Cost of living crisis – how has it impacted on unpaid carers of people living with dementia?

A small team from Staffordshire University, including Lisa Kyte (a current level 5 BSc Psychology and Child Development student at Staffordshire University) and Dr Dan Herron (Lecturer in Psychology at Staffordshire University) are carrying out some research exploring how the cost-of-living crisis is experienced by unpaid carers of people living with dementia.

Dr Dan Herron and BSc Psychology and Child Development student Lisa Kyte

Research has shown the potential financial challenges associated with being a carer (Gott et al., 2015) and specifically being an unpaid carer of a person living with dementia (Bayley et al., 2021). Being a carer has additional costs that can significantly impact their financial situation. Carers are likely to have been further negatively impacted by the recent cost-of-living crisis (Carers UK, 2022).

Since late 2021, the UK has been experiencing a cost-of-living crisis which has been driven by sharp increases in energy prices and the prices of everyday basics such as food. Carers UK (2022), early in the crisis, carried out a survey and the results illustrated the negative impact of increased prices on carers, with carers having to make tough decisions between food or heating. No research (to the our knowledge) has explored the views and experiences of unpaid carers of people living with dementia during the cost-of-living crisis.

Our study involves taking part in an interview (informal chat) about unpaid carers’ experiences during the cost-of-living crisis this can be in person (depending on location) or by telephone or online chat. If you are 18 years or over, and care and live with a person living with dementia, and are interested in taking part, please read the Cost of living Information Sheet. Please do share this information with anyone you think will be interested.

If you want to take part in this research, discuss it further or have any questions, please do get in touch with Dan (daniel.herron1@staffs.ac.uk or 01782 295866)


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.

Susan Fleming featured on BBC Radio Derby discussing “Blue” or “Brew” Monday.

Susan Fleming, Course Director for Counselling and CBT at Staffordshire University was featured on BBC Radio Derby discussing Blue Monday with Ian Skye’s radio show on 17th January 2022.

During the interview Susan shared some background to Blue Monday, the need for us all to check in with ourselves and with each other to determine whether we need access to support services. She shared insights into cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and how to become a trained CBT therapist. Incase you missed the radio show Susan has summarised the interview to share as part of this years’ university mental health day.


Background

Blue Monday is a term coined in the early 2000s to name the 3rd Monday in January. The name suggests it’s a low mood Monday however the scientific evidence behind it is open to critique. A number of factors including number of daylight hours, financial status after seasonal spending and how many days there are before the next public holiday are allegedly part of the equation. There is a question mark over whether it was linked to a travel firm’s publicity campaign for the new year.

With over 2 years of uncertainty and loss in this global covid-19 pandemic, it may be that the term Blue Monday has run its course. Haven’t there been more difficult days that we have collectively endured than just one Monday in January?


The Samaritans say ‘biscuits’ to the term Blue Monday. They have campaigned to change the term to Brew Monday instead. Let’s turn this into a day to focus on talking to each other and reaching out, maybe over a cuppa and plan more of these days into our calendars every week, not just the 3rd week in January.


It is helpful to talk about mood throughout the year and the opportunity to talk about mental health, mood and how we are feeling can really help people. Therefore, whatever your stance on this nominated day, it provides the opportunity to discuss feelings and mental health.


Checking in with ourselves

Blue Monday provides us all with the opportunity to check in with ourselves, assess how we are coping and to identify the impact that our mood is having on our lives. This is a continual process that we should engage with regularly throughout the year. Checking in with ourselves can help us to assess whether we can cope on our own, or whether we need to seek help.


You can do this for yourself. Consider your mood on a scale from 0 meaning worst mood to 10 meaning best mood and think about where you are. Over time review your ratings and how they change day-to-day, week-to-week and month-to-month.


This process of checking in allows us to consider what has had an impact on how we are feeling. This helps us to identify whether we are able to manage on our own, or whether we would benefit from professional help by working with a professional to help us manage.

Susan recommends to not hesitate in reaching out for help as soon as you identify changes towards mental ill health and that this is really important so that things do not continue in the same pattern. Therefore, it is really important to reach out as early as possible to gain access to the support that you may need.


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

From a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) perspective, we can use this calendar day as an opportunity to consider feelings and how our thoughts and what we are doing might be leading to vicious cycles of increasingly negative experience.

CBT is a theory that looks at how we think and our behaviour and how this impacts on our mood. It is used with success in the treatment for depression, anxiety and other mental ill health conditions.

CBT is based on how a thought can impact on how we feel and then has an impact on what we do and vice versa. This can become a vicious cycle as these negative thoughts, behaviours and feelings can continually impact each other which can lead to feelings of being unable to manage.

