Parents’ experience of the pandemic

In the first episode of the Generation Pandemic series, we discuss the experiences of parents during the COVID-19 pandemic. We explore the experience of home-schooling, the isolation and what it took to keep our children on track –  and we look at what the recovery needs to prioritise. Joining host Catherine McDonald are Dr. Jennifer McMahon from the Co-SPACE study, Dr. Hope Christie from the University of Edinburgh, Dr. Claudia Hupkau from the CUNEF University and the London School of Economics and Laura, a mum of two. 

Transcript:

Catherine McDonald  0:05 

Hello and welcome to Generation Pandemic, a podcast from the Interdisciplinary Child Wellbeing Network looking at the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on children in the UK and Ireland. I’m Catherine McDonald and today we’re looking at the experiences of parents during the pandemic. Joining me are Dr. Jennifer McMahon from the Co-SPACE study, Dr. Hope Christie from the University of Edinburgh, and Dr. Claudia Hupkau from the CUNEF University and the London School of Economics. Before we dive into the research, we’re going to hear from Laura, a mum of two about her experiences of parenting through the pandemic, and how she felt when we first went into lockdown.

Laura  0:47 

The first thing was how I would occupy my children stuck in my own house with very limited resources to keep them entertained. And as a small business owner with it having to close down how would I provide for my family? And how would I juggle my business and my role as a mother going forwards?

Catherine McDonald  1:06 

And talk us through those first few weeks – how did it unfold for you?

Laura  1:11 

I had to relocate all of my patients. I work as a, as a physiotherapist. So I was trying to reassure them that it wouldn’t be going on for very long, as well as trying to reassure my children, the fact that I wasn’t getting them up and getting them out to go to school in the morning, that it was okay, and that everybody was doing the same thing. And it wasn’t us being unusual.

Catherine McDonald  1:30 

And what types of things were the children saying at this point? What questions did they have? Can you remember?

Laura  1:36 

My little boy was three. So for him, nothing really changed because he was always at home with me anyway. He wasn’t in full-time childcare for my daughter, she had literally just started reception at primary school. So for her, she felt I was denying her seeing her friends. I mean she kept saying that mummy can’t I see my friends? Why are you not allowing me to see my friends? I just want to go to school. And I want, want to go and have fun.

Catherine McDonald  2:04 

And how did you respond to that? I mean, that’s such a, such a tough call. It’s such a tough position for you to be in.

Laura  2:09 

I think I just embraced being at home and tried to make it as fun as I could, and try to devise a plan each day. So there was some form of routine that like she would be getting at school. So we’d have we’d get up at the same time and we’d have breakfast at the same time, then we would have some maybe some messy play in the kitchen, we would do Joe Wicks because I thought that’s at least we’re getting some exercise and it filled half an hour of our morning and then we’d have lunch and just tried to instil a sense of routine for the children really.

Catherine McDonald  2:45 

And as the lockdown went on and then obviously, some children were allowed back to school, I’m guessing yours were. Oh, no, yours would have been because reception was one of the years. And so how did that go?

Laura  2:57 

I think, I think I had to run on to the school with my daughter, she was so excited about the possibility of going back into school, which was very different to how she had remembered her schooling life. Whereas before, it was all free play and free flow around the classroom. All of a sudden, they were expected to sit in twos, in desks spaced two metres apart, all facing the front, and no free movement across the classroom at all. So having gone from this sort of play environment to a very structured learning environment was different. But for her, I think it was just a change of scenery. She was pleased that she wasn’t in the house anymore, and that she was seeing her friends and felt a little bit like she’d got her life back. I know she was only five but she’d started on this really exciting educational journey in reception, making friends and learning to read and write to all of a sudden having that ripped away from her. And she struggled with that so she sort of embraced going back even with the changes.

Catherine McDonald  3:58 

And what about your other child who obviously was still preschool age when your daughter was able to go back to school? How did that affect him?

