Almost half of all parents would avail of mental health support services for their children as they return to school post-lockdown — new survey
A new survey by school-age childcare provider Sherpa Kids has found that as many as 47% of parents would avail of mental health support services for their child as they return to school after the Covid-19 lockdown.
The figure rises to as high as 82% among parents who believe that Covid-19 restrictions have already impacted their child's mental health (54%).
Sherpa Kids, which provides school-age childcare in 50 primary schools across Ireland, partnered with Behaviour and Attitudes to carry out the survey in two waves among a total of 1,276 adults, pre Covid and post lockdown in July 2020.
It found that 80% of all parents said that Covid-19 restrictions had impacted their child's routine and 67% their education. 59% said it had impacted their child's development.
A vast majority of parents (91%) felt they were impacted by Covid-19 with their child’s routine (80%), their child’s education (67%) and personal mental health (59%) affected most.
Overall, just under 3 in 10 parents say the restrictions have negatively impacted their child's behaviour. Almost half of all parents (48%) reported no change to their child’s behaviour, while 24% said restrictions have had a positive impact.
Challenges for parents
The lockdown has taken its toll on parents as well. 59% said that the realities of Covid-19 lockdown, such as having to juggle professional work with home-schooling, have negatively impacted their own mental health.
64% of parents said they have found going through lessons and home-schooling "very challenging" or "quite challenging", and 62% said even finding the time to do this has been difficult.
These figures increased with the age of the parent's child; 85% of parents with a teenage child said going through lessons was either very or quite challenging.
60% of parents believe the availability of structured school-age childcare, such as extracurricular activities and supervised homework, would have improved their child's behaviour. This figure reaches 65% among parents aged 18-34 and the same for parents of young children aged 0-4 years.
More than two-thirds (69%) of parents feel that the Government should be providing more mental health and wellbeing supports and assistance to children. 42% believe they should come from local authorities, while 31% believe they should come from childcare providers.
Since the Covid-19 lockdown there has been a significant shift in priorities among parents of children aged 12 and under when choosing school-age childcare.
63% say health and safety measures in line with Covid-19 guidelines is now the key factor in choosing a school-age childcare provider. Cost, which was a key determining factor among 58% of parents in March, has dropped to 36% since lockdown.
John Miles, Managing Director of Sherpa Kids, said:“Whatever their age, children need some form of structure and routine. They need to be socialised with their peers and have clearly demarcated home and school lives. The lockdown has obviously disrupted this structure, as it has for everyone, but the negative consequences cannot be downplayed or swept under the rug.
“The majority of parents have found it challenging to home-school their children. Our experience tells us that while it is possible for parents to juggle teaching and professional duties, parents generally cannot devote time to both. This has created a tenser, more stressful home life.
“What is particularly concerning is the effect of lockdown on children’s mental health. Most parents have reported adverse changes to their child’s routine, education, and personal development because of restrictions on their schooling and social life.
“This manifests in the significant demand for mental health support services for returning schoolchildren, which most parents believe should come from the Government. Over the long-term, Covid-safe afterschool care can provide children with a socially rich environment that stimulates their creativity, skills learning, and physical health.
“We believe the best place to deliver these services is in the school setting. We have partnered with Buddy Bench to form Sherpa Buddies which is a preventative /early intervention child’s mental health programme that will be monitored by our senior onsite managers.
“As a society, we owe it to our children to give them the best possible start in life. We need to make sure that Covid-19 and the lockdown do not leave a permanent mark on this young generation’s education and career prospects.”
Mental health initiative
Sherpa Kids has recently partnered with youth mental health initiative Buddy Bench, a not for profit Irish organisation, which teaches younger children positive mindset, resilience, kindness, coping strategies, and interpersonal and social media relationship skills. Buddy Bench has already taught 60,000 students in 330 schools. Sherpa Kids is a key strategic partner for Buddy Bench in the school aged childcare sector.
The Buddy Bench initiative supports the other elements of the Sherpa Kids strategy which includes free play, nutrition and health initiatives, Buddy Bench will live in all 50 Sherpa Kids primary schools by December 2020.