We need to talk about the older children...a moment with Childline
As we emerge out of lockdown over the coming weeks and months, we wanted to take a moment to stop and consider what our older children are thinking about, and what lockdown may have meant for them.
Here at Maggie & Rose Life, we've been creating wellbeing support for parents of younger children since March 2020, and you can access many of our videos and posts here. But often with families of older children, it can be an even bigger challenge to get them to talk about their feelings.
Many teens are understandably desperate to get back to school and college, to see their friends (and get away from their parents of course!). But, there will be some who have been battling with worries that we may not even have been aware of. To get an idea of the kinds of issues that older children might be battling with, we approached Childline, the telephone counselling service run by the NSPCC which supports children and young people in the UK. We wanted to know what kind of calls they have been receiving from Secondary school aged children during the pandemic, and what we can do as parents if we are worried about our child.
Wendy Robinson, Childline Service Head: “The Coronavirus pandemic has turned children’s lives upside down and many are struggling with the challenges that it has posed.
Some have found home learning difficult whilst others are missing their family and friends, some are worried about catching the virus and for others it has had a devastating impact on their mental health".
Here are the calls that Childline agreed to share with us:
“I’ve been really struggling to complete my homework since quarantine started as we have limited access to technology at home. I have to go to my dad’s work office instead as the internet there is much faster. It’s a real pain though cos I’ve gotta wake up really early in the morning to get there. I really wish I was back at school with friends, but I know that’s not possible right now. There’s no point stressing myself out with work because then my everyday life would become worse”.
(Boy, aged 12)
“I’ve been missing my friends loads since the schools closed. They all have i-phones but I don’t, so I can’t get in touch with them over instant messenger. It’s making me feel left out and alone”.
(Girl, aged 11)
“I can't cope with this virus. I haven't got it, but I’m terrified that my family is going to get it. I don't care about me but I feel like I can't breathe when I think about my family getting it. What if they die? What if it's my fault? I can't stop washing my hands, I wash them over and over again to the point where they're bleeding, but I can't stop. I just can't do this. I'm so scared”. (Girl, 16)
“I've found being inside for so long really difficult. I keep checking my phone and getting upset when nobody is talking to me. I feel so lonely and have started binge eating. Before lockdown, I had been quite happy, but now being inside all the time has made me start hurting myself and hating myself. Being with my family really isn't helping because we don't get along most of the time”.
Wendy's advice is "If you know a young person who may be struggling, encourage them to share how they feel with a trusted adult. This could be a parent, carer, teacher, sibling over the age of 18 or a Childline counsellor.
Some children may feel more comfortable calling Childline as some may not want to worry their parents and others may just want support from someone not part of their day to day life.
"Whatever a child’s worry, big or small, we are here to support them. No child should feel alone, upset or worried during this time.”
Wendy Robinson, Childline Service Head
Childline also has a huge online community where children can get support from their peers on message-boards and use expert resources to help them through any issue they are concerned about. Children can also visit Childline’s Calm Zone which been a great source of support for children and young people during the pandemic.
Children can call Childline on 0800 1111 or visit childline.org.uk