UK coronavirus: Children have 'closed up' since going back to school

Children have ‘closed up’ since going back to school at the end of lockdown – with 64% of parents saying youngsters spoke more about their feelings while learning from home

  • Some 1,000 parents of children aged between six and 16 were surveyed
  • A fifth said they thought their children had ‘closed up’ after lockdown ended
  • More than two thirds said family discussions were more open than before Covid
  • Schools reopened following the UK’s lockdown at the beginning of September 

A fifth of parents think their children have ‘closed up’ and are less talkative after heading back to school, according to a survey.

The study of 1,000 parents of children aged between six and 16 found 64 per cent thought their offspring spoke about their feelings more than usual during the sixth months of lockdown.

More than two thirds thought family discussions were more open and honest than they had been before the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK in March. 

In a crucial moment for Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s drive to get the country back to ‘normal’ last month, around 40 per cent of schools in England opened on September 2 – with the rest later in the week. 

The study of 1,000 parents of children aged between six and 16 found 64 per cent thought their offspring spoke about their feelings more than usual during the sixth months of lockdown. Pictured, pupils at Hillingbury Infant School in Hampshire after lockdown

Schools closed in March after the number of coronavirus cases started to rise dramatically in the UK.  

Following the return to school, some 30 per cent of parents were worried about spending less quality time with their youngsters.

Almost half were determined to keep meaningful conversations going, but 16 per cent felt they were having fewer conversations with their child after they went back to school.

Around 44 per cent said they though their children were too tired to talk.

The research, commissioned by McCain as part of its Nation’s Conversations report, also found 38 per cent of parents consider mealtimes an important time to catch up on their child’s day.

Schools closed in March after the number of coronavirus cases started to rise dramatically in the UK. Pictured, pupils wash their hands at Charles Dickens Primary School in London

Child psychologist Laverne Antrobus said: ‘As the everyday routines in British households continue to adapt to ever-changing circumstances, it’s unsurprising that families across the nation are worried about how to hold onto quality time together.

‘Now more than ever, mealtimes provide moments of stability and normality amidst so many changes to everyday life.

‘If children are less vocal following their return to school, then dinner is the perfect time when parents can sit down with them and discuss their thoughts, feelings, hopes and fears.

‘The research shows that the majority of parents are determined to keep meaningful conversation going, and mealtimes provide the perfect opportunity to sit together around the dinner table and facilitate this.’

Following the return to school, some 30 per cent were worried about spending less quality time with their youngster (file image)

The study also found that during lockdown, parents spent 16 hours of quality time each week with their child.

But this has dropped to 12 hours since the return to school.

Popular topics of discussion while they were at home together included their children’s hopes and fears (27 per cent), their hobbies (36 per cent) and the pandemic (52 per cent).

Although following their children’s return to their routines, 57 per cent of mothers and fathers thought the nature of their conversations changed.

Teacher Ruth Titmus leads a maths class for Year Four children in their classroom at Greenacres Primary Academy in Oldham, northern England on September 1

Chats are now likely to take place at the dinner table according to 64 per cent, while 57 per cent catch up with their kids at the weekends.

It also emerged 28 per cent of parents feel their youngster has formed better bonds with their siblings in recent months, while 24 per cent of adults now speak more openly with their other half.

The research, carried out via OnePoll, also polled 1,000 6-16 year olds and found 61 per cent have missed spending time with – and talking to – their parents since being back at school.

A further nine in 10 said they enjoy their family mealtimes and 80 per cent look forward to using the time to catch up with their parents and siblings.

A fifth feel sad about having fewer conversations with their parents, but 70 per cent had missed talking with other children and 79 per cent were excited to catch up with their friends.

Children in class on the first day back to school at Arbours Primary Academy in Northampton on September 2, as schools in England reopened to pupils following the coronavirus lockdown

Mark Hodge, from McCain, said: ‘We know that eating around the table makes mealtimes special and over the years this family moment has been a place for healthy debate, wide ranging conversations and even the odd disagreement.

‘Bringing families together at home couldn’t be more important, especially in the midst of the crisis we are all facing with Coronavirus and as we continue to adapt to new routines, whatever they may look like for households across the nation.

‘It’s therefore incredibly important that in these unprecedented and challenging times, we use dinner time to open up with one another.

‘Mealtimes provide a sense of normality and the dinner table is at the centre of togetherness.’

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