind recently is the disproportionate (and discriminatory) impact that cuts to public services and benefits has had on women, and in particular minority women. Given women are more dependent on public services and benefits and are more likely to be employed in the public sector, the reductions in funding, jobs losses and welfare have increased financial insecurity for women in the UK.  

Liz: Women living in an intentionally built patriarchal society that systematically sees women as not equal to men, has led to many women feeling unsafe, lacking self-esteem and being oppressed. Ultimately this societal norm can affect the way families view women, as well as how women are treated and viewed within the school and work system. It is important to undo this societal learning through empowering and supporting one another to speaking openly about the issue’s people may face, even when this may involve hard and painful experiences for some, we are paving the way for a better more equal world for all.

Tam: Young girls and women face a variety of challenges from pressures of social media, mental health and wellbeing challenges, as well as socioeconomic challenges including a rise in poverty/homelessness, cuts to public services and unemployment levels. One challenge I’ve witnessed first-hand in my community of Ladbroke Grove is the socioeconomic divide – the entirely preventable Grenfell Tower tragedy is one example of this. That said, together we’re a strong and resilient community.

What advice would you give to young girls and women based on your own experience?

Mel: My advice to young women is to always stay true to who you are. Young women – all women, in fact – can feel pressure to be what society expects them to be, but don’t fall into that trap! You’ll just find that society will just move the goal posts if you try to fit in so make your own rules, find your voice and be proud of who you are.  

Liz: Be yourself, spread love and joy only, continue to speak up for equality for ALL, in your own unique way. Repeat this daily… it’s a butterfly effect and will spread. 

Tam: Make sure to surround yourself with those who benefit, value and uplift you in some way. Your life journey, experiences and strengths are unique to you, so don’t compare yourself to others. Also, don’t hesitate to reach out, there are people out there who can, and are willing to support! 

Last but not least, how can we contribute to improving situations for young girls and women in our communities?  

Mel: I think we each need to think about the judgements and biases that we’ve all learnt over time and challenge them from within. We each need to make the effort to educate ourselves on, and really listen to, the experiences, feelings, histories/herstories of women of all different background so we can support each other’s journey toward a more just society, for all women.  

Liz: My focus is to acknowledge women and improve their situations within communities. I will continue to listen to their stories, encourage and empowering others. I will remind myself daily to engage in simple yet impactful actions such as smiling more and taking time to share positivity. These elements I believe will be the foundation for me to aid in improving situations and creating safe communities/ world for ALL.  

Tam: I believe we all have a duty and responsibility to challenge negative stereotypes/perceptions and stand with those who are less privileged or deemed ‘vulnerable’ in some way. I suppose on an individual level, we can start with things like fostering relationships, having meaningful conversations and challenging the status-quo.

Join the conversation on Twitter using #EachForEqual and @Kineara

Find out more about our work or partner with us.

Posted by kineara in Community
Podcast: Kineara director Maria Morgan speaks about her work and vision for the future

Podcast: Kineara director Maria Morgan speaks about her work and vision for the future

Our director Maria Morgan sat down with the team at It Means Something Podcast to speak about a wide range of topics from her work as Director of Kineara, the importance of investing in people, to her vision for the world. 

The podcast brought by Nathan Ardaiz and Joao Fernandes invites “those who are creating meaning in the world such as makers, entrepreneurs and artists” to delve deeper into their journey and the meaning they’re making in their lives. Here, we summarise some of the topics covered in the podcast.  

Creating meaningful change 

Founded in 2012, Kineara set out to create and deliver tailor-made support services that inspire meaningful and lasting change in the lives of the people and communities we serve. Starting with our Rent Support Programme (RSP), which addresses and prevented evictions of vulnerable families in social housing, our offer has expanded to include mid-length tenancy sustainment programmes and educational wellbeing and support services 

Fast forward to 2020, we now several new projects and services in the works including our most recently designed intervention, Resettling, which supports people who have been homeless or in temporary accommodation move back into sustainable housing, and more important and exciting plans for the future.  

Asked how Kineara creates meaningful change, Maria says: “In terms of Kineara, we realise that we’re not going to do it on our own. We can’t do everything, but the best thing we can do is go into a situation, if the individual or family allows, and work with them to understand their barriers, their frustrations, their story. 

“It’s a privilege for someone to let you in their life no matter where they are in life. So, I always say don’t take it for granted that someone’s been referred to us that it’s just a given.” 

