Positive Parenting in a Pandemic: 6 tips

I am Dr. Sarah Rose, Senior Lecturer in Psychology and Child Development, and Course Leader for our BSc Undergraduate course in Psychology and Child Development. Also, I am mum to a 4- and 6-year-old, who knows that parenting is hard. Especially, in the time of a pandemic when usual routines and support networks are suddenly taken away.

Although this has been going on for several weeks now and it looks like restrictions are beginning to relax, possibly even with some children going back to school next month, this is not necessarily making the strain on families any easier.

So, I am going to give you six tips based on psychology evidence and theory.

They won’t necessarily make parenting any easier, but I hope they may give you something useful to think about – and maybe make you feel a little more confident about some of the decisions that you make as a parent.


Tip 1: Show connection

A large body of evidence suggests that feeling “securely attached”, connected and loved is important for children’s development and wellbeing.

For young children, physical touch is very important and can reduce stress. Furthermore, there is no evidence that being more affectionate with your children will make them clingy, in fact to the contrary it will help them feel safe and build their emotional resilience.

Older children may not want you to show them physical affection, but it is important to still find time to connect with them. Maybe making some time to exercise together, or sitting down to watch a film as family, may provide an opportunity for this.

Tip 2: Be a balanced parent

While it is important that we listen to and respond to our children’s needs it is also important that we place reasonable, age appropriate demands on them. Psychology evidence suggests that we should aim to be an “authoritative” parent who sets the boundaries and has clear expectations of our children while also being supportive and responsive to our children.


Tip 3: Manage anger (own, child and between children!)

It is completely normal for both us and our children to feel angry sometimes, especially during the stress of a pandemic. Remember that anger is often a symptom of stress and the demands of the environment we find ourselves in.

This means that you should not feel cross with yourself, or your child for showing signs of anger. Instead see it as a symptom, a sign that you, or your child, need to try and take some time to calm down and reduce your stress levels. Maybe now would be a good time to go outside and run around the garden (whatever your age) or lock yourself in the toilet (maybe just for adults this one!).


Tip 4: Develop routine

This pandemic is affecting everybody, but it is affecting people in different ways.

  • You might be at home trying to work or worrying about whether you will have a job to go back to after furlough while also feeling pressured to entertain your children and support their learning.
  • Or you might be a key worker, working extra hours, feeling stressed about the risks to yourself and your family as you drop your child off at school or nursery.

Whatever your circumstances, all our experiences, both as parents and as children, are likely to be very different to what they were. This can be very unsettling for everyone. However, routines can help to give us a sense of control and a sense of predictability within our lives. So, try and develop a routine that works for your family.

There may have to be adjustments and flexibility but knowing that there are certain times during the day when parents will focus on work, children will focus on school work, entertain themselves or everyone will focus on having fun, or maybe exercising together, can be very reassuring for everyone. This can also help with those feelings of parent guilt as you try and meet the demands of working and meeting your children’s needs.


Tip 5: Manage screen time

Something that you may be worrying about is the amount of time that your child is spending in front of a screen, especially as more and more providers are making educational resources available online for free.
Evidence suggests that screen time can be part of a balanced childhood, and indeed it may be very useful to make it part of your daily routine.

I have heard some lovely stories of extended family and friends interacting with children over screens, for example helping out with some schoolwork or reading a story, and evidence suggest that connecting with others in this way is very positive for children.

Furthermore, evidence suggests that although children learn best through interacting with others screen content can support their development. So do not feel guilty about using screen time within your daily routine. With children and young people spending more time online, many parents may be worried about their online safety. Through talking to your child, voicing your concerns and regularly checking in with them when they are online you can support them through promoting dialogue about online safety and what they should do if they feel unsure or threatened.


Tip 6: Build “emotional resilience

It is a fact of life that things are not always easy, we want to try and develop our children so that they have the inner strength to cope with this, I think my dad would have called this having a thick skin!

The suggestions that I have given already will help your child to develop this emotional resilience, or thick skin. Other things that are important are talking to your child, try and let them know what to expect:

  • Talk about times of change that they have experienced – explain that this will be a time of change.
  • Provide clear answers to questions, that are as truthful and as age appropriate as possible.
  • It is okay to tell them that you are worried too, or that you do not know when the virus will end or when they will be able to see Nana and Grandad again.
  • But also reassure them that you will look after them and help them feel safe and help them to keep perspective, for example by shifting beyond the current situation to a time when families will be able to be together again.

