Talking to Kids About Brexit.

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Dear Sue,

I know this may sound a bit odd but I’ve become very anxious around Brexit. I heard you talking on talkRADIO when you were reviewing The Papers on the Julia Hartley Brewer Morning Show about this phenomena and I’d like your top tips actually. Thanks Joe Winterbottom, from Sheffield

The debates about Brexit have been going on for three years now and, as we enter the run-up to the next Brexit deadline #GroundHogDay at the end of October, it is normal and expected that our stress on this issue may keep increasing.

There’s no question that the Brexit vote and the ensuing political turmoil triggered many people’s anxiety and depression due to the uncertainty, political turmoil and media hype with Sky News running a clock timetable and calling it ‘Brexit Crisis.

Brexit coverage seems to have left millions of us, myself very much included, sometimes feeling powerless, angry or worried for all sorts of different reasons.

We all worry about what is going to happen to jobs, to the economy, and to immigration numbers?

Why it seems to be fraught and  taking so long?

What will our relationship be like with Europe and the rest of the world if we do leave the EU?

How will this affect my business, my children’s future and how easily will we be able to travel?

During times of political uncertainty and change, we can’t always control the news we’re exposed to.  But, within our immediate circle of influence, we can help to minimise the negative impact that the Brexit debate can have on us and our families.

Children are looking , listening and watching us all the time and a client told me about how her 3 year old Grandson shouted at his brother ‘Get your hands off my Brexit!’ when they were fighting over some toys!

The Mental Health Foundation has some good tips to help with Brexit anxiety:

Stay informed, but be aware of your limits

  • Consider how much information and news you take in and reflect on how it’s affecting you.  If you are getting angry or frustrated, reduce your intake of news.
  • If a specific topic comes up that you feel strongly about, you could post on social media. But think first and avoid ranting, and don’t rise to the bait of abusive language.
  • Don’t get upset if everyone doesn’t agree with your point of view.
  • You may want to mute or turn off news notifications on your smartphone or limit your news intake to once daily. You could read a morning paper or website or watch the even
  • ing news.
  • Remember that not everything you may read or hear is necessarily true, the Brexit debate can be polarising leading to exaggeration from all sides of the argument.

Get involved with your community

  • If you feel that political change is affecting your community, see if you can be meaningfully involved with local grassroots or community groups working on issues that are important to you.
  • We know that helping others is good for your mental health.
  • For example, if you are concerned about Brexit’s impact, try volunteering for something that will help people in need in your local community.
  • You may want to seek the views of your local MP who represents you in Parliament or see if any local events have been organised where Brexit is being discussed.

Use your voice

  • Regardless of where you stand on Brexit or other issues, you may feel powerless if you have opinions but remain distant.
  • You could join a political party if you feel this could amplify your voice, or you could also explore ways to be engaged in a political community.
  • For example, you could take part in a peaceful organised rally, attend hustings or join relevant events or debates.
  • Civic and political activism may make you feel more empowered and give you an avenue to express your thoughts in a constructive way.
  • You could write a letter to your local paper or online community forums.

Focus on what you’ve got in common

  • Brexit is something which you and some of your friends and family may have different opinions about.
  • If the topic comes up, try to avoid heated discussions and conflict and, instead, focus on identifying overlaps between your different views.  There may be things that you can agree on.
  • But if you don’t agree, don’t be abusive to your friends and family or about the politicians involved in the Brexit debate.
  • Remember that it is good to treat people with respect.

Don’t bottle it up

  • If you are feeling overwhelmed by the implications of Brexit for you and/or people you know, don’t suppress your feelings.
  • Seek support, talk to a friend, family member or your GP.
  • There are also telephone helplines that provide vital emotional support during stressful times. See how you can get help here.
  • If you are stressed about your long-term status at work because of changes in immigration rules, or discussions about your company moving staff from the UK, then talk to your HR colleagues to get assurances.  Contact your employer’s Employee Assistance Programme, if there is one, for psychological support.

Look after your mental health

  • Remember to keep allocating time to things, activities and actions that are good for your mental health.
  • What works will be different for each person, although we know that good quality sleep is important for the mental health of all of us.
  • Other examples include exercising, eating healthy foods, avoiding alcohol, spending quality time with friends and taking a break to spend time on a hobby. All of these will make you feel better and take your mind off the stress of the news cycle.

Talk to your children

  • Research shows that scary news is likely to affect your children.
  • Notice how your children are exposed to news and whether their behaviour has changed (for example, are they getting easily irritated or are having nightmares).
  • Have an honest discussion with them, be truthful, give them facts, and allow plenty of time for questions.
  • Remember that small doses of real time news are helpful, but over-exposure is not.

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