A recent survey exploring the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on children has revealed that 70% of parents of young children are concerned about the impact of the pandemic on their children’s mental health, with 25% of parents either ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ concerned.
Close to 1,500 parents across Ireland took part in the survey carried out by Walk in My Shoes, the awareness-raising and education campaign of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, in conjunction with the National Parents Council Primary, and was developed to gain insight into parents’ concerns for their children’s mental health during this time.
With lockdown restrictions easing and primary schools closing for the summer break this week, it’s particularly timely to reflect on parents’ concerns and to explore the best ways in which they can be supported at his time.
The survey was issued to over 9,000 parents on the National Parents Council Primary network and completed between 5 and 19 June. Findings from the survey revealed that:
- Almost 70% of primary school parents are concerned about the impact of the pandemic on their children’s mental health; one in four would say they are either “very” or “extremely” concerned (18% very concerned, 8% extremely concerned)
- Lack of social interaction, transitioning back to school and missing friends were among some of the top concerns parents had about the impact of the pandemic on their children’s mental health during this time
- Isolation and loneliness, anxiety and coping strategies were among the top three areas that parents felt they needed assistance with to support their child’s mental health.
- 17% of the children of parents surveyed have received mental health support from places such as schools, private counselling, helplines, HSE local community support, local clubs or inpatient care
- 8% of parents believe their child’s ability to access mental health services during this time has been impacted
- The majority of parents surveyed turn to friends and relatives to seek information on supporting their child during this time
- However, over one-third of parents revealed they would not know where to turn to for advice, resources and information to assist them in supporting their child's mental health during this time.
The survey also found that over half of parents surveyed would first turn to downloadable resources to support their children’s mental health during the pandemic, and as such, the results will now be used to help guide Walk in My Shoes in the development and sharing of resources and tools to assist parents, and to complement its existing suite of online resources, available at www.walkinmyshoes.ie. A webinar for parents will also take place on Wednesday, July 29, exploring two of parents’ main concerns highlighted in the survey; anxiety and coping strategies.
Paul Gilligan, CEO of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services and Colman Noctor, Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist at St Patrick’s Mental Health Services will both present.
Speaking about the survey and the importance of supporting parents at this time, Mr Gilligan said: “We know that the pandemic has had mental health impacts for all of Irish society, and children in particular are feeling the effects from disruption to their school and social lives.
“Loneliness, isolation and anxiety all present real challenges for parents, but we want to remind any concerned parents that there are multiple resources available to support their children’s mental health and help them positively adjust to a new normality, and that these impacts will gradually subside as we begin to integrate managing the effects of the pandemic and life begins to return to normal.
“As schools come to a close for summer holidays, it is timely to remind parents that the key ways to keep our children mentally healthy apply during these unusual times, reminding them they are loved, teaching them how to be happy and to have self-belief, ensuring they feel safe and helping them to meet emotional challenges. Protecting our own mental health is also vital.
“What we have learned from this survey will inform the development of resources that will not only help parents to support their children’s mental health but encourage young people to keep motivated and find new ways to socialise and enjoy their summer in line with the ongoing restrictions.”
Speaking about the survey findings, Aine Lynch, CEO, National Parents Council said: “This study was done on behalf of parents, the majority of whom we now know are concerned, many to a high degree, about the mental health of their children during this pandemic.
“This is a timely survey as young people prepare to say goodbye to the academic year and look toward the summer months. This survey shows that parents are engaging with online information for mental health support, and this information is key to developing accessible and reliable resources that will empower them to help their children through this difficult time.”
Visit www.walkinmyshoes.ie for downloadable resources, articles and tips for supporting children’s mental health in the ongoing pandemic. For more information on the upcoming webinar for parents, visit www.walkinmyshoes.ie/news/events/2020/july/parents-webinar