Helping your child understand Covid and how to cope with a Covid Christmas

The much-anticipated GDST Talks series kicked off with psychologist Dr Deborah Woodman advising parents on how to help their children through the pandemic – and she had some advice for the festive season, too.

deborah woodman

The GDST has proudly launched the first of its GDST Talks series. Dr Deborah Woodman, Consultant Psychology and Clinical Lead at Evelina Children’s Hospital, London, did a presentation to more than 900 GDST parents on ‘Helping your Child Through Covid.’ The online event, which sold out in a matter of days, was hosted by Jo Sharrock, Head of Shrewsbury High School.

The presentation covered themes of mental health, the importance of honest, frequent communication with children and, as we approach a rather different Christmas, how to navigate the festivities in a calm and measured way.

Dr Woodman suggested trying something completely different this festive season, to avoid the sense of a ‘second class’ Christmas.

Dr Woodman spoke about the mental health implications of the pandemic for young people. Although developmental impacts can take time to emerge, it is clear that issues such as social isolation, bereavement, and ongoing uncertainty risk taking their toll.

Dr Woodman explained that we are biologically programmed to respond to threats in our environment: with Covid, threat cues are all around us, which can lead to children experiencing increased anxiety levels. The fact that our children are unable to get out with friends can also have an impact on their ability to carry out so-called ‘developmental tasks’, for example, developing mature relationships and gaining emotional independence from parents. Opportunities to make ‘safe’ mistakes are also much more limited in lockdown.

“Trust your judgement,” Dr Woodman reassured parents. “You are experts in your own child.”

Parents should not feel powerless, however. ‘Parents are experts in their own child,’ explains Dr Woodman, and as such, should trust their own judgement. Sometimes the simplest path is the best: talking to your child, ensuring they feel ‘held and heard’ can have the most positive impact. Parents were encouraged to look after their own wellbeing, too: modelling behaviour that it is ok not to be ok, as well as coping strategies such as exercise, can be enormously beneficial to their young people.

And what of Christmas? Dr Woodman advises having a Plan A, B and C, so as to plan for the inevitable uncertainty and possible changes in restrictions and personal circumstances. Children can also be involved in decision-making here. Another strategy is to try something completely different this festive season, to avoid the sense of a ‘second class’ Christmas. Finally, Dr Woodman advises not going overboard with presents: children can pick up on this as a big cue that things aren’t right.

Deborah Woodman’s full video below:



Please feel free to browse our list of useful links and contacts below.

Useful Resources

FACE COVID – Russ Harris

Young Minds

Emerging Minds

Mental Health Foundation

Wellbeing podcasts available through iTunes (relaxation, mindfulness, sleep, exercise)

Winstons Wish

Child Bereavement