Laura  4:07 

He didn’t have anyone to play with apart from me. He was only I think doing one or two days a week at preschool during the first lockdown because he’d only really just started on sort of socialising. But again, we walked my daughter to school, we would come home and then there was just interactions with me all day. There was no interactions with other children. There was no ability to socialise, learn skills, friendship, turn taking not snatching toys, and actually, you know, he got everything when he wanted which now with him starting school is tricky learning to take turns and there are 20 other children in the class that he has to wait his turn. It’s not everything now.

Catherine McDonald  4:49 

And so when we then went back into lockdown how did firstly your daughter who was at school, how did she react to that?

Laura  4:58 

She was devastated and I can remember it really clearly because it was Christmas, we had a lovely Christmas holiday. And there was umming and ahhing of are the schools gonna go back? Are they not gonna go back? Or we were planning on the schools going back. And then everything started on social media, and I put my daughter to bed, and it all unfolded. And she woke up the next morning with me saying, we’re not going to school today, the schools aren’t going to reopen, and she just was so upset. And again, it was that feeling that I bore the brunt of that she thought I was not sending her in, and that I was the one that was stopping her from going to school. And that first week of home-schooling was horrendous. She didn’t want to engage with any other home working. And then when the Google Classroom started, and she could see all of her friends were on the Zoom meeting and the calls and going actually, it’s not just me at home, we’re all at home, she settled in a little bit better, but still was very, very upset that she couldn’t go and see her friends.

Catherine McDonald  5:55 

What’s coming through loud and clear is how and I think it’s something that every parent, it will resonate with that how you became the centre of everything, the energy that was required to home school, and to keep them amused, to keep them happy, to make sure they weren’t getting too anxious. It was all on the parents, can you tell me a bit about the effect that had on you?

Laura  6:17 

I think for me, it was a case of head down, keep going and, and plough through to be honest. And I didn’t really take a huge amount of time to think about what we were doing. And just going right, this is what I’ve got to do. This is the home-schooling and we just attacked it basically together and threw ourselves into it. But that’s all we could do. Because there was nothing else to do. There was no other external influence at that point. We just had to embrace it.

Catherine McDonald  6:44 

So obviously, it sounds like you were in a fortunate position in that you were able to take the time to be with the children. What difference do you think that made to you, and presumably, you know, other people whose circumstances were different?

Laura  6:57 

I think during the first lockdown, I wasn’t working, because my business had been shut due to the restrictions. In the second lockdown, I was able to work. So I was juggling, childcare, home-schooling, and my business at the same time. And we live next door to my parents, and we took the decision that we would bubble together just for us to all be able to cope, really. The children to be able to have an extra support network, as well as being able for me to facilitate going back to work to provide for the family. To actually keep, like you said before my mental health in a reasonable state, because I could step out of that home-schooling, oppressive environment really of being stuck in your house 24/7 and engage with my patients, but I had other parents who have only children. And they were really worried about the impact that no socialising with other children was having on their children. And the fact that their only child was engaging in adult conversation all the time, there was no silliness, you know that you would get between five-year olds having a conversation, it was all grown up conversations and discussions all the time.

Catherine McDonald  8:07 

And so when you look back at the various lockdowns and the various periods of time in between what is your overriding sense of the effect that it’s had on both you and the children?

Laura  8:19 

I feel at the moment, we’re just starting on our journey of recovery, both my daughter and my son and myself. My daughter is finally starting to find her confidence again. She suffers quite a bit with what we call worry tummy, which we had a lot during the pandemic and it does rear its head every now and again now, but it certainly isn’t as frequent as it was. We never co-slept as we were bringing my daughter up but during the pandemic, we had a lot of co-sleeping because she couldn’t cope with me not being in the room with her, those things have started to change. She will now spend a little bit of time on her own doing things without me needing to be there 24/7. But my son who I thought maybe naively was unaffected by the pandemic, being so little and being at preschool and not having a greater awareness of what was going on. He has started school now and we are having some quite difficult behavioural issues within the class. He’s very overwhelmed in class, if there’s a lot of things going on and too much stimulus going on, he will snatch or he might push another child, which he knows is not the right thing to do. He’s very remorseful about it but at that point in time, can’t cope. And actually he’s sort of withdrawing a little bit from his class to spend some time on his own to try I suppose because that’s what he’s used to having had been at home during the pandemic. So I think we’ve got a bit of a journey over the next the next six to nine months to try and help him with those emotions and with those behavioural issues that we’re having in class, with the school and with potentially other maybe therapist involvement just try and help him manage those behavioural issues.

