Pandemic ‘triggered a crisis for mums, dads and children’ as research reveals anxiety and isolation in lockdown
Forty per cent of parents in Scotland say their children are feeling isolated and lonely, with more than a quarter of kids anxious or unable to sleep after months of lockdown, according to new research by a leading children’s charity.
In addition, more than one in three parents admitted to feeling overwhelmed or “out of their depth” when it came to supporting their children.
The research, from a YouGov survey of more than 2,000 parents UK-wide by Action for Children, revealed how parents and children were struggling to cope with issues caused by life in lockdown.
The charity warned the pandemic had “triggered a crisis for mums, dads and children on an unprecedented scale”.
Many parents reported experiencing the same loneliness and sleep problems as their children.
With restrictions easing, parents said they were fearful about the weeks and months of uncertainty ahead, with 40 per cent saying they were worried that their children would struggle to socialise and would want to remain at home.
Individual experiences reported by parents included that their children were bed-wetting, becoming “clingy and unsure”, not “wanting to go outside”, “disordered eating” and that their child had become “weepy”, “frustrated” or “scared of people outside their home”.
In one case study, provided by Action for Children, Nikki Wallis, who lives in Selkirk with her partner and four daughters, said: “It’s the uncertainty of everything that has made my anxiety and depression so bad.”
“When the kids ask me questions I just don’t know any of the answers and can’t reassure them about anything,” she said.
“They’ll ask about school and what will happen if there is a second wave but no one knows what is happening. When I can’t tell the kids anything that’s when the anxiety builds up.”
She said her eight-year-old daughter Macy had gone from a “happy child to a little girl who’s not interested in anything” adding that “her attitude and behaviour over the last few weeks has been an issue”.
“Even my eldest, who usually takes everything in her stride, has started to struggle,” she said.
“She hasn’t seen her dad, my ex-partner, for months as he works for the NHS and she has health problems. She misses him and is so emotional all the time. She is becoming more withdrawn and staying in her room.”
Her two youngest children, aged five and two, “don’t really understand what’s going on but I’m worried about them returning to school and nursery”, she said.
“If the staff are wearing masks I think that will scare them more than anything. Before lockdown my youngest had sleep issues, and they have worsened now. It gets so confusing and you just can’t give the kids any routine whereas before all of this we had a really strict routine and everyone knew exactly how their day was going to be. Now we’ve got nothing.”
The charity said it had seen a 415 per cent surge in demand for parenting advice during the first three months of lockdown, compared with the same time last year.
“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,” Action for Children director for Scotland Paul Carberry said.
“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.”
The organisation has launched Parent Talk, an online service to connect parents with parenting coaches.
“With so many mums and dads in desperate need of guidance, a service like Parent Talk is needed now more than ever. Our parent coaches are there for any questions parents have – big or small. Anyone who needs a bit of support in these tough times can go to parent-talk.org.uk,” Carberry said.