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The coronavirus experience – Part 1: the challenges

The coronavirus experience. Good or bad? How has it been for you?

These might seem like strange questions, for at first glance, there can be few positives to be found in a pandemic.

COVID-19 has impacted upon us all on a global level and, the obvious implications for health aside, lockdown has changed our lives beyond all recognition.

Some have found it hard – home-schooling has been a particular problem for parents – but for others, taking time out, enjoying the peace and quiet, and reconnecting as families, has not been without its benefits.

In this – the first post in a two-part blog on the subject – we take a look at the troubles that some parents and adults have experienced, with classrooms closed, children at home and countless balls to keep in the air.

Please do look out for part two, due later this month, when we consider COVID-19 from an alternative perspective and ask once again: The coronavirus experience. Good or bad? How has it been for you?


“Coronavirus: ‘Home-schooling has been hell”.

This is a headline that we just spotted on the BBC news website. For obvious reasons, it doesn’t make for good reading.

The subheading? 

‘Some parents have been reduced to tears over the strain of home-schooling, say campaigners.’

The good news for those finding it difficult? That it’s almost at an end.

Not the pandemic, per se, for it seems as though COVID-19 is going to be sticking around for the foreseeable future. But with the school summer holidays on the horizon, respite is in sight, with certain pressures set to ease and the routines that are causing some parents problems about to relax.

No-one realised back in March that now, deep into July, most school-age children would still be kicking their heels at home, their classrooms, in the main, still closed, although some have managed to return in recent times, albeit on a limited and heavily-regulated basis.

For those not quite so fortunate?

“It [home-schooling] has been hell – sharing the only table in our small flat with my seven-year-old son,” one parent, a single mum, told the BBC. “It isn’t that I don’t think I’m capable or that we don’t have access to materials, but I can’t do two jobs at once. I can either attempt to support my seven-year-old in doing some schoolwork or try to do my own work and keep my job.

“He’s too young to have the motivation and self-discipline to work independently, especially during lockdown, when he is isolated from other kids. His emotions are all over the place and he’s getting hardly any exercise. Our relationship has been badly damaged by the struggle over schoolwork and to little end, because if anything, he seems to have gone backwards academically, despite all the lengths the school has gone to [in order] to provide work.”

This, we suspect, will sound familiar and strike a chord with many. Because home-schooling has been difficult, for children and adults alike, and the impact that it has had on some should not be underestimated.

Other parents quoted in the article described being ‘reduced to tears’ – whilst anger, aggression and arguments, it seems, have proved common for some during the coronavirus crisis.

In a separate news report, this also published on the BBC website, parents described feeling ‘burnt out’ by home-schooling, admitting to being ‘overwhelmed, stressed and exhausted’. Kate Silverton, the BBC newsreader, and a parent training to become a child psychotherapist, summed it up as ‘surviving not thriving’. It’s a description that we feel is rather apt. Her full thoughts on the matter, incidentally, are recommended reading.

If this all seems rather anecdotal, context can be found in research from Bupa, who surveyed 2,000 UK adults in May, finding that 8 out of 10 reported symptoms of ‘poor mental health’ during lockdown. Mind, meanwhile, have described lockdown as being ‘devastating’ for mental health, warning that the worst is yet to come. Having surveyed 16,000 people, the charity reported an ‘overall deterioration’ in mental health. Most significantly, for us at least, 75% of 13-24 year-olds with a pre-existing mental health issue said that recent events had exacerbated troubles.

So back to that headline. The home-schooling. The hell.

Not all have struggled quite so much, it’s important to note, this something that we’ll follow up in our aforementioned second part. But there can be no question that, with everything else that has happened in 2020, this has been a significant burden for many, forced to juggle so much and, as one parent described it to the BBC, left feeling ‘compromised’, both as a parent and an employee.

The good news for those finding it difficult? That it’s almost at an end, the summer holidays on the horizon, respite in sight and the hope that, come September, home-schooling can be consigned to the past, even if a little readjustment is required in order to keep coronavirus at arm’s length and ensure that all are kept safe.

So to our message, to under-pressure parents and to other adults, as a challenging period approaches an end:

You might not feel you thrived, but you survived. Your children safe and secure and all set for the summer, this is an achievement in itself. Be forgiving, cut yourself some slack, realise all that you have done and, please, allow yourself a little praise.

Home-schooling almost over and the holidays on the horizon, we send best wishes for the summer.

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