Catherine McDonald  10:05 

So Jennifer, if I can bring you in here, Co-SPACE track the mental health of children, young people and their parents during the pandemic, what did you find? Is Laura’s story resonating with you?

Jennifer McMahon  10:16 

Absolutely the findings of the research aligned very much to what Laura has been saying that parents really were at the forefront of buffering children and putting their own mental health at risk in their efforts to do that.

Catherine McDonald  10:28 

And what where the main findings?

Jennifer McMahon  10:30 

So in the UK study, they have found that young people were more distressed during the peak times and these tended to lessen once the schools opened up and children were able to return to school. And that over time, the symptoms of mental health have stabilised. However, there has been disparity between types of groups. So really, when we’re talking about the findings from the Co-SPACE study, both Ireland and the UK, it’s really not about a kind of a big overall picture as such, it’s really about the different groups that we have within that because the pandemic was experienced so differently by various different types of people. So for example, children with special education needs really did not do very well during the pandemic, a lot of their resources were pulled their supports that they really depend on, kind of came to a standstill, particularly in the first phase of the pandemic. And we’re still seeing difficulties associated with that now well into the final phases of the pandemic. So again, young people from backgrounds of socio-economic disadvantage, have had greater disparity in their mental health status as well. In the UK study, they’ve consistently found that children from one parent families have had significantly more difficulties than typical children from other kind of living situations.

Catherine McDonald  11:35 

And Hope you were part of a team that produced a rapid evidence review on mitigating impacts of the pandemic on parents and carers during the school closures. Again, what were the main findings of that?

Hope Christie  11:46 

A lot of what Jennifer was saying your high levels of psychological distress, anxiety and depression in parents, especially, we found that parents that were maybe on a lower income or lower socioeconomic status background, parents from different ethnic minority backgrounds, and being female, were also kind of groups that were further at risk for psychological distress during the pandemic. We also found reports of depression and domestic abuse was, interestingly, a lot of charity websites like Women’s Aid had reported a massive increase in their usage on their websites and advice lines or phone-in lines. But that wasn’t really reflected in the police and hospital reports. So we perhaps think that that’s attributable to people being stuck at home with their, their abuser, so unable to report that to the formal services. But that was obviously also something important to note. And yeah, actually, just as well, to say what Jennifer was saying about parents with children with special educational needs. I’m involved in another study called the Road to Recovery Project. And we found that actually, despite their lockdown restrictions easing, those parents with children with special educational needs are still really struggling mentally, they’re still reported really high levels of anxiety and stress. And it’s a lot to do with the fact that even though restrictions are using those services for their children have not come back.

Catherine McDonald  13:09 

So it sounds to me like the issues are twofold in that there’s what we all experienced. And then there’s, if you like the hangover from that, as everything tries to gear up again. Hope, Jennifer, what would you say to that?

 Jennifer McMahon  13:21 

Katherine, I think there’s a lot of services that have been disrupted throughout the pandemic, that are really trying to find new ways of working with parents trying to find ways of coming back and supporting the kind of caseloads that they’ve had, which are quite significant now that they’ve had this backlog of work throughout the pandemic that’s not been attended to. So children with special education needs when their services are disrupted, not only do they miss out on the existing services, but in some cases, children might regress, and they need additional support to kind of get back on track again. And then schools have been since the pandemic and it’s only very recently in Ireland that we have kind of come to a phase of removal of the masks, removal of the kind of pod system. And so up until now schools really have been firefighting and dealing with a lot of staff absences and support absences. So you know, even though it’s two years, since the initial stages of the pandemic, it really has taken this length of time for services to kind of even kind of resume any form of normality. So it’s not surprising that children with special education needs are still struggling, there has been a backlog, the services are not resourced well enough to pick up the slack in terms of what has gone on. Unfortunately, the problem that we may be seeing now is that there isn’t the same focus on these issues that there may have been over the past two years in terms of the media spotlight, new crisis, new issues coming on, and hopefully, you know that these children won’t fall through the cracks. It’s really important to keep advocating for services to kind of be well resourced to pick up the issues that have arisen during this pandemic.