Of course, talking may not be easy, but try and open conversations and look for opportunities when your child may feel under less pressure, for example maybe while you are watching TV, taking some exercise together or engaging in a craft activity. Ask them their opinion about what is happening and listen to their answer.


Finally…

Parenting is hard and I certainly make lots of mistakes. But do not be hard on yourself, try and praise yourself and your children when things are going well. Notice and remember the good times as evidence suggests that praise and positive memories are much better for promoting good behaviour than punishment.

Here are some resources that you might find useful:


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Staffs Student Stories – Meet Mikki, BSc (Hons) Psychology and Criminology

About you

Mikki
Mikki, BSc (Hons) Psychology and Criminology student

My name is Mikki and I’m a full-time third year Psychology and Criminology student. At first, I only wanted to go to University for the experience and I had no solid career path in mind but knew that I wanted to go down the route of something to do with Criminology! Looking back, my time at Staffordshire University has been some of the best years of my life and I’ve met the most amazing people on my journey – I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for me!

Why did you apply and how did you get a place on the course?

I applied to study Psychology and Criminology at Staffordshire University because I’ve always had an interest in Criminology and had some previous knowledge of Psychology so I liked the idea of combining the two! Staffordshire University not being too far from home was also a bonus as I was super nervous about moving away. I applied for the course via UCAS and was offered an unconditional place a couple of weeks later.

What has been the best part of the course?

For me, the best part of the course has been getting to choose my option modules. There were a variety of modules available for us to choose from and it helped me tailor my experience on the course to be specific to the topics that I was interested in, which then allowed me to gain a wider knowledge on some of my biggest interests.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome and how have you overcome them, while studying with us

Helpful and understanding staff

One of the biggest challenges I’ve had to overcome whilst studying at Staffordshire University was coming to terms with the workload and how to manage my time effectively. Coming to University straight from college was a big jump for me and I didn’t realise just how different the workload was and just how much would be expected of me. It took me a couple of weeks to adjust, but all of the staff were so helpful and understanding which made things a lot easier and much less daunting for me.

What are your next steps and plans for the future?

After studying Psychology and Criminology for the last 3 years, I’ve actually had a huge turning point in my mindset for the future and have decided to progress onto a Masters in Education. Despite my change of career path, the past 3 years studying Psychology and Criminology have prepared me for my plans for the future and has given me confidence that I wasn’t even aware I had.

Would you recommend our course to others?

I would 100% recommend this course to anyone interested in Psychology and Criminology! My 3 years studying at Staffordshire University have been 3 of the best years of my life – I’ve made some of the most amazing friends, met some of the most caring staff in the Psychology department and it has also increased my confidence and knowledge in a field that has held my interest for years. I can’t recommend this course enough!


Interested in studing with us? Find out more about our courses:

The Science Centre

Student blog: Raising awareness of autism in children

It is World Autism Awareness Week 2020 and today, 2nd April 2020 is World Autism Awarenss Day. We asked our level four BSc Psychology and Child Development student, Claire, a mother of children with autism, to write a blog on her experiences of children with autism.

What is autism?

The National Autistic Society defines autism as a “lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them”.

A little about my children:

I have two beautiful little boys and two older children.

  • One of my little boys is diagnosed with high functioning autism spectrum condition.
  • My other little boy is currently undergoing assessment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyspraxia.

Our journey for an autism diagnosis:

At the age of 9 my son was diagnosed with high functioning autism. The journey to get the diagnosis was challenging. From the age of 4 my son:

  • Had temper tantrums that would last for hours after school
  • Became restless and was struggling with the children at school

Each parent’s evening, I would have the same feedback that my son was “academically really intelligent, but he lacks concentration and fidgets too much!”.

Until one teacher at a parent’s evening said, “I believe you, I can see traits of autism, but they are very subtle”. Due to this teacher acknowledging these traits in my son and adapting his learning environment he:

  • Had fewer major tantrums after school
  • Seemed happy again and was sharing stories about his day

My son is now 12 and has moved from primary school to secondary school. During the transition we are trying to raise awareness of autism and support him, and other children, to achieve their potential.

Why I chose to study Psychology and Child Development:

Based on the journey that I have been on with my boys I decided that I wanted to be able to help other children, caregivers, families and schools during the diagnosis and support of autism conditions.

I am completing my course as a mature student and I am really looking forward to graduating with this degree to put what I am learning into action!

You can read more about autism on the National Autistic Society’s webpage.


Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

What do children know about online safety?

