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A third of parents ‘out of their depth’ as children struggle during pandemic

Action for Children

By Jemma Crew, PA Social Affairs Correspondent

A third of parents feel “out of their depth” as they navigate their family through the fall-out from the coronavirus pandemic, a survey suggests.

Children are acting aggressively, experiencing night terrors, bed-wetting, and becoming scared of people outside their home, Action for Children said.

Use of the charity’s Parent Talk pilot scheme increased more than five-fold during April to June this year, compared with the same period in 2019.

The digital parenting advice service was used 2,023 times during the three months within lockdown by concerned parents – the equivalent of more than 20 a day – up from 393 during the period last year.

Some 33% of 2,001 parents in Britain said they feel overwhelmed or out of their depth when it comes to supporting their children, a YouGov survey for the charity found.

Four in 10 said they feel anxious, while 36% said their children are feeling isolated and lonely.

And as lockdown restrictions ease, more than one in three (37%) say they are worried their children will struggle to socialise and want to remain at home.

One woman struggling to get help for her seven-year-old daughter said: “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’.”

Mother-of-four Nikki Wallis told the PA news agency that the loss of routine and uncertainty about the future have been the biggest challenges for her family.

Her eight-year-old daughter Macey has been repeatedly getting out of bed at 2am or 3am, while Carly, two, was just getting her sleep pattern settled when it became disrupted by the lack of routine.

The family’s electricity bill has also soared with the children stuck indoors, leaving Ms Wallis feeling as though she was “chasing her tail”, trying to turn off lights and devices around the house.

The 32-year-old and her partner, Adam, 30, from Selkirk, Scotland, have received emotional and financial support from Action for Children.

Ms Wallis said: “I think we would have struggled somewhat (without the help).

“Even just having somebody to talk to that’s not within the family walls about the struggles we are having, and for them to say ‘It’s quite common, we are hearing this quite a lot, you’re not the only person going through it’- it’s been really good to have that.”

She added: “When I first received the notification about the first grant, I can remember sitting there and being so overwhelmed that I just broke down, because it was so unexpected that there was that kind of support there.

“So I think it’s important that if you are struggling that you talk about it rather than trying to mask it. That’s what we were doing for such a long time – masking the struggle – but now we have somewhere to go to if we are having issues, to give us advice and help us through it.”

The charity is launching an extended version of its pilot Parent Talk scheme where parents of children aged 0-19 will be able to get practical advice and support from trained parenting coaches online.

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.

“With so many mums and dads in desperate need of guidance, a service like Parent Talk is needed now more than ever.”

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