Catherine McDonald  14:47 

And Hope do you have anything to add to that? Or do you feel that Jennifer’s covered it?

Hope Christie  14:50 

Yeah, just also important to note that again, we’ve done some interviews with parents with children with special educational needs and maybe additional health needs as well. So there, you know, even if masks are coming off in school, now that might still bring about some additional anxieties for parents, with children that have additional health needs, because they still are probably quite vulnerable. And I know as well, from conversations we’ve had with parents, that routines are still being disrupted. With schools, you know, if a SEND teacher phones in sick, there isn’t the same resources to get a substitute in just quite as quickly as you would in a mainstream school. So school is generally just cancelled for the day, again, it’s super disruptive for parents that are trying to return to work and trying to get a bit more normality, in the sense that they’ve got to be home with the children if they have to stay home from school. So yeah, I think Jennifer’s right, I think we’ve not not quite seen the full fall out yet. And I think it’ll be quite some time before we do. But it is really important that we keep talking about these things, because you know like Jennifer says, the news cycles move on. But it’s really important that these things are still, are still super important. And these groups and services need to be well funded and well resourced, so they can go back to providing that respite and that support.

Laura  16:04 

Can I just say that it’s, obviously the SEN aspect is incredibly important, but it’s not just the disruption to SEN children with regards to the the availability of staff, because and the impact of staffing going off with COVID is quite significant here as well. And it’s not just we’ve got children with SEN needs in our schools who are affected. So are the other children. I mean, my son’s teacher went off, and he walked in, and he just clung to my leg because it wasn’t his teacher that he was expecting to be there. And it really threw him off his stride along with other children in the class. So it’s like you said it’s still a disruption, whether you’re SEN needs or not really.

Hope Christie  16:46 

Oh, absolutely. Laura. Yeah, I didn’t mean to make it sound like it was only an issue for SEN children and parents.

Laura  16:53 

Oh, no, no, no, not at all. I just wanted to highlight that, you know, it goes across the spectrum of primary to secondary to SEN to non-SEN needs, and, and that impact.

Hope Christie  17:04 

Oh, absolutely. And it’s still out with what the you know, you’re trying to get that normal normality back and that routine back for kids, and it just keeps getting changed at the last minute.

Catherine McDonald  17:12 

Just to come in there I was just gonna say uncertainty as well is not good for mental health is it? And when you think about the fact that it’s well documented that mental health of parents has a very strong correlation with the mental health of our children. And so when you put the uncertainty into that, it’s not good, is it?

Jennifer McMahon  17:31 

It’s not Catherine and I think Laura’s point is just so pertinent, because when things go wrong for children in schools context or any other support service context, it’s parents that have to take on board the tasks normally associated with and what we found in the Co-SPACE studies, for example, and Laura touched on this earlier on the schoolwork piece, the juggling the schoolwork, that we found that a lot of parents during the pandemic found that they didn’t feel that they could support with schoolwork. And this was for a couple of reasons. But the primary reason was, if they were working, it was more difficult to support the schoolwork. And then there was parents who just didn’t feel that they had the capacity to support schoolwork, particularly if your children were maybe in, you know, the older years, maybe 10, 11 and 12 where the schoolwork gets more difficult. And I suppose what we saw was that schools were really unprepared for supporting parents to support children. And in our study, we found that that did have a detrimental effect on young people’s mental health. So you know, not being able to support your child makes the parent feel more distressed, and then does in turn have a knock on effect on the children. So you know, if we could take anything from a pandemic is that like parents are this pivotal link between school context and other support contexts and the child and that really, we’ve not paid enough attention to making sure that parents are have the capacity to actually step into those roles when needed. And as Laura has rightly pointed out, this hasn’t gone away. And I’m not sure that we have picked up on this enough in the services, that again, this could happen to us again, at some stage and really have we actually learned from this experience?

