In our Redhill Family centre, playworker Hina has embraced the lifting of restrictions by implementing a Covid-safe group for new mothers who have been feeling isolated through lockdown.
Hina’s current ‘Mummy & Me’ group has 6 attendees, all with babies born during 2020 or early 2021. “The mummies who are coming are all high need,” says Hina. “They have been isolated and stressed with new babies and very little support – the past year has taken a toll on their mental health.”
The babies in this group have had little interaction or experience with adults or children outside of their own households. “Some are 6 months, 8 months, and haven’t seen people other than family members. Everything is alien to them.” Even with babies as young as 6-7 weeks old, the community and sense of routine can be invaluable for new mothers.
The feedback we have received just part-way into the course of group sessions has been extremely positive, with mums grateful for the opportunity to come out, interact, and meet others in the same situation. “The mums have made a Whatsapp group,” says Hina. “They want to meet outside of the group sessions, go to the park together, which is wonderful.” There has also been visible progress with the babies – “at the beginning they were shy, scared of strangers… now they are looking at each other, smiling. In the third week they recognised each other!”
After a year of lockdowns and restrictions, Redhill centre staff are pleased to welcome mums and babies back over the threshold. By spreading out the mats over our generous playroom, Hina manages to maintain social distancing between group members. “With ‘Mummy & Me’, it’s not too challenging – the babies are young enough that they stay on the mat throughout the session.” With other groups, such as ‘Happy Mum, Happy Tots’, where children are between 1-3 years old and more mobile, the garden is opened up so that everyone has more space to move around freely.
After a year of being cut off, we all know how easy it can be to become overwhelmed with social situations. “What’s nice is that you can tell the mums are comfortable here,” says Hina. As Welcare offers a contained environment, with limited numbers and structured play, these groups can be extremely helpful to those suffering from anxiety around being out and about. “We have a contained and judgement-free space. Mums can meet others who have experienced the same difficulties as them, and children – particularly those who might not be neurotypical* – can socialise safely.”
Group work in our Redhill Family centre allows children to experience play in a structured way. With creative activities, reading, singing, indoor and outdoor play, the environment offers stimulation and learning for the young children we welcome. “It’s a good feeling for me as well,” says Hina. “We have all been suffering with isolation, and I’m happy to be helping people again.”
Although ‘Mummy & Me’ is usually open to all, we are still limited by restrictions, and so the current work is focussed on those most vulnerable. Each 5-week group can only welcome up to 6 attendees, and the next group is already booked up, showing just how important the need is. Most referrals at the moment come from health visitors, and our Redhill centre is operating a waiting list for future groups.
To find out more, or to make a referral to one of our groups, please contact Redhill@welcare.org.
*neurotypical: not displaying or characterised by autistic or other neurologically atypical (neurodivergent) patterns of thought or behaviour.