CBT focuses on breaking the cycle to help to improve how we feel and think. These changes can be made with therapeutic support and is one way in which you can start to move out of the vicious cycle.


Need access to support?

Please do reach out to your GP and they can refer you to support services. There are also mental health charities and organisations who work throughout the UK who can offer mental health support including the Samaritans:

Call any time, day or night for free: 116 123. Chat online: https://www.samaritans.org/

Online services, such as www.getselfhelp.co.uk and apps can offer you the opportunity to engage in some of the aspects of CBT theory and track your mood so that you can keep checking in with yourself and see how your thoughts, feelings and behaviours change over time.

https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/free-downloads-cbt-information-leaflets-self-help-guides/

Our University has a range of support, creating an inclusive community for talking about our mental health together.


Help others – CBT training

There has never been a better time to train in therapy, including CBT, to support mental health services which can struggle to meet the demands. This is especially critical given the unknown impact the covid pandemic has had on mental ill health. After being trained you may help in 1-1 or group therapy for a charity or organisation, or for self-help online or phone support services. Due to the shortages, there is a growing need for people to join and contribute to supporting people with their mental ill health.

There has never been a better time to train on our therapy courses with good prospects for future skills demand and an opportunity to contribute to more than 15,000 hours of therapy that we offer to the community through our courses.

Find your counselling-related course:


Critically, ‘blue’ or ‘brew’ Monday offers us all the opportunity to keep the conversation open regarding mental health. So please do take the time to check in with yourself, your family, your friends, your co-workers, everyone who you know so that we can all support each other. Perhaps this day can act as a reminder for us all to make contact with support services that we have been meaning to for some time.


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.

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.

Professor Richard Cooke joins the Psychology Department at Staffordshire University!

The Psychology Academic team are pleased to welcome Professor Richard Cooke who joined the University as a Professor of Health Psychology in January 2022. Richard introduces himself below:

Professor Richard Cooke

I am delighted to have joined the amazing Staffordshire University as their new Professor of Health Psychology, director of the Centre for Psychological Research (SCPR), and co-director of the Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. I am a full member of the Division of Health Psychology and registered as Health Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council. I am also a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a Registered Applied Psychology Practice Supervisor. I am the current chair of the Division of Health Psychology’s Conference Scientific Committee. I previously acted as Chair of the Local Organising Committee for the 2018 UK Society for Behavioural Medicine annual scientific meeting hosted at Edgbaston Cricket ground.

My primary research interest focuses on people’s motivation to perform health behaviours, investigating questions such as “Why do people drink excessively?” and “Why don’t people eat healthily and engage in physical activity?”. I’m also interested in health guidelines and why people don’t follow them!, as well as working with colleagues from the Global Drug Survey team, based in Australia, the UK, and the US, on global comparisons of substance use.

My secondary research interest is working with health professionals to design, develop and evaluate health behaviour change interventions. My interest in this area began when I led a qualitative evaluation of the NHS Health Checks programme in Birmingham. Since completing that project I’ve worked with Optometrists at Aston University, and Nutritionists at the University of Manchester, to promote dietary behaviour change in patient populations. I am currently working on a NIHR-funded grant with dentists at the University of Liverpool to test the impact of a health behaviour change intervention to promote routine dental attendance.

Many moons ago, I completed my undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of Sheffield, before completing my Masters degree in Research Methods in Psychology at the University of Reading. I then returned to Sheffield to complete my PhD on moderation of cognition-behaviour relations using properties of cognition in 2002. Next, I worked at the University of Leeds on the UNIQoLL project – an attempt to map out the mental health of ALL students at the University. I then moved to Sheffield Hallam University in 2003 to take on a post as a Lecturer in Health Psychology. One year later, I moved to Aston University as a Lecturer in Health Psychology, gaining promotion to Senior Lecturer in 2012. I was part of the team that established the MSc Health Psychology programme in 2005 and the MSc Health Psychology (online) programme a decade later. I delivered Quantitative Methods and Advanced Statistics and Health Behaviours modules for 13 years as well as teaching methods and statistics, social psychology, and an optional module on the psychology of alcohol at undergraduate level. Prior to coming to Staffs, I spent four years as a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Liverpool, teaching a postgraduate module in advanced research methods as part of their MSc Research Methods in Psychology.

Currently, I have several ongoing projects, including supervising a PhD student to explore the link between the fear of missing out (FoMO) and alcohol consumption, secondary analyses of big data sets with collaborators at UEA and in Bremen, and secondary analyses of longitudinal data with colleagues in Norway. I continue to write up results of the CALIBRATE study, a funded study seeking to compare prediction of alcohol consumption between university students based in six different European countries. If you are interested in hearing more about these projects feel free to email me via richard.cooke@staffs.ac.uk or you can follow me on Twitter @Prof_R_Cooke.