Our Peter Macaulay writes about his recent publication on children’s online safety knowledge and attitudes towards e-safety education.

What did our research involve?

We asked 329 children aged 8 to 11 years old to complete questionnaires which had questions on:

  1. Perceived online safety;
  2. Subjective knowledge of online safety and dangers;
  3. Objective knowledge of online safety and dangers;
  4. Attitudes towards e-safety education.

What were our main findings?

  • We found that the children generally reported feeling safe online.
  • The children perceived that they had a good awareness of online dangers and how to avoid them (subjective knowledge).
    • This subjective knowledge predicted the child’s perceived online safety.
  • However, the children tended to be poorer at saying exactly what those dangers were and how they personally could avoid them (objective knowledge).
    • This was especially true of boys and the younger children who took part in our research.

Together, these findings suggest that some children may think that they know how to stay safe online, but lack, or atleast may be unable to say, objective knowledge that could actually keep them safe.

Child typing at a PC to an unknown user.

How could people build on our research?

  1. Our findings show that there is a need to assess children’s objective knowledge of online safety and dangers.
  2. Having further insights into this knowledge will help to design and provide appropriate e-safety education for children who currently lack this knowledge.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Psychology and Me: An interactive evening of psychology!

The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University is delighted to invite you to Psychology and Me!

Psychology and Me is a fun and interactive evening where you will be given the opportunity to get hands-on with some of our state-of-the-art research resources. You will also be able to hear about the latest research findings from a variety of experts working in psychology.

Psychology and Me will take place at Staffordshire University’s Science Centre, Leek Road, Stoke-on-Trent, on Wednesday 26th February 5:45pm – 8:30 pm.

Everyone is welcome, please make sure that you book your ticket(s)! These include free onsite parking and refreshments.

This year’s Psychology and Me event includes these fantastic activities:

Psychology and Me: Listen!

A series of short expert talks will explore some fascinating questions, such as:

  1. How do we prevent dog bites in young children?
  2. How does psychology relate to physical health?
  3. How and why do we measure brain activity?

Psychology and Me: Hands on!

Engage in some fun equipment-based demonstrations to understand how we conduct research in psychology, such as:

  • How we can tell if you are stressed
  • How we can measure your brain activity with EEG
  • How we can test your reaction skills with our driving simulator

Psychology and Me: A chance to win!

Would you like the chance to win some Amazon vouchers? Take part in some of our hands-on activities and you could be in the running! Entry information and winners to be announced at the event.


How does psychology apply to you and your life? Come along and find out!

Reserve your free ticket(s) for Psychology and Me or contact psychologyevents@staffs.ac.uk for more information.

We look forward to seeing you there!


Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Student Blog: Undertaking my BPS Undergraduate Research Assistantship

By Megan Lomas, BSc (Hons) Psychology & Child Development student

The BPS Undergraduate Assistantship Award marks out a student as a future researcher and potential academic. It allows students to work alongside a senior researcher to develop skills in research development as well as research measures. With the support and supervision of Dr. Sarah Rose, I decided to apply for this Award to carry out research into the potential of mindfulness colouring for reducing exam anxiety among A-Level pupils.

Although I was nervous when applying for the Assistantship, the application process was also exciting as I could focus on a topic that was of great interest to me. My interest in reducing anxiety felt by A-level pupils preparing for their exams came in part from my own experience. A-level exams are one of the most crucial points in education; pressure to do well is increased as the next stages is to move on to study at University, apply for a job or for an apprenticeship, all of which require good grades. The colouring aspect of this research came from the expertise of Dr Sarah Rose. Sarah’s expertise gave me the confidence to want to assess mindfulness-based colouring as a means of reducing the anxiety induced by exams.

As I prepared the application form, I enjoyed carrying out in depth reading about exam anxiety and mindfulness-based colouring interventions. It was also a great opportunity to put my knowledge of research design that I had already developed during the first 18 months of my degree in Psychology and Child Development into practice. I not only to think of what research I wanted to conduct but, also how I would go about measuring and collecting the data from participants. In particular, the experience that I had gained during the Research Assistantship Module, which had allowed me to develop skill in data collection, helped me to plan what I would need to do.

When choosing the materials for the study I wanted to take measures as accurately as possible, so I decided to combine self-report measures and physiological measures. This led me to use a BioPac, this was a great opportunity to learn about a new piece of equipment under the guidance of Paul Gallimore, one of the Psychology Technicians. Under the guidance of Dr. Sarah Rose, I selected questionnaires to assess state anxiety and mindfulness. The conditions were constructed based on past research and past interventions including mindfulness colouring. This led me to use mandala colouring, both with and without the addition of mindfulness instructions, and a control condition in which participants spent time doing a free drawing.

