This article was first published on IamExpat on 9 June 2021

At the British School in The Netherlands (BSN), the Health Care Officers have always provided important support for students and their families. In the current climate, when there is more attention on healthcare, physical and mental health, and hygiene of children, the BSN Health and Wellbeing Team share some suggestions for parents on supporting children and young people’s welfare.

Schools in the Netherlands first moved to home learning in mid-March last year, which means that coronavirus is something that children and young people have been aware of for some time. There have been positive developments: we know quite a bit more about the virus now. We know how it spreads and ways to reduce transmission; the testing is more efficient, and vaccines are becoming more available. However, the ongoing nature of the pandemic means that both adults and young people have lived with uncertainty for an extended period.

Here are some suggestions for parents on supporting their children during these uncertain times:

1. Keep talking to your child

Talk to your child about the pandemic, no matter what age they are. Don’t dismiss their fears and worries – their worries are real for them. Find out what they understand of the situation and let them know that you are there for them. Be honest with them and share the facts in an age-appropriate way.

2. Inform yourself

Make sure you have a good understanding of the current (medical) situation and equip yourself with up-to-date facts. If you are not sure, talk to one of the health care professionals at your child’s school or get in touch with your family doctor. For online resources, you can visit the RIVM website (English site) or ThuisArts website (a website with health information, in Dutch, from the Dutch College of General Practitioners).

The Health and Wellbeing Team has also compiled a list of websites that are reliable healthcare resources about a range of topics:

First Aid

  • St John Ambulance is a UK-based website that provides first aid advice and information.
  • Het Oranje Kruis is a Netherlands-based website that has information about first aid training, advice and guidance.

Mental Health

  • Mind is a UK-based website that provides advice and support about mental health issues.
  • Youz is a Netherlands-based website that provides information about mental health to support young people and their families.

Teen health and development

  • Health for Teens is a UK-based website for young people aged 11 to 19 to learn about their health (provided by the NHS).
  • Raising Children is an Australian parenting website that has an excellent page on the brain development of teens (9 to 15 years old).
  • Ouders is a Dutch website that is an excellent resource for parents and has particularly useful information for supporting teens.

3. Promote and model a healthy lifestyle

During the pandemic, there have been many things that were out of our control (for example, travel restrictions and government regulations); however, there is a lot we can do when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Being proactive about your health is something that we encourage across the curriculum for students from 3 to 18 years old.

Staying physically active, getting enough sleep, washing hands regularly and eating nutritious foods all contribute to general health and wellbeing. By modelling these healthy habits yourself, your child is more likely to follow your example. Getting outside for a walk or bike ride together doesn’t require much time, and is a screen-free activity that will benefit everyone’s wellbeing.

Tip: A fun way to encourage a younger child to eat more fruit and vegetables is to cut up brightly coloured fruit and produce for them to use to make designs and pictures on a plate. Photograph the masterpieces before eating them as healthy snacks. Older children can be asked to plan and make a healthy meal for the family once a week.

4. Offer your child perspective

Often children, and even teenagers, are not able to see beyond the current situation. As a parent, you can offer them perspective for the future. The pandemic has impacted how we live for over a year now; however, the situation will change. In the meantime, we are all building resilience, learning to be more adaptable and finding new ways to manage uncertainty. These skills will serve us all well.

YoungMinds is a great online resource that offers tips, advice and guidance for supporting your child if they are struggling.

5. Continue to take precautions

Encourage your child to wash their hands after being outside, before eating, after touching animals and going to the bathroom. As well as helping to protect them from coronavirus, washing hands also removes pathogens and prevents these pathogens from making you sick.

When children returned to school after long periods of home learning, it was essential to include and highlight handwashing routines in the school day, particularly for the younger students. For older students, making the extra cleaning and disinfecting measures visible was an important reminder to stay sensible, maintain social distance and take precautions to keep themselves and their community healthy.

As schools open up further, it is still important to remember mask-wearing in secondary schools (Voortgezet Onderwijs in Dutch) and to ensure testing through the GGD if your child has any COVID-19 symptoms.

The Health and Wellbeing Team of BSN is invaluable for its advice and support to the international community.

If you have any questions for the team or you simply want more info about the school, please contact the British School in The Netherlands via email or phone (07 315 4077).

Looking for more health tips? Rhiannon Phillips-Bianco, the Wellbeing and Mental Health Curriculum Leader at Junior School Leidscheveen, shares some excellent tips for how to help your child cope and manage challenges.

Elizabeth de Libero

Elizabeth de Libero

Elizabeth is the Digital Marketing Coordinator and Strategy Lead at The British School in The Netherlands. After living and working in the United States and Italy, she now calls The Hague home. She brings her experience in public relations and brand management to create multi-channel marketing strategies and compelling content. Elizabeth is an avid reader in her free time, loves travelling and spending time with her family and miniature poodle, Floyd.

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