These are extraordinary times and extraordinary circumstances. Being in lock down to keep everyone safe places an unbelievable burden on families who are living with the most vulnerable of children. Lockdown seems to be about managing not just the restrictions that are placed on us, but also our own emotions – our fear and anxiety for vulnerable members of our families, our anxiety about finances and our ability to support our families, our fear about how on earth we are supposed to manage all of this 24/7 whilst at the same time being able to cope with the escalating anxiety of the children, many of whom express their fear about the ongoing situation and their own insecurity by being extra clinging, extra demanding. They need more attention at a time when we are least able to give this, and of course many of our children are showing regressed, aggressive(verbal or physical) or violent behaviours. Small wonder that many parents are beginning to slide into blocked care, or are having doubts that they will be able to manage this situation over an extended period of time.

I wanted to offer some practical solutions:

1. Be completely honest with the children. Trying to hide your anxiety from them will not work as they will be very alert to your body language. If your words do not match with your body language they will be very fearful and this will cause them to cling to you all the more. It is OK to say that you are worried because of the virus; reassure them that by keeping to the advice you are keeping everyone safe, and they are not going anywhere. This youtube video will help you to explain Covid 19 in a clear way to younger children without being terrifying:

2. Routine and timetables – keeping to a routine helps your children to feel safe, keeps life predictable and reliable and also gives you a structure. The great thing about lock down is that as you are not going anywhere, you can be completely relaxed if they decide not to be compliant – you can just say “OK I can see you are having a bit of difficulty with this. I will just go and make a cup of tea. Let me know when you are ready to”… You can literally wait out almost any situation without an argument. When they see you being calm they will also calm down. Remember you are their safe base! There is another great reason for timetabling which is that you can ensure there is some time for you! For instance, get the kids to do PE with Joe Wicks while you have a cuppa! Alternate physical activities with learning experiences, and reward them with screen time while you cook tea (aka take time out to breathe). Also keep to bed times – carve out your evening time for yourself.

3. More about Brain breaks. Short breaks are of course out of the question as is babysitting. If you live with another adult – partner or adult birth child/family member then you can team tag and take your exercise at different times to get a break, or take turns taking children for their exercise to give each other a break. Alternate supervising an activity with taking time out (to “work” or fill in paperwork, of course!) If you are single then getting the routine right is vital as it will mean you get some time at the end of the day. Also as above schedule in screen time to allow you to take a pause.

4. Have a mindful moment – there are lots of videos – this is good for adults or older children: or for children: or . There is so much online from Joe Wicks to Yoga – see what you can find to suit your family. Just schedule it in. If they do not engage, no problem, keep going yourself, and keep to your schedule. Try again tomorrow.

5. Don’t stress about class work. (Unless of course they want to do this!) Remember that learning experiences are all around us, and the most important lesson at the moment is that you will keep them safe even in a crisis. Focus on life skills, housework, cooking and nature walks. This will not do any harm to the children, and in fact by creating a strong connection with you may enhance their ability to learn when schools re-open.

6. Paradoxically, to enable the children to relax and to buy yourself some headspace, you first need to keep them close, snuggle them in, and let them know you are there for them. Remember that if you are feeling overwhelmed, so are they. Acknowledge how hard it is for them. Uncertain times are very triggering for us all, and may remind children of previous uncertainty/fear in their lives.

7. If they are able to access school as a LAC and this is best for you, then send them in. If you do this, then use the time as your brain break time so that you are able to deal with their needs and anxiety when they get home.

8. Step away from unnecessary arguments or power battles. Prioritise and pick your battles.

9. ALWAYS have a treat for yourself tucked away somewhere.

This situation requires us to ask so much of ourselves when we are already stretched to breaking point. Take one day at a time, or even an hour at a time. You are amazing. You have got this. You will make mistakes – of course you will! Be kind to yourself and use the opportunity to repair the relationship. This will model that anyone can make mistakes and build resilience and trust. Just remember, if you are apologising for something you have done (such as shouting) do not turn it into blame by saying “but”. You are taking responsibility for your actions, so that they can step out of shame and take responsibility for theirs.


By Jane Mitchell

Sometimes our world gets turned upside down and we get caught up in situations beyond our control. As I am writing (March 2020) we are in a global crisis as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic. This pandemic has resulted in stringent measures to safeguard lives which are unprecedented – there is no template to follow, no experience to fall back on. In these times all we can do is follow advice and hope for the best. For children everywhere, the world has changed – and it is very surreal because everything looks as it should, but nothing is the same any more. School is out, or else they are still attending but it is very different to how school is usually run. They can’t see their families, they can’t meet up with their friends. Their secure base feels very wobbly. The situation is made more scary for children with a trauma background because of their previous experiences of change and loss, and because in many cases there is distrust or fear of adults. During the Covid 19 crisis, adults are doing their best to reassure children whilst trying to manage their own levels of anxiety and the necessary isolation. What we say, however, does not match what our bodies betray and children quickly pick up on this mis match, which makes them very anxious and can lead to regressed behaviours (acting as though they are much younger) and testing of boundaries. Their world has changed in fundamental ways and they are compelled to test boundaries and see if the rules are still the same.

