As this month is Stress Awareness Month we asked Michelle, our Children’s Health and Wellbeing Officer based in Tayside to give us a little more insight into her work and how she is adapting during a very stressful COVID-19 pandemic.
As the Children’s Health and Wellbeing Officer based in Tayside for Children’s Health Scotland, my weeks were very busy pre-COVID-19. My car was normally packed full of toys, and arts and craft supplies, and I was out and about, spending time visiting children and young people. So, to be suddenly at home all the time with a husband, a dog, and two children has taken me a bit of time to adapt.
My background is in nursing, so I have really enjoyed working for Children’s Health Scotland for the past two years supporting children, young people and their families. I particularly like working in partnership with parents, carers, professionals, and children and young people to help them with their health and wellbeing. Sometimes this has involved representing their needs or concerns with the Scottish Government, healthcare committees and/or other non-governmental organisations
On a weekly basis my work would normally involve visiting quite a few children who are under 5s so I’m now currently looking at other ways to support these children. My role can be very ‘hands on’ working on health-related play initiatives with children. My toy hospital and little people are always fun, as are the dressing up clothes and puppets. I have now mastered lots of silly voices for the puppets and so have the children. Although my work is play related it does has a serious element as it helps children and young people to realise their rights. For example play is a fundamental right for children (UNCRC article 31 and EACH article 7) and by using our health-related Play Box, we are also meeting articles 4 (the right to be informed in an age appropriate manner) and 5 (the right to informed participation). Through health-related play I try and support children to feel a bit less anxious in a fun way about anything to do with health.
My work also involves visiting children who are at primary school which I have missed over the past few weeks. During this time I encourage health-related play with toys but often we make puppets or pictures and even teeth as we talk over what might be a worry. The aim is to try and make sure the children have all the facts they need to help them feel in control especially if they have a planned visit to a hospital, doctor or dentist. It sometimes helps if we play and talk about previous visits too and I really do enjoy this time with children.
On a weekly basis I also spend a morning at a local secondary school supporting young people to individually talk about their health and wellbeing, looking at ways that they can improve this both at school and at home. Wednesday the 18 March 2020 was my last usual day and it was a little surreal as I met with the young people knowing it would be my last day working face to face with them.
So, I am now working online with my team at Children’s Health Scotland to explore new ways to work quickly and differently to support children and young people during COVID-19. Of course, like everyone else in the country, I’m doing this at home with my husband, two children and a dog.
We’ve all had to adapt to a whole new way of life, just like everyone else, and we have now adapted our home to have work areas that we can quickly tidy away at the end of the working day.
Work life has changed and there is new technology and lots of new information to get to grips with. My days are still busy but in a very different way as we move towards offering more support via our website and social media. National Stress awareness month has come at just the right time for me. https://www.stress.org.uk/national-stress-awareness-month-2019/
I hadn’t expected it to be as stressful as it has been as I am a homeworker. Suddenly though everyone else is here too. Everyone eats way more than I predicted, and I have had to adjust for that with cooking and shopping. Fortunately, I can turn cooking and shopping lists into maths and home economics, and we have covered a bit of schoolwork too (curriculum for excellence). We are fortunate that we are socially isolating together and when one of us is feeling overwhelmed there is someone to make you smile, distract you, or help you put it all into perspective and remind you of all the good that is going on too.
We are all spending time together in the evening, watching old movies and playing games which is lovely. As my children are 13 and 20, they don’t spend as much time with my husband and I as they did when they were younger, so we are really enjoying our time and trying to fill it with fun. For me this involves playing them 80s classics like Duran Duran and they are playing me their music, (I wish I could remember the names).
We live in a small street, just 14 houses, and there is an amazing little girl across the road who has made everyone a rainbow picture to put in their window and we all have. It makes me smile when I take the dog out for a walk and see everyone’s pictures and know that although we are all apart, we are also all together to support one and other. #stressawarenessmonth