As we’re coming out, we start to work on: What support do you need that when we’ve left, we know you can go there? So, it’s important that we have that kind of step-down service after that real intense work. What we’re finding is there are not as many step-down services as we would like because of cuts and other reasons, so when we do find those services our job is develop those relationships between the person we’re working and those organisations.” 

Further to this, Maria explains the meaning of holistic support and how it relates to our work. “We are all part of a system; the family is a system. We all have different roles and different things we bring to the table, so if somebody or something in that system isn’t working, it’s going to impact how we operate. We either shift to accommodate that area that isn’t working well, or we look at what it is that isn’t making it work well because we need you to make the system work well, so it’s that systemic kind of thinking.” 

Describing Kineara to a five-year-old, Maria adds “it’s about “being a friend to someone when they are going through difficult times.” This means “someone you can talk to” and who “will go with you thought that journey.” 

Breaking the cycle of homelessness 

Whilst developing our direct support work, we’ve also been involved in delivering community cohesion projects and innovative participatory research on issues of housing services and improving pathways through temporary accommodation. Back in October 2017 AzuKo, Kineara and Poplar HARCA co-hosted a two-part workshop exploring the latter.  

Working alongside Nathan, we brought together 40 people, from over 20 organisations to rethink how we can improve the journey into and through temporary accommodation and illuminate the experience of those going through this journey, and facing challenges, trials and insecurity.  

It’s important we respect that we’re coming into people’s intimate lives, so they don’t feel you are being patronising.” 

We also undertook research with 14 households, revealing that experiences are dynamic, so services are never working with the same person throughout the lifespan of support, particularly those who are ‘vulnerable’. What’s more, we found that financial insecurity can result from a sudden and unexpected breakdown in paperwork/bureaucracy, physical and mental health, landlord relations and family structure among many others, so services should be aware of the link between money and a range of other factors.  

Speaking about finance (especially regarding finance decisions) of individuals and families we work with, Nathan says, “Some of the research we’ve done with families shows there’s something stigmatising around how people spend their money and what they think is the wrong and right way to do so.” To this end, Maria adds that generally, “It’s important we respect that we’re coming into people’s intimate lives, so they don’t feel you are being patronising.”  

Building on strengths 

Maria goes onto highlight the impact of strength-based support, “The first thing you must do is work with a person’s strength. Some people don’t even have a foundation to build on because they’ve been so crushed, so you’ve got to lay yourself down. Step on me, we’re going to be here, we’re going to support you through that. We’re going to be that strength-base.” 

Not only is this type of support useful for the people we work with, but it can be applied to supporting the wellbeing of our team/ practitioners themselves. “The people at Kineara, they’ve got the passion, the care, they are phenomenalKineara would not exist without them, but I have to understand their capacity, what they can do and where their stop isIt’s been an interesting journey; what’s important is we continue to try and look after ourselves at work and outside of work. 

“Maria has incredible insight into the process of working with teams and creating something, which is really brutal and difficult work. She brings such a beauty and lightness to the whole thing which is infectious. I always learn so much from Maria and I really appreciate her as a friend and collaborator,” adds Nathan. 

You can listen to the podcast here 

Posted by kineara in Community, Education, Housing, Impact
Case studies: Three ways to support children’s mental health

Case studies: Three ways to support children’s mental health

Supporting children’s mental health, developing emotional awareness and improving school motivation are just some of the ways our education support practitioners work holistically with pupils and their families. This Children’s Mental Health Week, we share five proven techniques we have used to support pupils’ mental health and wellbeing.

Holistic and wraparound care

Having delivered our Motivate to Educate (M2E) programme for several years, we’ve seen how a holistic approach can help children and young people overcome challenges in school and out. Our practitioners have found that support pupil’s families and teachers, such as giving them to talk about any challenges they’re facing, has a directly positive impact on pupils.

“Holistic support looks at the bigger picture, addressing other challenges they may be facing in life, including issues with rent or housing insecurity, emotional wellbeing or household needs and relationships,” explains Maria, Director of Kineara.

As for wraparound care this means, “we’re here for the child, we’re here for the parent, we’re here for the teacher, we’re here to care for all aspects of the school, for them to feel healthy and safe and have somewhere to go.”

Exploring pupils’ strengths

Working with pupil’s strengths, our practitioners use a wide variety of tools in tackling worry, anxiety and challenging behaviour in pupils. These include the use of bubble wrap, breathing and relaxation techniques, tailor-made emotion cards and daily post-it notes for both the child and parent to express how they are feeling.

