Alongside the direct impact to learning, school closures are taking their toll on children’s mental health too. As the Childhood Trust warns of increasing risk of mental illness, including post-traumatic stress disorder, we look at ways we can support during this emotionally turbulent time.
In its recent report, the Childhood Trust warned that the ongoing pandemic – and measures to contain it – are putting children at increased risk of developing serious mental health conditions. Along with the understandable anxiety for loved ones’ safety, the charity said children were struggling with the isolation – with the digital divide cutting many off from existing support networks.
Our newspapers, broadcasts and social feeds have been consumed by Coronavirus, and the report found children were internalising their fears – and the fears of their parents – often resulting in vivid nightmares about the virus and death. Children with existing mental health conditions have been particularly hard hit, with 83% saying the pandemic had made their mental health worse.
Although lockdown may be beginning to ease, children’s daily routines remain disrupted. This lack of structure and loss of contact with friends and teachers brings its own challenges, with one headteacher describing the experience as a ‘bereavement’ for children.
As we’ve continued to work with children over lockdown, we’ve witnessed these emotional effects first-hand. The social isolation has caused increased restlessness and lower activity levels, coupled with a crippling fear of falling behind. With students struggling to engage with large class sizes, we’ve focused our efforts on creating small, safe spaces for children to learn with others online. Bringing students together – even across year groups – has helped boost confidence and promote peer-to-peer support, while additional one-to-one sessions have helped reassure children that they can continue to progress with their education.
But at a time like this, we think it’s about more than keeping up with the curriculum. Music lessons, language study, group exercise classes – we’ve aimed to take a holistic approach that will address overall wellbeing by giving children the chance to learn new skills and stay active. And as ever, our tutors are here as mentors as much as teachers, helping children rebuild their confidence and rediscover their love of learning.
We’ll be launching a programme of summer support soon, so please keep an eye out for further details. But in the meantime, do get in touch with the team if there’s anything we can do to help.