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At Parenta, we always try to bring you pertinent and timely information. We have articles from experts covering the latest research and thinking on childcare matters; we have fun crafts and seasonal ideas to entertain your children; and we often cover awareness days or even some just-for-fun national days to lift your spirits and give you a laugh, such as ‘Talk like a Pirate Day’. And we feel that this month’s ‘Time to Talk Day’ on 6th February and ‘Send a Card to a Friend Day’ on 7th February are days that have never been more relevant or more needed.

Most of us are in lockdown, with ‘stay at home’ orders and restrictions on who we can see; hugs are in short supply and the deterioration in people’s mental health is palpable as we see the pandemic statistics in the media and experience the changes in behaviour of those around us, the children in our care, and our own mood. So what easier way to raise our spirits, check-in on friends and family and show some ‘Good Samaritan’ support to those in our circles of influence than to send a card or talk to someone just to show that you care?

It’s simple today but wasn’t always so easy. The tradition of sending written greetings can be traced as far back as the early Egyptians, who used papyrus scrolls and hieroglyphics to communicate; and to the Ancient Chinese, who exchanged messages of goodwill when celebrating a new year. In medieval times, letters were often scribed by servants and then delivered by the servant or a paid courier or occasionally trusted to a merchant who was heading in the right direction! Letters took a long time to reach their destination - that’s if they were not lost or intercepted on the way. In 1635, Charles I introduced the first public mail service where letters were carried from one ‘post’ to another. At these venues, a ‘postmaster’ would separate the letters for their own area and hand the remainder to another person whose job it was to carry them on to other destinations. In 1840, the ‘Penny Black’ was introduced as the world’s first postage stamp, removing price discrepancies, and basing most postage costs on weight, rather than the distance travelled. The printing press had been invented by Johann Gutenberg in Germany in 1450, and brought to England around 1473 by William Caxton, but it took until 1843, when Sir Henry Cole produced a commercial Christmas card for the greetings card idea to take off, eventually becoming the multi-billion-pound industry we see today.

Nowadays, we have cards for all manner of occasions: birthdays, retirement, sympathy, religious festivals, family days, good luck, driving tests and get well wishes to name a few. But you don’t need an excuse or a particular celebration to send a short message to someone you care about. Everyone loves to get a letter!

How to get involved in your setting

 Sending and receiving messages makes everyone feel valued and special. It allows us to express our feelings, gratitude and love, and the beauty is that it is simple, can cost next to nothing but can make a world of difference to someone who is feeling isolated, alone or just having a bad day. Send a personal message or organise an event in your setting to spread the love and extend the amount of people you can personally reach.

Who should you write to?

You don’t always have to know someone personally in order to send them a note of your appreciation. Think about:

  • Your friends and family
  • People you have not met up with this year
  • Friends in a club or hobby grou
  • A neighbour or the people who live near you
  • The Queen or a prominent person you admire
  • Old school/work friends

Different ideas for sending wishes

  1. Make your own cards – use images cut from magazines or old greetings cards to make some new ones or draw your own
  2. Personalise your card with a hand/foot/fingerprint
  3. Dry and press some flowers or petals to include in the envelope or spray some perfume on the envelope so that is smells like you
  4. Decorate the envelope with fun stickers
  5. Send a funny postcard
  6. Send an oversized card
  7. Write on colourful paper or use a fancy font/script
  8. Write a poem
  9. Send an apology if you need to
  10. Send a love letter

Time to Talk Day

Time to Talk Day is also this month, on 6th February, designed to help people talk about mental health issues and give them space to air views and feelings, countering the view that mental health is a taboo subject. Although the 7th February is Send a Card to a Friend Day, the sentiment behind the day, and especially during lockdown, should be about checking in with people and making sure they are OK at this difficult time. That means you should use all the means and technology available to help people, especially if you can make time to talk using Zoom, Teams, Skype, or a simple ‘old-fashioned’ phone call to keep people going this winter.

How to help the people around you

  1. Phone someone you haven’t spoken to for a while just for a chat
  2. Hold a virtual coffee morning so that more people can join in
  3. Explain the importance of speaking about feelings to the children in your setting and ask them to check in with their friends, parents and grandparents too
  4. Check in on your staff to see how they are all coping – maybe through a staff mental health or wellbeing questionnaire
  5. Volunteer for a helpline such as Childline or The Samaritans to make a real difference to people in need

There’s no excuse this year for not picking up a pen or a phone and checking in with someone in your life. We all have more time on our hands this year, so let’s share that. After all, it’s the little things that really matter and make the biggest difference!

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