As a young boy who has autism, Talib used tailor-made emotion cards and visuals during M2E to communicate how he was feeling in a way that was helpful to himself and others, especially when he was feeling sad or anxious.

During M2E, Gail also found that Talib loved trains and had the incredible skill of knowing almost every route, so she suggested that dad take Talib on train journeys and make it a reward for him.

“Learning about your pupil/ child and how they think is also a learning for ourselves. We must find new routines, different structures and work hard together to creates some positive changes in school and out”, says Gail.

Strengthening family relationships

Our practitioners found that working closely with the pupils’ family during M2E had a directly positive impact on their wellbeing, emotional awareness and behaviour in school.

In the case of Dayo – who was referred to M2E over concerns for his emotional wellbeing and behaviour in class – we saw how developing family routines and incorporating hands-on activities at home helped reduce problems at school.

As the eldest child of four, Dayo would often feel left out at home which was affecting his schooling. Gail, M2E practitioner, explains that one of the things that helped strengthen family relationships was introducing some cooking time with mum.

“We’ve learnt how to communicate better. I’ve also learnt about having independent one-to-one time with each child,” says Dayo’s mum. What’s more, Dayo’s dad admitted that he never spoke about emotions to the children before, but now he makes sure to praise them and tell them how proud he is.

Join the conversation on Twitter using #ChildrensMentalHealthWeek #FindYourBrave  

Want to give your pupils/ children the best start in life? Get in touch with us to discuss how we can work with your school.

Find out more about our education support services.

Posted by kineara in Education, Impact
Practitioner insights: How complex cases can impact our mental health and wellbeing

Practitioner insights: How complex cases can impact our mental health and wellbeing

Operating within frontline roles, our practitioners work directly with individuals and families experiencing mental health problems and/or multi-complex needs. Following World Mental Health Day, we ask our practitioners to share experiences relating to mental health and wellbeing at work, including the impact of working on intense cases and proven ways to support their own mental health and wellbeing.

There is a strong link between our mental and physical health and just like our physical health, our mental health needs looking after. Research indicates that one in four of us will experience some form of mental ill health in the course of a year. What’s more, MHFA believes mental health lies on a continuum, which like a spectrum, can change overtime depending on early identification, prevention and treatment.

Having delivered a range of specialist programmes that address key barriers to housing security, employment and education, our practitioners understand the importance of providing appropriate support to people experiencing mental ill health as part of their person-centred, holistic approach. However, we often forget that support professionals – be it, social workers, health professionals or support workers – who provide vital support to others, can also be affected by the intensity of the cases they work with.

Multi-complex needs and intense support

Rujia, our dedicated school-based practitioner, explains how the complex nature and intensity of certain cases means that some personal impact is almost inevitable: “In general, I think when working in this field it is difficult not to be impacted by other people’s circumstances because of the compassion we feel for others.”

“Previously, I worked with someone from our drop-in sessions who needed emotional support on an issue I have experienced myself. I felt a lot of empathy for this client and instantly found myself checking whether I am over-identifying with what she is saying and how best I can help her.”

“It’s important to reflect on our feelings and emotions and check where our responses are coming from to ensure our focus is the client. Being aware of our feelings also helps us to recognise the impact clients can have on us as it can trigger emotions in us that we then need to work through.”

Liz, our NLP practitioner echoes this: “In relation to the type of work that we do my first instinct is to support those who need support the most. Even when I feel like my cup is half empty, I find myself still pouring from my cup because I feel like someone else needs it more.”

Whilst drawing from experience and tapping into our positive traits can offer insight when dealing with cases, it’s important to check what impact a client’s situation is having on us, adds Rujia. “It’s very important to be mindful of whether we are over-identifying because that could make us move away from fully recognising what the client needs. We have to remember that everyone is different and therefore may experience things differently and need different things.”

A reflective approachA reflective approach

As a practitioner, Rujia highlights the importance of reflecting on our own feelings and emotions and check where our responses are coming from: “This ensures our focus is the client. Being aware of our feelings is also very important so we can recognise the impact clients have on us, as it can trigger emotions in us that we then need to work through,” she says.

“Sometimes even when I’m not working, I am thinking about the family and what else I need to do to support them! This can become unhealthy because it can become mentally and physically draining and we all need our break away from work and spend some time in our personal lives,” explains Rujia.

Fortunately, this is something Rujia recognised during a de-briefing session with a colleague: “Upon reflection, I was able to identify why I was feeling so tired. I then had to consciously make the effort to put some healthy boundaries in place by agreeing what goals I can work on with the family, as well as sticking to my working hours unless working evenings was planned for a specific reason. The families we work with often have multiple issues and we are working with for a limited time period, so having boundaries helps me work more effectively and not spread myself too thinly.”

