Supporting your children, students and colleagues as the lockdown lifts

As our children return to school, and our employees return to the workplace, there will naturally be individuals who have significant concerns about their personal safety, about their work situation, and about various relationship changes or challenges that may have occurred whilst in lockdown.

Leaders and educators must take these concerns seriously. Having said that, many concerns will be driven by what others have said to them, what they see in the drama of the nightly news, and the voices in their head that focus on the negative over the positive. This, of course, is the ‘survival brain’ talking and it’s doing it’s job.

Being concerned is normal human behaviour – it just may not be useful.

As leaders and teachers (and parents) you have a golden opportunity to do this well, to support your children and your team members to take ownership of their personal concerns and responses and regulate them, and to build on the levels of trust in your relationships.

Mental health first aid training

You may have heard that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and/or caused an increase in mental health issues. Those of us in positions of care cannot avoid the responsibility of identifying and professionally supporting those who may be experiencing some mental health challenges.

We are proud to advise that during this downtime we have become accredited to deliver Mental Health First Aid Training. This training will be delivered as a combined self-study and virtual dial-in program. For the duration of the COVID-19 lockdown the price of the accreditation will be significantly reduced.

We recommend that all leaders, team leaders, educators seek this accreditation as part of their leadership development. For more information and to register for the program please contact

The return conversations – a quick guide

When you identify that an individual may be feeling concerned, jump in as quickly as you can and open up the conversation.

The key here is to ask NOT TELL – to give those individuals the opportunity to not just express how they are feeling but to test it in terms of’ truth’ for themselves (we tend to say stuff not having really thought about it). Telling them to get perspective, or that there are a lot of people much worse off, or that everything will be fine is ok, but rarely land well unless that individual comes to that conclusion themselves.

Here is a quick guide and sample questions you can ask to facilitate a conversation with an individual, or with your team or class.

Step 1 – Validate their experience

Every individual’s experience is true and real for them. Dismissing it is disrespectful and not useful.
You might say:

  • That’s a normal feeling/reaction/perspective in these unusual times.
  • I can see this is challenging for you personally.
  • I’m hearing some concern in your voice.

Step 2 – Seek Permission to engage in a conversation

Check whether they actually want to engage in further discussion, and make sure they feel ‘psychologically safe’ to engage further

You might ask:

  • Is this something you’d like to talk/think through?
  • Would it be useful to take a few minutes to talk about this?
  • Is this something you are OK with or do you need some support on working through it?
  • Is now a good time to have a chat?

Step 3 – Ask Curious questions

Ask questions they have to think about to support them to dig deeper and get clarity around their thinking

You might say or ask:

  • I heard you say the word ‘worried’. Tell me more about that – what exactly do you mean – what specifically are you worried about – what is driving the ‘worry’?
  • What are you not concerned about? What is going well?
  • Do you think this is a normal reaction? Do you know others who feel this way?
  • What is the impact of allowing this to dominate your thinking? What else is this doing or causing?
  • Is this a useful focus to have in the circumstances? What would be a more useful focus?
  • What would you need to do or think about to get past this? Are there specific actions/conversations you need to have and with whom?
  • When have you felt this way in the past? What eventually happened?
  • What do you have control over and what don’t you have control over?

Step 4 – Share ideas or strategies if needed

Only now should you add any useful observations or advice having understood their thinking and only do that if it will add to their own thinking

  • I have some observations or thoughts to share, would that be useful?
  • Let me tell you a story about once when I was really concerned about something…..and what I learned was?
  • Here are some strategies you could also consider to help you?

Step 5 – Wrap Questions

Make sure you wrap up the conversation powerfully

  • Thank you for being so open. What I now know/understand is that…….
  • How are you feeling now? What are you thinking about that is different to when we started this chat?
  • What specific actions do you/we now need to take?
  • What might stop you? Is there anything you aren’t sure about/are nervous about now? How can we sort that?

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