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A third of UK parents say their child’s mental health has suffered during lockdown

Girl with mother, both wearing masks

By Giles Milton

One in three parents (32%) say that their child’s mental health and wellbeing has deteriorated since lockdown started in March 2020, according to new research from Parent Zone.

The research also found that families with lower annual household incomes have seen the greatest impact on their mental wellbeing and health. 

Carried out by Ipsos MORI for Digital Parenting Week 2020, the research polled more than 1,000 UK parents about how the lockdown restrictions had affected their family and working life. 

Disadvantaged suffering most

Of those surveyed, 36% of parents earning up to £19,999 said their children’s mental health has got worse – compared with an average of 31% for those earning between £20,000 and £54,999. 

Income was strongly linked to whether parents felt they were coping, with a quarter of those on the lowest incomes (up to £19,999) saying they are ‘not personally coping at all well’ or ‘not very well’ as a result of Covid-19 restrictions. 

This compares to 21% of those earning between £20,000 and £34,999, 16% for those earning between £35,000 and £54,999, and just 14% of those earning upwards of £55,000. 

Flexible working, childcare support and social distancing

Many parents feel the government could do more to support them. 

Rules on social distancing were seen as confusing, with 40% of parents wanting the government to provide clearer guidelines. Over a third (37%) of parents want the government to insist employers offer flexible working, and a quarter (25%) simply want public acknowledgement for the role that parents are playing during the coronavirus.

The research also highlighted a demand for greater support around the flexibility of childcare provision for working parents (34%), for more exceptions for children in the rules on social distancing (31%) and financial help for childcare costs (27%).

Overstretched

The impact of school closures has been strongly felt by parents, who have had to home school and provide more emotional support for their children. 

More than half of parents (55%) have been doing more since March to help with their children’s education, while 48% have done more to manage their children’s mental health and wellbeing. 

Meanwhile, nearly a third of parents (30%) said that coronavirus arrangements during this same time have had a ‘fairly negative’ or ‘very negative impact on their ability to do the work they need to do as part of their job’. 

However, technology has proven to be a lifeline for many. More than three-quarters (77%) of parents said connected technology has helped them get through the period.

Our research also found that: 

  • Around one in three parents want greater flexibility for childcare provision for working parents (34%) and more exceptions to the ‘rule of six’ (31%).
  • Of those who were paying for a childcare provider just before lockdown, almost a third (29%) were only able to receive some of the services they needed.
  • Since the start of lockdown, 20% of parents report that they have had more arguments with their partner.
  • Since the start of lockdown, over half of parents (55%) reported a positive impact on spending quality time with their children.

“Parents feel the government could do more”

Parent Zone founder and CEO Vicki Shotbolt commented:

“The mental health of significant numbers of children has been worsened by coronavirus restrictions. Parents have put in extra shifts to help with their children's wellbeing, as well as with their education – while, in many cases, struggling to continue to do their jobs. 

“It is hardly surprising that parents feel the government could do more to recognise the extent to which they have picked up the slack. A quarter would simply like some recognition. The only good news to come out of this research is that tech has been a real boon for families.”

Helping parents

The research highlights the need for new tools, such as Ollee, an app created by Parent Zone and funded by BBC Children in Need’s A Million & Me initiative, which launched during Digital Parenting Week. 

Ollee takes the form of a virtual friend and helps parents provide their child with extra support when they need it. 

Children aged 8-11 can use it to articulate their feelings then tell their parents how they’re feeling – which in turn helps parents know when they need to step in.

“We started developing Ollee well before Covid – but this research has only strengthened the case for it,” said Shotbolt. “Many more children are facing emotional difficulties and it is vital that we find new ways to support them.”

You can find out more about Ollee here and try the app here

Main image: Yura Yarema/stock.adobe.com


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