“The families we work with often have multiple issues and we are working with for a limited time period, so having boundaries helps me work more effectively and not spread myself too thinly.”

The impact of mental health has huge social and economic costs; studies reveal the total economic cost in England is estimated at £105 billion per year and that 84 percent of UK line managers believe they are responsible for employee wellbeing, but only 24 percent have received relevant training. “It’s that energy and love which is fine but I think if you start to feel like it’s affecting you outside of the workplace it will affect the amount of time you spend at work,” says Liz, “I’ve learnt to lean on some of the support of my manager and team, especially if I feel like I’m having a day where there are a lot of intense cases or I just need some support.”

Mental health in the workplace

When it comes to looking after our mental health in the workplace, Liz and Rujia have found peer supervision particularly helpful. “It’s an opportunity to reflect on my work and the impact of the work on my own well-being and the importance of our own well-being in this field of work. Having a supportive supervisor who understands the impact of working with intense and complex cases is very important, not just for our own wellbeing but the wellbeing of the families we support,” says Rujia.

Reflecting on past cases, Liz adds: “In supervision, we can talk through difficult cases and dissect the different barriers and/or the crisis that individual is experiencing. In that space you kind of offload everything going on at work or personal life.”

“One thing we learnt was the Mental Health Continuum – that our place on the scale is constantly changing and that most of the time there are no absolutes in mental health.”

Mental health in the workplaceSince completing the MHFA training, Tam, Comms Officer at Kineara, believes that she is better equipped to offer a listening ear and support to our team of practitioners, and more aware of what signs to look out for. “I now understand how and why dealing with complex and intense cases can impact the wellbeing of our support practitioners. One of the most important things we learned was the Mental Health Continuum – that our place on the scale is constantly changing and that most of the time there are no absolutes in mental health. Sometimes it’s just taking the time to check in, ask twice and listen.”

The power of mediation

Despite the intense workload, our practitioners are passionate about the work they do. “Once I started seeing work as helping anyone in need which could even be myself, then I started seeing work/life balance as one thing. Supporting people and practicing self-love is part and parcel of who am, so I don’t really see it as I’m leaving work on the coat hanger and going home, I see it as just a part of me,” says Liz.

Crucially, both Rujia and Liz highlight the importance of looking after our own wellbeing to be able to give their best to the people and families they support and be emotionally available for them. “I spend some time over the weekends when I am not working to do something relaxing, this can be something as simple as having a long bath or going out for dinner with a friend,” says Rujia. “This allows me to support people in any capacity in any way I can, even in my community/block or within my family – it doesn’t stop at work! It’s like a way of life – when you see it as a way of life you see beyond the crisis or the issue and you see the person for who they are,” adds Liz.

“Having someone facilitate our thoughts that are there but just need writing down on paper, so it’s seen and heard. Everyone needs encouragement and mediation, nobody can function without the support from another, including us as practitioners!”

Liz adds that practicing self-awareness to inspire the best in herself and others is so important: “I believe everyone is an expert in their own life, they are the only person who has experienced what they are telling you in entirety and full context, so the most important thing is to listen because every situation is a new situation and may require a new way of approaching things. Once they tell you their stories and their journey you realise that anyone could be in that position.”

She adds: “That’s why mediation is so important; having someone facilitate our thoughts that are there but just need writing down on paper, so it’s seen and heard. Everyone needs encouragement and mediation, nobody can function without the support from another, including us as practitioners!”

Find out more about our work. 

Image credit: Mashable/Vicky Leta

Posted by kineara in Community, Latest
How to support your child as they start secondary school

How to support your child as they start secondary school

Starting secondary is a significant milestone in a young person’s life – new schools, new friends, new teachers and indeed new challenges altogether. Whether you’re a parent, teacher or practitioner, helping a young person through this transition can be one of the most impactful things you do for them. But how can we support them? Here our practitioners, team and friends share practical ways we can help pupils deal with such challenges.

1. Developing an identity

Fitting in, asserting an identity or gaining peer acceptance becomes even more prominent in a secondary school context. This undeniable reality can often lead to a dip in academic progress or intensify challenging behaviour.

“My challenge at school was a struggle between being a good student and getting the grades everyone (including myself) expected of me and wanting to be independent and assert my identity; who I wanted to be in this world and who my friends were,” says Sandra, Intervention Practitioner at Kineara.