I started using this analogy a couple of weeks ago and I think it is quite helpful. When our children are unsettled and anxious, we need to put the guide rails back up. If we think of a bowling alley, when rank amateurs (such as myself), beginners or children are playing we put the guide rails up. This means that the bowling ball has to stay in the correct lane. Think of the bowling ball as being your scared child. They may well look or behave angry, however this is still fear based. If the guide rails are up, then they can bounce around all they like but they will be contained and safe.

What might this look like? Think of the things that provide structure and keep everyone safe, and also consider PACE and how to use Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy as your overall attitude.

Playfulness – use this opportunity to play and re-connect. Board games, arts and crafts, nature walks, cycling, den building etc.

Acceptance – this hard for everyone regardless of age. Be kind to each other and yourself. Children from trauma will often also regress – use the opportunity to meet their as yet unmet need.

Curiosity – make links for them – wonder if they are reminded of other times there were big changes in their life?

Empathy – Empathise with them. This is so hard, it makes them feel really scared. You are doing everything to keep them safe.

Then think about the practical things:

Routine and structure – we still need consistency, predictability and reliability. Use a visual timetable. Keep the basic structure of getting up, meals and going to bed the same, keep to the same times. Have a plan which is as detailed or open as is appropriate for your family with activities and rest times and of course outdoor exercise. This helps create a sense of being contained for the child, and feels more familiar.

• The rules are still the rules. Maintain your standards, be empathic when things lapse.

• Keep your own brain connected. If you are becoming overwhelmed, take a couple of minutes to reflect. If you have a partner, tag team with them.

• Make use of online activities and games.

• Connect with other parents.

• Stay connected with your families.

• Learning is not always about being academic. Connect with your children by cooking together and undertaking household chores, gardening or even DIY together depending on age and ability.

And maybe the most important thing of all:

When you get it wrong, or the children do, make the most of the opportunity to repair the relationship. Offer an unconditional apology if you lost your temper. This means that you do not use the word “but”. You are apologising for your response and taking ownership of this, not using an apology as a way to shift blame! If they have misbehaved in any way, offer a gesture of unconditional regard – offer a drink, a hug – give them the chance to make up but do not make them say sorry. Be clear that it is the behaviour which is unwanted, not the child. This will reduce shame, help to create a more positive internal working model and create resilience in your relationships. Adults need to take the lead in modelling this to children.

Stay safe, stay well, and be careful out there!

© Jane Mitchell 2020

Updated: Mar 30

With all of the uncertainty, change and panic that is part of the current pandemic (although Therapeutic Parents are very unflappable as a general rule) I thought it would be good to put together some of the great ideas that we all have for helping all of our families to manage being out of school or in enforced periods of isolation.

1. Have a clearly displayed plan telling children what do in the event of a parent becoming ill. Below is courtesy of one of our Parents and is a great idea! The mixture of practical advice and humour is fantastic.

2. Use a visual timetable to give your day some structure. Have a mixture of learning activities, physical activities, connecting activities (board games, video games, reading, art) don’t forget you can walk in public parks if you are not in isolation, just maintain social distance. Having this structure will really help to stabilise your children and you! We have timetables available from our shop -

3. Jo Wicks is running daily PE sessions on his YouTube Channel starting Monday (23rd). His YouTube can be found here -

4. Indoor activities: Arts and crafts; blow football (use straws and cotton wool balls across a table – the blowing relieves stress!) play shops – use empty packages. Read a story. Learn life skills – help to cook, (science, maths) do some chores, catch up on DIY, play hide and seek using small toys around the house. Board games, jigsaws, small world play. Write letters to people. Keep a scrap book or diary. Have a project based around child or YP interests. More ideas here:

5. Outdoor activities: Garden play – football, trampoline, badminton, rounders, catch. Make up PE activities – star jumps, races, tag. If not isolating go to open spaces or woodland, make dens, climb trees, make a check list of natural objects to find and hunt for them. Build a bug hotel and see who comes to stay. Buy birdseed and see what birds come to visit. Grow your own vegetables! More ideas here:

And here:

6. Stay connected when isolated: make the most of facetime, whatsapp etc. Keep in touch, get ideas from each other.

7. Look out for the virtual support groups NATP are running over the coming weeks, and remember that you can also speak to anyone on the NATP Team.

Keep Busy

Stay Connected

Stay safe!

NATP Ltd trading as

The National Association of Therapeutic Parents with company registration number 10705603.

01453 519 000

The Priory, Long Street, Dursley, Gloucestershire,

GL11 4HR

Website by Cameron Design 2018