Laura  18:58 

With my experience of home-schooling, thank goodness, my daughter was only in year one and year two, she’s taught maths completely different to how I was taught maths. So actually, I felt a bit of a failure because she was asking me how to do something. And I’m going, I can’t tell you because if I tell you how I would do it, but I’m also creating more problems further down the line for the teaching staff, because they’d have to undo how I was teaching her. And you’re absolutely right. There was no resources there from the schools, from the teachers because they couldn’t to teach us parents how we should be home-schooling them and teaching them the correct way. And that was very demoralising, because you’re sending children back into a school environment where they can be very behind and this comes back to my point that I say to everybody my daughter is in year two so in her third year of education, she has yet to complete a full year of her schooling life. She has never completed a whole year which is just scary to think.

Catherine McDonald  19:14

It is, it is Claudia if I could bring you in here. So the research that you did found that employment and income shocks parents had an immediate intergenerational effect. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Claudia Hupkau  20:05 

Yeah. So in our study, what we looked at was indeed, the interplay between these parental income or employment shocks, and child outcomes and also investments, if you want, in children. So we looked at this at the very beginning of the pandemic, basically, in April 2020, using data from that period. And what we found was that children of fathers whose earnings dropped to zero, either maybe because they lost their jobs, or because they were self-employed and lost all their sources of income, they were much less likely to receive additional paid learning resources, like paid for tutors, learning applications that are paid for etc, compared to children who have not suffered such a negative income or employment shocks. Why am I focusing here on fathers, we actually find consistently when women are affected by these negative employment or income shocks, that doesn’t seem to spill over to children. So women translate those shocks less into what goes into the resources they invest in their children, either time or money, let’s say. What’s the spill over here, because we obviously had a massive economic impact of this crisis, which were fortunately cushioned a lot by government intervention, but but we do see this initial negative impact on the ability to spend money on these additional learning resources. And it helped parents support their children with home-schooling, as we were just hearing from Laura, how challenging that was.

Catherine McDonald  21:30 

And so if reduced hours or loss of work meant that those parents then had more time to provide the hands on support to the children. What effect did that have?

Claudia Hupkau  21:41 

Yeah, we sort of see that families seem to have been compensating for lower levels of resources or paid for resources. So those same fathers who lost their jobs or all their earnings, we also see that they spend about 30 minutes more per day, helping their children with homework. And this is, again, compared to fathers who did not suffer such shock, similar fathers in terms of educational level, etc, but simply had not the we’re not unlucky that they lost their jobs. So this additional time at hand was used for investment and time in children. And what we also see at the beginning, at least of the pandemic, is that these same fathers that were spending more time with their children, they also seem to have quarrelled less with their children, so sort of negative interactions between children and these fathers were reduced. And it looks like at least at the beginning of the pandemic, this was this additional time spent with children was really quality time. However, the pandemic went on for much longer than many of us thought and the UK and England had several school closures over time. And we looked again, at the same question nearly one year into the pandemic. And actually those relationships that were sort of in a way positive, not that I was just mentioning, by January 21, the same children whose fathers had lost their all their earnings, they were receiving half an hour less help per day. And we also see that translated and overall, less schoolwork being done by these children. Why is it that these relationships turn? What’s flipped around? So while at the beginning, maybe you could question that at the beginning of the pandemic, if that’s sustained, and prolonged, then these financial difficulties increased. And these also relate to mental health. We talked about that before. And we see that these fathers by January 21, they had also suffered much more in terms of mental health, compared to fathers who did not suffer the shocks. But also when we look at, you know, women, we know that women suffered bigger mental health deterioration in general. But if you look at the subgroup of women who lost their jobs or their earnings, then compared to women or mothers who did not, they did not suffer more. But fathers seem to be more affected. This is sort of very consistent with what we know already about the literature on job loss, that fathers are more affected, and they translate this more into their interactions with their children, and their time investment and from mothers, we just don’t find this sort of relationship as consistently.

