Young people’s mental health during lockdown
The impact of lockdown and having to home-school isn’t limited to how it affects young people’s education. Research highlights the growing concern over children and young people’s mental health and the impact lockdown learning is now having, with paediatricians warning that lockdown could have a 'calamitous impact on a generation of young people'. Young people’s mental health has been impacted in a variety of ways, from low self-esteem to record-high levels of stress and anxiety, and feelings of loneliness as they’re unable to see friends in person. There are also signs from research that primary school children’s development could be being impacted more than secondary school children. If children’s crucial skills like learning to read and write are underdeveloped, it can impact on their self-esteem and confidence, not just their future education.
Although lots of practices and resources have been put in place to cater for lockdown learning at home, and whilst teachers and parents are doing their best to deliver these to students and their children, it is proving tricky. Ofsted has published a report that focuses on the impact of the pandemic amongst children and finds that children who were hardest hit by school closures and restrictions have lapsed in some basic skills and learning. Additional findings show that some young children, who were previously potty-trained, are now back into nappies; this can be found predominantly for those children whose parents were unable to work flexibly and are struggling to balance their workload. Additionally it was found that some older children have lost confidence in their reading and writing, and have lost physical fitness, whilst others show signs of mental distress, including an increase in eating disorders and self-harm.
Due to research conducted throughout the pandemic, concern remains about the impact school closures are having on young people throughout the country. Around 20% of social service referrals come from schools, showing how vital schools are as part of the provision of safeguarding children and families. Schools play such an important role in the wellbeing of children and young people, and as a result of lockdown, many are worried what the consequences may be. The Department for Education has published a report focusing on the effect the pandemic has had on those aged between 5 and 24. It found that isolation from friends, learning from home and worrying about family members have been key triggers for poor mental health. Children and families are under significant pressure both living and working at home, so returning to the classroom in the near future will be much welcomed. However, disruption is likely to continue for some time, and the long term impact on children’s education and wellbeing will be present even when schools return.
The mental health of children and young people is key so putting in practices to minimise the long term damaging impact it will have is vital. Encouraging children to take pride and confidence in what they have done during lockdown and the skills they do have could help them start to recover self-esteem, even if it isn’t traditional educational measures like reading and writing. Understanding that the recovery from the impact of COVID won’t be an overnight process could help relieve some of the pressures they’ll face, as will reconnecting with friends when it is safe enough to do so. Physical activity like sport could also help them regain fitness levels that may have been reduced during lockdown.
We think it’s crucial to listen to young people’s voices during this time of hardship. Our recent tracker wave looked at young people’s opinions about different aspects of their lives, including online learning during lockdown and how they were feeling. To find out more about this, and young people’s behaviours and attitudes on a wide variety of topics, contact Helen or Afra (firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com).