Catch up on this positive session focused on practical things we can do to help ourselves and our visually impaired (VI) children feel calmer and happier.

More than 70 participants joined for this free, online panel event hosted jointly with VICTA. It was no surprise that this was one of our most popular Parent Support Group workshops. Please share this resource on ‘Mental Health & Anxiety’ with families living with VI.

The workshop panel

We were delighted to be joined by RSBC (Royal Society for Blind Children) who support children and young people with vision impairment and their parent carers through their Families First scheme. Family practitioners offer emotional support, practical advice, and advocacy and a member of the team will be sharing their knowledge and tips on the night. 

Nicola Vantoch-Wood is the Clinical Lead for the RSBC’s Families First service. She is a Counsellor by profession and has worked with children, young people and families for some years, assisting them in exploring family challenges, ways to strengthen relationships and navigating through transitions in life. Nicola says, “It has been a huge learning curve to work for RSBC and encounter how family life can be impacted when the child / young person has a VI. I have been filled with admiration for the families I have come across and the ingenious ways they have shown me, of managing life’s stressors.”

Click on the link below to access Nicola’s powerpoint presentation from the workshop:

Shelley Peddie is a trained counsellor who supports families in Devon and Cornwall through the parent support group she runs for Moorvision. She has two sons in primary school, the youngest is visually impaired. Shelly has first-hand knowledge of helping her child navigate in a sighted world and the anxiety that the whole family carries.

Click on the link below to access Shelley’s powerpoint presentation from the workshop:

We heard from three visually impaired young people. Grace, a VICTA Ambassador, and LOOK Mentors, Sarah and Emma, who each shared their experience of living with and coping with anxiety. 

We were also joined by Sydney May, a mindset coach, who is severely sight impaired and became interested in coaching because of her own experiences with anxiety and mental health struggles as a teenager. Syd says, “Life can be full of anxieties, worries and stress triggers, particularly when you’re helping a VI child navigate their way through a sighted world. I help the people I support understand that there is always more than one way of thinking about a situation, there is always a response which could serve you better, and there is always a solution if you’re in the right mindset to find it.” Syd works part-time LOOK as a Mentor Project Officer in the Sussex region.

Top tips for coping with anxiety

Tips for parents

  • Self care
  • Ask for help
  • Exercise  
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness 
  • Remember you are not alone

Recommended books

  • You’re a Star: a child’s guide to self-esteem by Poppy O’Neill (age 7-11 years)
  • Breathe In, Breathe Out: restore your health, reset your mind and find happiness through breathwork by Stuart Sandeman

Top tips From lived experience

  • Learning about why you are so anxious / having panic attacks is really helpful.
  • Find an object (practical or soothing) that will help you cope when you are going into a situation that causes you anxiety.
  • Expose yourself to the situation if you can, and have a positive mind set that you will beat it
  • Recognise that you need help and cannot tackle your anxiety on your own.
  • Don’t be ashamed to reach out to people you trust, go to your GP, talk to a professional who could help you.
  • Find someone who is understanding and supportive.
  • Try and accept your differences and accept who you are,
  • Find the things and people who make things better for you. Loud rock music, dancing – things that keep your mind calm.
  • Once you find things that work, use these strategies before the anxiety becomes too big.
  • Find an object that calms you and can fit in your pocket- a piece of jewellery, a smooth pebble, a photograph.
  • Dogs (Guide Dogs, Buddy Dogs, family dogs) give you friendship, joy and acceptance.
  • Remember things can change for the better, have hope for your future and know that this will pass.
  • Educate yourself on what anxiety is, it can help you and someone else.
  • Actions and words mean a lot from your support network.
  • Don’t ignore somebody’s mental health; you noticing could make a huge difference.
  • Self care – use your favourite shower gel, have a luxury hot bath.
  • Buy yourself treats that make you feel better.
  • Do things you love.
  • Take exercise and try something new.
  • Attend clubs and try to meet people that are going through the same thing as you.
  • Use meditation and breathing techniques. 
  • Try surfing – the water instantly calms you.

How to take care of yourself

  • Hobbies
  • Rest / restore
  • Food
  • Activity
  • Finding your tribe – professional, family and friends. 
  • Recover. If you are feeling anxious and overwhelmed, tackle one thing at a time. Or just take a break from it all.
  • Medication. This can be an important survival tool. There is a lot of stigma around being on medication but the right medication for you can really help.

Top Tips for Parent Carers

  • Allow your children to feel – active listening is key and repeating back to them what they tell you.
  • Validate their feelings.
  • Be present.
  • Model how your manage your feelings of anxiety, the tools you use  
  • For young people: look through websites for advice together.
  • LOOK after yourself as a parent carer – you can’t pour from an empty cup.
  • Build up a support network, find your tribe.
  • Prioritise your feelings as a parent.
  • Have time out for a cup of tea with a friend.

Things to remember: (‘the 54321 coping strategy’)

5 things you can see

4 things you can touch

3 things you can hear 

2 things you can smell

1 thing you can taste

Breathing exercises: breathe in for 5 seconds through the nose, hold for five seconds and breathe out for five.

Idea: create a personalised tool box with your child

Create a tool box with your child or young person of things that help them. This may include: talking, colouring. art, gaming. baking, walking, sports, fiddle toys, music, dancing, animals, writing.

Resources, contacts and further support

Click on the pdf below for contact details of the panel members, links to resources, and where you can find further support. You can download this by tapping the top right hand corner of the pdf.

Parent Support Group

Our free, fortnightly peer-led Parent Support Group is a safe place to meet others and talk about the issues our visually impaired children face and share solutions that others in the community have found. The group is organised by Jane Ring, Parent Support Officer at LOOK. Find out more in the link below.

www.look-uk.org/parentsupportgroup