My first few weeks at Staffordshire have been great – everyone is really friendly, and it’s been a pleasure to meet people and discuss ideas.


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.

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 Gary Lee joins the Psychology Department at Staffordshire University as a Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology!

The Psychology academic team are pleased to welcome Dr Gary Lee who joined the University as a Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology in 2021. Gary introduces himself below:

Dr Gary Lee, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology

I am thrilled to be joining the Psychology Department and the course team for the Professional Doctorate in Clinical Psychology here at Staffordshire University.

I do arrive with a confession, however. You see, I fell out with psychology quite early on in my undergraduate studies and did not really picture myself in the field at all for a long time. Perhaps I was searching for something that wasn’t to be found then, as it all seemed very disconnected with life as I knew it. So, I have tried my hand as a writer, doing pieces for magazines (which didn’t go well), writing short-stories (which went less well) and then writing a novel (hmmm….). Then, of course, needed to focus where my skills really lay.

On this journey, I always had in my mind the fabulous people I encountered: their hopes, dreams and painful experiences through the general chaos of life. So, I eventually got curious again about how our minds worked and how we can help, or be helped when in distress. I started my journey in reconnecting with psychology, eventually completing my PhD at the University of Manchester in 2010, where I studied positive family influences in peoples’ recovery from recent-onset psychosis. This cemented a commitment towards clinical training at the University of Leeds.

Since then, I have been working as a clinical psychologist, mainly with children and young people. I have always been amazed by their resilience in the face of society’s problems, but also recognised the high price they pay in their mental health. I’ve worked with staff that go above-and-beyond in the NHS and experienced our health service as an ever-shifting landscape, with many opportunities and challenges for the profession of clinical psychology. For this reason, I am delighted to have the opportunity to put my energies into growing and preparing the next generation of clinical psychologists to thrive.

I am passionate about working with experts by experience, in the co-production and delivery of mental health interventions in the community for young people. I also have research interests in positive psychology, as well as cognitive processes in psychosis. Outside of work, I try to practice what I preach, so I love taking mindful walks in the countryside, trying out new things, and doing what I can as the psychologist in my neighbourhood.

Since arriving, I have felt really welcomed and look forward to meeting new staff, students, collaborating on exciting projects and seeing (more) people again as we move through COVID.


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.

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.

James Vernon joins the Psychology Department at Staffordshire University!

By James Vernon, Lecturer in Psychology and Counselling, Staffordshire University

A photo of James sat a a desk working.
James Vernon

Well, what can I say other than I am over the moon, elated and struggling to find the superlatives to convey how I feel in joining the Psychology and Counselling department at Staffordshire University. I have received such a warm and friendly welcome from everybody within the department and cannot wait to begin working within the team. I have been asked to provide a bit of background about me so here goes (If you fall asleep, I understand).

After many years of working in unfulfilling roles, I decided to return to University in 2015 as a mature student at the tender age of 35 to complete my undergraduate degree in Psychology & Counselling here at Staffordshire University. Returning to the world of academia after 15 years away felt daunting but the warm welcome and unwavering support I received from the staff within the department was incredible and I was soon made to feel at home. The course content, the opportunities and the support I received whilst at Staffs inspired me to achieve my goal to which I graduate in 2018.

Yet, my Staffordshire University student journey didn’t stop there. In the autumn of 2018, I enrolled on the three-year Masters degree in Psychotherapeutic Counselling. As well as furthering my knowledge in theoretical concepts and ethical considerations relating to the field of counselling, engagement in the course provided me with the opportunity to hone my skills and develop my identity as a therapist whilst on placement. After completion of my professional training and finally obtaining my qualified counsellor status, I moved to focus my on MSc research project into the impact of COVID-19 on bereavement counselling and in particular both the impact of isolation on being in a grief like state and adjusted ways of working professionally. 

With the unprecedented and ever evolving world we find ourselves in I feel that this is exciting and fertile time for the world of Psychology and in particular the profession of Counselling. COVID-19 has provided us the ideal time to assess and evaluate what we think we know and consider how we provide support for our clients. My research interests rest here in developing new ways of working by combining traditional methods of counselling with digital technology, telephone delivery and eco therapy and also assessing the impact of COVID-19 from both a psychological, societal and ethical level.

A headshot of Chloe the Goldendoodle puppy wearing sunglasses.

