1 in 3 Parents 'Out of Their Depth' as Children Struggle with Pandemic Fallout

Across the UK, millions of parents are feeling out of their depth as their children struggle to cope with the aftermath of the pandemic. After a surge of parents consulting them UK charity Action for Children has launched Parent Talk, a new national online service that connects mums and dads with experienced parenting coaches.

New research by Action for Children shows that UK parents are on the edge as the COVID-19 pandemic causes mental health issues for both them and their children. More than one in three parents admit to feeling overwhelmed or ‘out of their depth’ when it comes to supporting their children, and there is a worrying trend in children's behaviour.

With the uncertainty of the coming months and the possibility of a much-touted 'second wave', parents are fearful for their own and their children's ability to cope and mental health. Up and down the country mums and dads are dealing with problems like their kids being unable to sleep, night terrors, loneliness and aggressive behaviour.

One mum said:

"My daughter’s behaviour has deteriorated to a worrying level – major temper tantrums and night terrors almost every night… we are so worried for her."

A YouGov survey of more than 2,000 parents found a similar picture across the country. The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on millions of families in Britain, with parents and children struggling to cope with issues caused by life in lockdown. And now anxiety stretches into an uncertain future as parents worry about their children adjusting to a new normal.

Many children are anxious or unable to sleep, and combined with bad behaviour, many parents are also experiencing stress and anxiety themselves. Many are also experiencing the same loneliness and sleep problems as their children.

The problems are not confined to younger children as this parent explained about a 12 year old:

“My son has OCD and terrible anxiety He looks for constant reassurance about his health and hygiene. It has escalated over the last couple of months since he has been in lockdown.”

Other symptoms of children's anxiety have included bedwetting, becoming ‘clingy and unsure’ and not wanting to go outside. Others reported ‘disordered eating’, that their child had become ‘weepy’, ‘frustrated’ and even ‘scared of people’ outside their home.

One mum spoke of her concern for seven-year-old daughter:

"I'm struggling to know where to get help for my 7 year old. She has big meltdowns which don't resolve for hours and if we try to reflect gently later this leads to panic or another meltdown. Aggression is common during these meltdowns as are comments like "I'm gonna die" or "I wish I was dead."

With ongoing uncertainty, Action for Children is warning things are likely to get worse as the long-term impacts of the pandemic become clearer. After seeing a surge of 415% enquiries in the three months of lockdown to its digital parenting advice service, the charity is launching Parent Talk.

This new national online service will connect mums and dads with trained parenting coaches. Parent Talk is a confidential one-to-one online chat service gives parents somewhere to turn for free, practical advice and emotional support.

The charity is also urging the government to do its part by prioritising children’s mental health in the COVID recovery planning, and providing adequate funding to meet the surge in need feared in the months ahead.

Lynn Giles, Parent Talk Manager at Action for Children, 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."

You can access free support from Parent Talk at parent-talk.org.uk

You may also find these articles helpful:
Things You Can Do When You Are Anxious
How to Protect Your Mental Health During Lockdown
Stress Management for Busy Mums
5 Simple Steps to Manage Stress and Anxiety

Parent Talk offers free, down-to-earth information and advice for parents of children aged 0-19 from Action for Children. The confidential one-to-one online chat service connects parents directly with a parenting coach for judgement-free practical advice and emotional support whilst the website answers some of the most common parenting questions. Parenting coaches are qualified and experienced support workers, childminders, play practitioners and teachers.

Action for Children protects and supports vulnerable children and young people by providing practical and emotional care and support, ensuring their voices are heard and campaigning to bring lasting improvements to their lives. With 476 services in communities across the UK, the charity helps more than 387,000 children, teenagers, parents and carers a year.

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