Helping young people to express themselves authentically and take advantage of extracurricular activities is just one way of facilitating healthy social exploration. Sandra adds that it’s also important for parents and teachers to try to understand why someone is behaving the way they are instead of just trying to change it.

“Larger classes make it more difficult to have a closer relationship with students, which is where a service like Motivate to Educate (M2E) is helpful. It offers a listening ear and can help guide a student back on track,” she adds.

2. Bullying and peer pressure

Whether its physical, verbal, social, or online, bullying can take many forms. For parents, identifying any changes in your child’s behaviour, asking questions, and building meaningful relationships with their teachers can all make a difference.

Strengthening relationships between the parent and child, parent and teacher, and teacher and child, is one aim of M2E. “I was lucky that I had a good upbringing with parents who gave me a strong sense of self-worth that made me realise my potential. Without it I may have ended up in more serious trouble that would have been harder to return from,” says Sandra.

During the transition, it can be helpful to try to increase your child’s circle of friends by encouraging them to invite home their friends or participate in group activities. Educating pupils and their parents through assemblies, class discussions and workshops can also help to challenge stigma and raise awareness about the challenges that pupils are facing.

“Larger classes make it more difficult to have a closer relationship with students, which is where a service like Motivate to Educate (M2E) is helpful. It offers a listening ear and can help guide a student back on track.”

Reflecting on her own experience, Mel, Comms Lead at Kineara, highlights the importance of having quality support. “For me the main thing was going from a very small school where everyone knew each other to a school with hundreds of kids in each year; this was a bit intimidating at first! The key thing for me was that I had a close-knit group of friends that formed pretty early; they were my peers who I went to for support and we took each other through the whole secondary journey.”

“For pupils who are feeling shy or lonely, we often involve their peers by bringing them into our sessions to participate in group activities such as cooking and baking, which develops the child’s confidence and broadens their friendship circle,” says Gail, Kineara’s M2E lead.

3. Mental health and wellbeing

With 1 in 10 children and young people experiencing a mental health issue at any one time, it is important that we are clued up on the challenges of dealing with mental health, and how we as parents, teachers and practitioners can support pupils. What’s more, a recent Government Green Paper (2017) stated that appropriately trained teachers and school staff can make a difference in addressing mild to moderate mental health problems such as anxiety and conduct disorder, comparable to those achieved by trained therapists.

In delivering M2E, we’ve found that teachers and school staff can support pupils by  developing their understanding of mental health through relevant training such as MHFA courses, as well as receiving support with their own wellbeing. We have also seen how a school benefits from adopting a joined-up, wraparound ethos that focuses on wellbeing just as much as academic outcomes. As part of the culture, schools could consider activities that have been proven to help pupils manage high levels of stress such as mindfulness, yoga and relaxation/breathing exercises.

The people we work with have multi-entrenched needs, so our support must be intentional, therapeutic, adaptable. You’re not seeing a situation or a person as one-dimensional but seeing them in a holistic frame.”

After taking part in M2E, one pupil who was struggling to manage his temper said about the programme: “I enjoy having better relationships with people in school. I use my breathing techniques when someone is annoying me, and I listen to my relaxation before bed and no tech for one hour which helps my sleep.” In this case we found the main outcomes to be significant improvements in the pupils’ overall stress and behaviour, followed by an improvement in concentration and emotional awareness.

There are a plethora of online resources exploring different areas of mental health and wellbeing, from exam stress, eating disorders to responding to traumatic events. We have also written about the real impact of exam stress and why schools need to  focus on supporting mental health during this difficult time.

4. Hidden or complex challenges

For some, personal, hidden, or external challenges will take a toll on social and academic progress through secondary school, including the impact of educational inequality, a lack of adequate support for SEND pupils, family breakdown, or issues with housing. One way of supporting pupils through such a challenge is looking at the ‘whole-person,’ offering empathy and being emotionally available.

“The people we work with have multi-entrenched needs, so our support has to be intentional, therapeutic, adaptable,” says Maria, “When you’re talking to someone, it helps to see that person as a system – in that system is a person, their needs, background, parentage, education etc. You’re not seeing a situation or a person as one-dimensional but seeing them in a holistic frame.”

Maria explains that not everyone offers holistic support, neither does everyone have to.” As a school, for example, it’s about recognising that there are other organisations that can support with intervention on a holistic level. It’s about partnership,” she says.

Learn more about our education services.