Previously I have managed several mental health services across Staffordshire and South Cheshire and also have developed my own private counselling practice. Away from the world of Psychology & Counselling I am a keen sportsman and can be often found on the golf course, walking my Goldendoodle pup Chloe or cycling exploring the amazing networks across the city.

I am honestly overjoyed to be at Staffordshire University and working as part of an amazing team. I am really looking forward to meeting the students and hopefully offering the same inspiration that was afforded to me. Please stop me if you see me across campus and say “Hi” or even better you can let me bore you even more with photos of my dog by following me on twitter @JamesVernon9318.


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.

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 Megan Birney joins the Psychology Department at Staffordshire University!

The Psychology Academic team are pleased to welcome Dr Megan Birney who joined the University as a Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology and Individual Differences in June 2021. Megan introduces herself below:

I am so excited to be joining the vibrant and friendly Psychology Department at Staffordshire University as a Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology and Individual Differences.

I am a social psychologist at heart! My research centres around identity processes, intergroup contact, communication, social stigma, obedience, and social exclusion; I love teaching about how these theories can be applied to real-world problems in society and passing some of my passion for these topics on to my students.

I completed my undergraduate degree in Psychology and Interdisciplinary Studies (specialising in International Studies and Business Leadership) from Virginia Tech (USA). I went on to receive an MSc (with distinction) in Social and Organisational Psychology in 2010 and a PhD in Psychology in 2015, both from the University of Exeter. My research during this time focused on understanding how perceptions of non-native accents influence the relationship between immigrants and host country natives. After my PhD, I worked as a Research Fellow at the University of St. Andrews investigating the role that identity processes play within variants of the Milgram paradigm. I am still involved in these projects today.

Prior to coming to Staffordshire, I spent 6 years at the University of Chester helping develop the psychology provision at undergraduate and postgraduate level at their campus in Shrewsbury. I both taught and led modules there in areas related to Social Psychology, Organisational Psychology, and Quantitative Research Methods, and in 2016, I became a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Throughout this time, I remained an active researcher. Some highlights include co-editing a special issue in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology and starting as an Associate Editor at the open-access journal, Psychology of Language and Communication.

Currently, I have several ongoing projects with various collaborators and with the community organisation Climbing Out. I’m always keen to get students involved in these projects where I can so if you’re interested do get in touch via email (megan.birney@staffs.ac.uk) or my Twitter account: @meganebirney

My first couple of weeks at Staffordshire have been really exciting; I’ve loved meeting the colleagues I’ll be working with and am looking forward to getting ‘stuck in’ to the modules I’ll be teaching on. Staffordshire University has such an excellent balance between producing innovative research and their value on high-quality teaching. I am truly honoured to be a part of it all!


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 Amy Burton contributes to an edited collection of chapters on physical activity and visual impairment

Dr Amy Burton

Dr Amy Burton has contributed to an edited collection of chapters on physical activity and visual impairment. The book, entitled Movement and Visual Impairment: Research across Disciplines has been edited by Dr Justin Haegele and is an in-depth review of research spanning a range of disciplines including biomechanics, physical education and Paralympic sport.

Dr Burton’s chapter reviews the research evidence regarding physical activity interventions for older adults with vision impairment. The chapter includes an over view of her own work highlighting how engaging in physical activity in later-life can be particularly challenging for those with vision loss (Burton et al, 2016) with a number of psychological, social and societal factors contributing to low levels of engagement (Burton et al, 2018).

Visually impaired person walking

The chapter provides a detailed overview and critique of interventions designed to promote physical activity for older adults with sight loss. The majority of these have been dedicated to reducing falls risk and have shown limited success. In the chapter Dr Burton highlights how a focus on functional limitations in research has been at the expense of acknowledging other psychological, cultural, and societal barriers to engagement. The chapter ends with a call for researchers to further engage with the social motivators for exercise in older adults with sight loss and to pay greater attention to the potential for the psychological, in addition to physical, benefits of being more active.

To learn more or purchase a copy of this book visit: https://www.routledge.com/Movement-and-Visual-Impairment-Research-across-Disciplines/Haegele/p/book/9780367434397


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University has a history of excellence in teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research has active team of Health Psychologists who conduct research and provide consultancy in a range of health-related issues.

Keep updated with the latest Health Psychology news from Staffordshire University via following us on @StaffsPsych @HealthPsyStaffs and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

For further information about Health Psychology courses and research at Staffordshire University please visit the following webpages:

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.

How do teachers perceive and respond to cyberbullying in the school environment?

Our Peter Macaulay writes about his recent publication on cyberbullying, looking at teachers’ perceptions of its severity and publicity, and how these influence their intervention behaviour in the school environment.

