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Parents ‘out of their depth’ as children struggle with pandemic fallout

PUBLISHED: 06:15 14 July 2020

Norfolk parents have told how they have been left feeling anxious and out of their depth as they try to teach their children at home.

Juggling months of homeschooling, disrupted family routines and coronavirus concerns has left parents reeling.

Almost four in 10 parents in this region report feeling anxious and 28pc admitting to being out of their depth when it came to supporting their children, a survey has found.

After months of lockdown almost a third say that their children are feeling “isolated and lonely”, the YouGov survey of over 2,000 parents by Action for Children found.

Even with restrictions easing, parents are fearful about the weeks and months of uncertainty ahead. Over four in 10 said they are worried their children will struggle to socialise and want to remain at home.

MORE: ‘My child hasn’t spoken to a teacher for 12 weeks’ - parents on homeschooling experiences

Experiences reported by parents included their children ‘bedwetting’, becoming ‘clingy and unsure’ and not ‘wanting to go outside’.

Others reported ‘disordered eating’, that their child had become ‘weepy’, ‘frustrated’ or ‘scared of people’ outside their home.

Among those who have struggled are Darren, 45, who lives in Norfolk with his wife Kelly, who has multiple sclerosis, and their three daughters Keira, 14, Connie, nine and seven-year-old Pippa.

In 2012, Darren suffered a back injury that left him wheelchair bound. During the pandemic, both his and Kelly’s mental health has deteriorated during isolation.

He said: “Just before lockdown, Kelly had a relapse with her MS and lots of flare ups which completely knocked her physically and mentally. And then her dad passed away. It wasn’t from covid, but with all of the restrictions I couldn’t go with her to the funeral and it was heartbreaking not being able to be there with her.

“The girls at first felt like it was an extended holiday but they started to struggle once they realised they aren’t able to step outside the front garden. They would lose their tempers much quicker than they did before too.

“It’s been particularly hard on Kiera May. She would regularly get upset and it started to affect her sleeping pattern. She became quite withdrawn and would lock herself in her room and get angry at her sisters. She was never like that before.

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“Her sisters have been struggling too. Pippa, our youngest, has definitely taken a knock mental health wise. She really hates being on her own now.”

MORE: Are a generation of our children being let down?

With ongoing uncertainty, Action for Children is warning that things are likely to get worse as the long term impacts of the pandemic become clearer.

After seeing a surge in demand of 415pc for parenting advice in the three months of lockdown, compared with the same time last year, Action for Children is launching a new national online service to connect parents with trained parenting coaches.

Parent Talk is a confidential one-to-one online chat service offering parents free, practical advice and emotional support.

Lynn Giles, Parent Talk manager at Action for Children, said: “The pandemic has triggered a crisis for mums, dads and children on an unprecedented scale, with parents feeling overwhelmed without their usual support from friends and family, or any certainty for the future.

“Huge numbers of children will need extra support over the coming months and parents are telling us they don’t know where to turn.

“As the immediate health crisis passes we now need to turn our attention to the scars coronavirus has left on families struggling with a whole new reality - with many grieving from having lost loved ones, and others worrying about their jobs and their futures.”

MORE: Concerns over impact of lockdown on mental health of schoolchildren

The survey follows the issue of the mental health of schoolchildren being raised at Norfolk County Council.

Some 120,000 Norfolk youngsters have not been in the classroom since the government introduced restrictions in March.

John Fisher, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We cannot know at a local level, yet, the impact on children’s mental health, or on education attainment and the consequent impact on children’s futures.

“However because we cannot quantify it locally, does not mean we are not focused on supporting education providers and families in addressing it.”

He said children’s services staff were working with health colleagues, the voluntary sector and schools to consider what support can be offered.

• Information and advice can be found at parent-talk.org.uk

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