 Catherine McDonald  24:12 

So what’s striking me listening to all of you is that this is such a hugely varied situation, depending on your circumstances, whether you were furloughed, whether you lost your job, whether you were had the flexibility to work from home, whether you were a parent of a special needs child, what your socio economic status was, whether there was two of you, one of you, how on earth do we go about prioritising elements for a recovery here? Jennifer, can I come to you on that first?

Jennifer McMahon  24:42 

So Katherine, I think just building on what Claudia said it is very important to recognise that some parents did do very well during the pandemic in terms of their own stress levels and supporting their children due to those kind of various different factors that Claudia has discussed in that, you know, financial factors and work factors. And some of our parents reported that as having, you know, access to nature and having reduced pressures and being together closely was really important for them during the pandemic and gave them a sense of bonding with their children and lovely time to do arts and crafts and music activities. So there are a cohort of parents and children who did well during the pandemic and we’re buffered from some of the negative effects. So I think we need to look to the parents who really struggled the most during the pandemic. And I think, you know, Hope has talked about the various different factors and Claudia, that have impacted parents the most around financial circumstances, the home context. So going forward, we really need to think about where are the supports of these parents. You know, school, I think, is a very important context where we could provide those kinds of supports around practical ways of managing schoolwork and maybe providing direct links to accessible materials for parents to support their young people, and giving maybe, kind of, you know, thinking about wellness plans for particular quarter children are indeed universal wellness plans to make sure that you know that we are not missing any children. In this exit from the pandemic, I suppose there is a worry that we may assume that some young people have done well. And actually, this is what some principals have anecdotally related to me that some families that they thought and this made assumptions about actually were struggling. So universal wellbeing plans, I think we could improve on going forward. And I think particularly think school is a very important context for that support. It’d be interesting to hear what, you know, Laura, and Hope and Claudia, think about how we could position those supports.

Catherine McDonald  26:28 

Absolutely Hope. Let me come to you. What would you say?

Hope Christie  26:31 

Well, I mean, I’m glad you asked Jennifer first, and not me. But yeah, that was she, she provided a really fantastic answer. And I think I am always mindful about putting, I suppose more pressure on schools, because I know that they’ve been firefighting throughout this entire pandemic. And they’ve, they’ve really tried their best. And I think we ask a lot of teachers generally. So asking them to do more is always a difficult challenge. But I do agree that providing some sort of wellbeing plan is really important. And I think generally as well, actually just being able to provide some reassurance to parents that their child’s – I think learning loss is a term that sometimes used – is going to be made up. You know Laura talked a little bit about her younger child and and try to do maths at home, be mindful that it’s probably not the same way that the teacher would teach her daughter. So it’s a bit difficult. And I think parents of children who are a bit older about exam stage, I know a lot of parents, we found that in the rapid review, but also in our other work and the Road to Recovery Project parents are, are really worried about the learning loss with their children at that exam stage in terms of how that might affect their, their broader futures I suppose. So actually, if schools are able to provide just general reassurance that this will be made up, and that the importance has just been placed on trying to get that routine back, and really just getting kids in through the door and bums on seats, and providing that reassurance, even you know, Laura touched on it there about a different teacher, and that can sometimes be a bit of a shock to the system. And so just trying to provide reassurance generally for children, and once they’re in the door, and that routine has been established, then providing that general reassurance to parents as well that you know, this learning loss will be made up and that hopefully the children’s futures will not be as affected by by this whole pandemic experience.

Catherine McDonald  26:54 

Sort of small steps in the right direction.