Why is this important?

Bullying in the school environment is a challenge that teachers have been expected to address within their role. There are growing fears about the rise of cyberbullying and its impact on children. My article in The Conversation suggests that children need help dealing with it and teachers have a role in addressing the issue.

The aim of this study is to explore teachers’ perceptions towards cyberbullying, specifically addressing the roles of publicity and severity. This is the first known study to address teachers’ perceptions in this area.

What did our research involve?

We recruited teachers from 10 schools in England, across primary (5 focus groups, 31 teachers), secondary (2 focus groups, 11 teachers), and college (3 focus groups, 21 teachers) educational levels. A total of 63 teachers (10 males) participated across the 10 focus groups.

The focus groups explored teachers’ perceptions and responses towards cyberbullying, particularly around the roles of publicity and severity in cyberbullying. Prompt questions included: ‘Would you respond differently depending on how severe the cyberbullying act was, and why would you respond that way?’ and ‘What circumstances would you be more likely to intervene in an act of cyberbullying?’. 


What were our main findings?

Three themes were identified from the reflexive thematic analysis: (a) role of severity, (b) differential roles of publicity, and (c) bystander intentions.

Theme 1: Role of Severity

We found teachers perceived visual acts of cyberbullying as more severe, although the content of the act was more important in determining perceived severity.

“I think if it’s relentless as well. If it’s happened over and over again, then that would be treated more seriously than if somebody had said one comment, it’s still bad, but if its, more relentless then its more severe” (P7, focus group 4)

Differences in reported management strategies according to the type of cyberbullying was also suggested by primary school teachers.

“There’s a difference, text-messaging, in which we would meet and do a cyberbullying session and have a chat. But then that’s different to a photo being sent over which is sexually explicit and actually needs a criminal investigation as well” (P6, focus group 5)

3 people looking and smiling at content on a phone from pexels

Theme 2: Differential Roles of Publicity

We found that teachers tailored their response strategies across levels of publicity, using discussion-based solutions for private incidents compared to whole school strategies (e.g., assemblies) for cyberbullying incidents of wider publicity.

“[Public] has the potential to literally go viral and to go global, but a WhatsApp message between six friends, its semi-public. But, but more containable. Somebody would have to step outside of that and share it elsewhere, to become more public” (P5, focus group 2)

Although some primary teachers respond immediately to public acts of cyberbullying due to the wider audience and potential impact for the victim, other teachers suggested cyberbullying perpetrated privately is just as important to address.

“Yeah, I was just thinking like it might be a bit more, deep-seated if it’s just between the two people and you might need to unpick it a bit more than something as obvious as like a group and everybody’s just joined in, jumped on the bandwagon” (P2, focus group 4)

Theme 3: Bystander Intentions

We found that while most teachers recognised the propensity for negative or positive bystander intentions when victims are targeted in the public domain, primary teachers suggested the challenge to support victims targeted privately.

“Although, if its private it’s just between them, those two individuals, then nobody else knows about it. If its public, yes, you’ve got lots of negative from other people but there’s also the option to have support from other people as well. Whereas if it’s just you and them, nobody else might know about it, nobody’s there to help you” (P3, focus group 5)


What do the findings mean for implications?

  1. Our findings suggest those in the educational community responsible for addressing cyberbullying should take a more cautious approach when interpreting cyberbullying.
  2. They also suggest that schools need to ensure all teachers respond to cyberbullying immediately, through appropriate reporting mechanisms. Teachers should also review the contextual information when managing different types of cyberbullying behaviours.
  3. Our findings suggest a need for strategies to mobilise bystander support in the online environment.

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.

Experiences of lockdown during Covid-19: Recruiting for an online research study

Dr Jade Elliott and Dr Amy Burton would like to invite you to participate in a research project that is being conducted in the department of Psychology at Staffordshire Univeristy.

As a thank you, participants who complete the study will be entered into a prize draw to win one of 2 x £50 Amazon gift vouchers.

The research team are interested in the experiences of individuals (aged 18 years or over) during the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions that have been imposed across the UK.

The research will involve providing some information about yourself, answering a questionnaire online about your wellbeing and coping, before taking photographs (using a phone or digital camera) over one week that represent your experiences of life during the Covid-19 pandemic.

You will be asked to choose and send 4-7 of these photographs to the research team and complete a further questionnaire about your wellbeing.

A selection of participants will subsequently be invited to have an interview with a member of the research team to talk about your photographs and develop an understanding of your experiences.

To get further information and take part in this study please click: covid19 photo study. If you have any questions about the research, please contact the research team at covid19photostudy@staffs.ac.uk

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.

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.