Posted by kineara in Education, Impact, Research
Practitioner insight: 5 ways to help a young person deal with exam results stress

Practitioner insight: 5 ways to help a young person deal with exam results stress

Having received their exam results, many students across the country will be experiencing feelings of joy and relief, exceeding their own expectations and looking forward to their next ventures. But for those who didn’t achieve as well, feelings of stress, disappointment and uncertainty will begin to loom over them. 

The evident pressure put on young people during exam season, be it from the school, family or themselves, can often impact greatly on pupil wellbeing in school and out. To this end, many schools have introduced, and are doing exceptional work in the run up to exam season – including mental health and wellbeing provision; from equipping students with effective tools and strategies to cope with exam stress, utilising online resources, and providing professional, specialist support for pupils and teachers alike.

But what can we do on an individual level to support a young person deal with the impact of results day?  Here are our five top tips from parents, young people and our own education support practitioners who each bring a unique perspective.

1. Celebrate the wins

Feelings of stress or disappointment are completely normal during this time, and though it’s important to give them space to come to terms with it all, you can help them remember how far they’ve come and what they’ve achieved in school and out.

Having delivered multiple careers related talks at schools and colleges, Tam, Comms Officer at Kineara, says: ”By talking about extra-curricular activities or achievements outside of school, you will be reminding them that there’s more to life than exams and that there’s no one route to success. It’s important to nurture the idea of celebrating small wins, whatever they may be, to maintain motivation and broaden your aspirations.”

2. Don’t add to the pressure

It’s important not to offer immediate judgement or even solutions, rather give them time to accept their feelings, whatever they are.

“I think the most important message is that no emotion is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, it’s what you do with it that counts,” says former Motivate to Educate (M2E) practitioner Roz. “Letting a child know that we all feel angry, worried or sad sometimes and letting them accept these feelings without judgment is a real gift. It’s so important to support a child in being able to talk about their feelings by making conversations with emotion-words part of daily life.”

3. Help them explore their strengths and individuality

In delivering M2E, one of the key learnings for our practitioners has been in adapting their support approach to cultivate the unique strengths of the individual pupil. This is done through active listening and enabling the young person to make decisions and empower themselves.

“If one tried their best in a particular exam and still didn’t do so well, consider what their strengths are perhaps in a different subject,” says Elle, Head Tutor at EDS Education. “It’s not the end of the world and young people shouldn’t feel pressured to do well in a particular subject which their parents might expect them to. For example, I have a student who is great at maths but not so much in Science. It’s about finding your strengths are and celebrating them.”

Zak, a Youth Panellist at YoungMinds, adds that it’s crucial not to compare students to their peers: “Someone may graduate at 21, but can’t find a job until 25. Someone else may graduate a year or two later – perhaps due to taking a gap year or retaking a year – and then find a job immediately upon graduating. Everyone is on their own journey.”

4. Talk to them about their feelings

Our practitioners use a wide variety of tools in tackling worry and anxiety in pupils, such as the use of bubble wrap, practicing breathing and relaxation techniques, tailor-made emotion cards and daily post-it notes for both the child and parent to express how they are feeling.

M2E practitioner Davinia says: “Art making has been a useful tool for helping children access and express difficult memories. Using materials that allow a child or young person to make mess, should they want to, creates a freedom to access these memories and to begin to make sense of them.”

Roz adds, “Talk about how characters feel in films and books, why and what they could do about it. This way a child or young person will learn not to judge their emotions but to acknowledge and express them usefully.” Whether it’s through art or a different creative outlet, help a young person explore their feelings and let them know you’re there for them.

5. Encourage them to stay positive and motivated

Sometimes it helps to step back from it all and be hopeful about the future, no matter the outcome. This may involve helping them reflect on key learnings or what could have gone better, but more importantly, encouraging them to celebrate and plan some fun activities they can look forward to.

Head tutor at EDS Education, Elle, was pleased to find so many of her students receiving high grades in their exams, however, one student didn’t get the exact grade she wanted. “The advice I would give is not to be disappointed and understand that everything is a learning process. You need to think and reflect on your grades. Ask yourself why did this happen? What could you have done differently to better your grade? Did you plan your revision timetable? Once you’ve answered these kind of questions, you can take your next step in further education.”

What’s more, studies show that positive mindset yields a higher sense of wellbeing and fulfilment, as well as practising self-determination and having a sense of control over one’s life. Director of Kineara, Maria Morgan, says: “There’s nothing stronger than recognising and accepting where you are to move forward.”

Posted by kineara