A survey, to find out more about the impact of lockdown on parents and children across Northern Ireland, has revealed that 93% of respondents expressed concern over their child’s wellbeing and 86% admitted that they have concerns about their own mental health.

As part of Parenting Week 2020 (19 – 23 October), Children in Northern Ireland (CiNI) has released the results of a survey it conducted to find out more about the impact lockdown and the continued restrictions have had on children and parents across the province since March.

The Health & Wellbeing of Parents Survey was carried out in two parts, the first during lockdown in May and June and the second as more restrictions were lifted during August and September, and was distributed via CiNI’s networks including member organisations, the Children & Young People Strategic Partnership networks, Family Support Hubs and parents and carers directly from the charity’s database.

Of the 201 respondents, 93% expressed concern over their child’s wellbeing and 91% about their child’s future. The majority (85%) of parents surveyed are worried about their child’s education and 79% have a concern about the behaviour experienced by their child.

Of those surveyed, 86% admitted that they have concerns about their own mental health with the same number of parents expressing concern about their finances.  A sizeable 62% of parents are worried about losing their jobs, this increased from 39% in the first survey, with 52% of respondents acknowledging that they are currently in a relationship which is causing them stress.

The worry and anxiety of parents is further highlighted by statistics from CiNI’s regional parenting helpline, Parentline NI, which received 2,340 calls and over 700 webchats from April to September.

Pauline Leeson, CBE, Chief Executive of Children in Northern Ireland said: “Since the end of March 2020, the coronavirus crisis has brought a lot of sudden changes for families. While parenting can be very rewarding, the sudden change in circumstances has been challenging with many parents feeling stressed as they try to balance work, childcare and self-care while dealing with an array of emotions and concerns.

“The results of Health & Wellbeing of Parents Survey have shown that the levels of stress and concern parents have been experiencing since March have continued to grow.  The top stressor for parents is in relation to their child’s future which is quickly followed by their education and in light of the most recent restrictions and continued uncertainty, we believe this anxiety will only increase in the months ahead.

“Worryingly, 86% of parents surveyed admitted that they are concerned about their own mental health and it is clear that this has been adversely affected by the lockdown and the subsequent problems associated with opening up services. What’s more, changes to the mental health and wellbeing of parents can sometimes affect the health and wellbeing of their children as they may pick up on a parent’s anxiety or low mood.

“The financial impact the crisis is having is a continued concern for parents. Unfortunately, Northern Ireland already had a growing, and unacceptable level, of child and family poverty and now, the economic and financial impact of Covid-19 is likely to see a whole new level of poverty and related issues especially for those parents who are already vulnerable or struggling financially,” Pauline continued.

“Concerns from parents during lockdown and subsequent easing of restrictions continues to raise many issues – many of which continue to be exacerbated by a lack of return to normal life or support services.

“Children in Northern Ireland’s Regional Parenting Helpline, Parentline NI, and our policy work continues to bring us into contact with parents, each sharing heart-breaking stories and gaping flaws in policy issues and services. This survey shows that parents continue to struggle –  even as services eased.  The Government must do more to address these gapping flaws in recent policy decisions to ensure that families, children and young people fully recover from the Covid-19 crisis,” shs concluded.

Parentline NI offers advice, support and guidance on every issue a parent is facing and is there if you just need to speak to a friendly, listening ear. The service is open Monday to Thursday from 9am – 9pm, Friday 9am – 5pm and Saturday from 9am – 1pm and you can call free on 0808 8020 400 or chat online at www.ci-ni.org.uk

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