“School’s Out for Summer,” sang American rocker Alice Cooper but for Walsall’s School Nursing Service its support is just as vital during the holidays.
A total of 35 staff of nurses, child support workers and team leaders cover the Walsall borough. Over the school holidays the team runs a series of activities and classes for both children and their parents, supporting with issues such as behaviour, emotions and anxiety.
At the moment the team is running separate five-week programmes for four to seven year-olds and seven to 12 year-olds called FRIENDS, which stands for Feelings, Remember to Relax, I can do it, I can try, Exploring solutions and coping step plans, Now reward yourself, Do not forget to practise and Smile – stay calm for life.
The course helps young people manage anxiety, to help them cope with different situations and change negative thoughts. The course takes place at Walsall’s Harden Health Centre.
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the classes were taken online and the service experimented with a parent joining the child. It proved so successful that the group is now run on a parent and child basis, with four groups of four parents and four children enrolled on the courses.
Over the weekly 90-minute sessions, children are essentially provided with a ‘toolbox’ of skills and strategies to build emotional resilience, which includes:
- Being taught about recognising emotions in themselves
- Being aware of themselves and what they are doing when they are anxious or stressed
- Learning about relaxation
- How to turn negative thoughts into positive ones
- Learning different coping strategies and triggers for anxiety.
Sam Masood is one of three Team Leaders for the School Nursing Service. Having worked for the trust for 11 years, she loves her job.
She said: “In our service, all the staff are very passionate about what they do. What’s really helpful is the involvement of the parents because they can continue to encourage their children to do the things they learn at home and the children can take these lessons on into adulthood and use them for the rest of their lives.
“The feedback from the children is excellent; they say they love having face-to-face contact, they enjoy the activities and they find them lots of fun. They say they can’t wait to come back for the next session! At the same time it’s giving parents the support so they can manage the children’s emotional needs.”
The courses are free and available to anyone attending school in the Walsall borough.
The service also provides parenting courses and self referrals for those struggling with parenting or issues around their children. Anyone can call 01922 423349 from Monday to Friday from 9am-5pm and they can chat to a nurse before being referred. People can also text anonymously to Chat Help on 08520 634909.
Young people aged 11-19 who require help can text 07480 635363 and they will receive an automatic text back with emergency numbers and information. As soon as a nurse is available, they will respond.
There is also a parent drop-in service at the various children’s play schemes through the summer holidays where parents can turn up and chat to nurses about any issues they might have and pick up a leaflet. If any issues need escalating, they can be referred to paediatric services.
“Early intervention is key; we want to make parents aware of the services available because there are potentially vulnerable families out there who we want to support,” added Sam.