Hope Christie  28:16 

Yes, ahuh and then just last, my last point would be again, just to kind of a plug for for more support and more resources to be funnelled towards those support services, funding and resources. Because I think whether it’s services for children that have special educational needs, or additional needs, or more neurotypical children, I think it’s important that those services are well resourced and well-funded. So children are supported. But as we’ve all talked about, you know, that parents are supported. They’re the key and integral part of this. And they’ve been doing so much over the pandemic, just to kind of make sure that they were getting by and life kept going on. So I think they need to be as supported as we could possibly give them.

Catherine McDonald  28:56 

And Claudia what would you say?

Claudia Hupkau  28:58 

Yeah. So I totally agree with what what was said before the services that needs to be made accessible and continue to function even in a pandemic. But I think maybe I would go a little bit further, one future scenario of another pandemic one really would have to sort of weigh against the costs of school closures with their positive effects that I think we have learned a lot. And maybe in the future, the school closures have to be reconsidered whether this is a policy that can be implemented to such an extent. On the one hand, we have this massive negative impact on children’s learning, which is likely to affect even their lifetime earnings in the future, I think we need to consider like how can we avoid that? How can we provide a safe environment and continue to have children in school? And then the second thing is the spill over, the one that I was talking about, you have this interaction between parents that are most affected by this pandemic or were most affected, also financially and economically. Also are the ones that are less likely to be able to have the resources to help their children so we have this double effect that really disadvantaged kids will suffer most of this learning loss and consequences. So I think in future politicians will have to make tough choices. But if this situation happens again, and you not only have the school closures, but you have parents being affected negatively, in an economic sense through their earnings or losses, and this further spills over on to children and their learning because of financial difficulties or mental health. So yeah, overall, I think policymakers will have to consider in the future if such a pandemic should happen, again, to what extent school closures should be used, and to what length of time.

Catherine McDonald  29:11 

And, Laura, last word from you. How would you react to what you’ve heard?

Laura  30:42 

I think I was just going to finish by saying with what Hope was saying about providing more resources to the schools. I mean, the schools are so dramatically underfunded in this area with regards to children’s mental health. And it’s a really good way of tapping into children on a, on a mass scale, rather than trying to access individual children. And I think there needs to be a discussion between various different organisations, as to how we facilitate the children’s learning and mental wellbeing, but to utilise it through the school system would be logical to me.

Catherine McDonald  31:19 

Absolutely. And as we’ve said, it’s clearly something that it’s going to take years for us to fully understand the implications, isn’t it?

Laura  31:29 

Absolutely. And I am worried about her gaps in learning and knowledge. And I’m sure she will catch up at a point in time. But at what point in time does that come? Is that in the next year, is that in the next two years? And how do we address those gaps in learning, and it’s not just educational learning – it’s the ability to make friendships, its ability to interact with other children, its all of those social interactions, as well as the educational interactions that are vitally important at an educational level.

Jennifer McMahon  31:59 

Now, it’s about finding the political will to, to set up the conditions to heal the scars that have been caused throughout the pandemic for children and young people. And just making sure that this isn’t the generation that gets lost to the pandemic, and that there are some children who are, who fall through those cracks and never really catch up and offset some of the harm that’s been done. I think there’s an opportunity here in the coming years to really set the stage for really collective healing, and targeted healing. If we can find the resources and the funding to make that happen.

Claudia Hupkau  32:32 

There needs to be the will, the political will to spend the money and the resources. And I totally agree that this has to be done because there is a real risk of a very long term negative effects on these children. And this doesn’t seem a fair thing to let happen.

Hope Christie  32:48 

So I think it is just about pleading now with the government to provide those solutions to the evidence that we’ve, we’ve all talked about.

Catherine McDonald  32:56 

My thanks to doctors Jennifer McMahon, Hope Christie, Claudia Hupkau and to Laura. You can find out more about the work of the Interdisciplinary Child Wellbeing Network via their website and Twitter @ICWBN. The work of the network is funded by the UK Research and Innovation Economic and Social Research Council and the Irish Research Council under the ESRC-IRC UK Ireland networking grants. This was a Research Podcast production. Thank-you for listening and remember to subscribe to receive all future episodes.

 

Leave a comment