Originally we had planned to try and collect data from 90 A-level pupils but due to various delays this was not possible as the exam period was almost over when we began data collection. So, although I collected a small amount of pilot data which gave me valuable experience in working with colleges, I plan to collect data again next summer.   

To make the most of the Research Assistantship we decided to write up our plan for the research as a preregistered report. This means that we have submitted the introduction and method sections to a journal and are now awaiting their feedback. Writing this was interesting as it differed more than I expected to the write up of a laboratory report. It requires a lot more references to past research as well as a description of how we intended to analyse the data.

We have also submitted a poster for the BPS Annual conference next year. I found this more interesting and fun to create as I was able to think about how to make the deign engaging. The poster required an outline of why the research was being conducted, what we expected to find, how we were going to collect and analyse the data. Both the preregistered report and the poster have helped me to learn how to write more concisely and to report research in an accurate and detailed manor. The Research Assistantship has given me an insight into what being a researcher is like and helped me to develop skills that will be useful for my third-year project and my future research career.


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Screen time and effects on children’s wellbeing: Dr Sarah Rose discusses on BBC Radio 5 Live

Dr Sarah Rose (Senior Lecturer in Psychology & Child Development, Award Leader – BSc (Hons) Psychology & Child Development) was featured on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Stephen Nolan show discussing recent research suggesting that screen time may not be as harmful for children’s health and wellbeing as commonly assumed. Dr Rose was featured discussing these findings and recommendations for screen time use for children.

You can listen to Dr Rose’s contributions to the debate via the BBC Sounds website and app:

BBC Sounds – BBC Radio 5 Live: Steven Nolan show with Adrian Goldberg (from 1 hour, 7 mins)


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

“Children often misread fear in dogs” – Dr Sarah Rose writes for The Conversation

Dr Sarah Rose (Senior Lecturer in Psychology & Course Leader for the BSc Psychology & Child Development course at Staffordshire University) has recently written a piece for The Conversation UK based on her recent research investigating how young children perceive dogs’ behaviour and their intentions to approach happy, frightened and/or angry dogs.

It is well known that young children are at high risk of being bitten by a dog but there was a lack of research into how well young children recognised dogs’ emotional states and how this relates to their intentions to approach a dog.

Dr Rose conducted a study with one of our Psychology graduates to investigate this issue – you can read more about Dr Rose’s study via The Conversation (click on the below link for details):

The Conversation: Children often misread fear in dogs – making a bite more likely


The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research is home to research activity in the Psychology Department at Staffordshire University. The Centre is home to a number of research-active psychologists who are engaged in research across a wide range of psychological subdisciplines.

For more details about the Centre, its research activities, events and consultancy, please visit our website (click here).

Dr Sarah Rose writes for The Conversation on young children’s screen time recommendations

Dr Sarah Rose (Senior Lecturer in Psychology & Course Leader for the BSc Psychology & Child Development course at Staffordshire University) has recently written a piece for The Conversation UK commenting on the recently published WHO recommendations to reduce screen time in children under 5 to increase their physical activity.

These guidelines recommend no screen time for children under two, and less than an hour a day for children aged 2 to 5 years. However, screen time is a significant part of most young children’s lives. Many children under two are spending over two hours a day passively viewing screens and, according to a UK report, this is even higher in the preschool years.

So for many parents sever restrictions on their child’s screen time would have to be imposed in order to meet the new WHO guidelines. But is this really necessary?

Read Dr Rose’s piece for The Conversation to find out more:

The Conversation: Screen time for children: the WHO’s extreme new approach may do little to curb obesity


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Dr Sarah Rose comments on the Momo Challenge hoax for The Sentinel

Dr Sarah Rose (Senior Lecturer in Psychology & Child Development, Award Leader – BSc (Hons) Psychology & Child Development) was featured in The Sentinel commenting on the Momo Challenge hoax. Dr Rose, who has conducted research into the effects of viewing TV on children’s creative play, comments on the possible effects of viewing the Momo hoax on both children and their parents, and the implications for children’s online behaviours.

You can read the reports of the Momo hoax, including Dr Rose’s comments, via The Sentinel website:

The Sentinel: Stoke-on-Trent schools warn parents about ‘sick’ Momo challenge – but is it all a hoax?


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.