The emotional impact of Covid-19 on children

(Photo: Unsplash/Markus Spiske)

While many are rightfully talking about the economic consequences of Covid-19, there is a very real likelihood of an emotional health crisis gripping people across the UK.

Covid-19 affected us all in some way. We worried about our family members with pre-existing health conditions, we missed our social contact with family, friends and work colleagues, we felt fed up seeing the same four walls.

While all of us felt the effects, the global pandemic had an acutely burdensome impact on children and families who have been struggling with isolation, anxiety, bereavement, food insecurity and poverty.

As a charity working alongside vulnerable children and families over the course of the pandemic, we have witnessed children's emotional health impacted unrelentingly from the very first days of the pandemic through to today.

Right at the start of the pandemic, we knew we needed to act quickly to ensure that children still receive vital support at a time where they need it more than ever – balancing the challenge of social distancing while also protecting the most vulnerable children.

For the Transforming Lives for Good (TLG) Early Intervention we set up virtual coaching, for TLG Make Lunch clubs we encouraged our partner churches to provide emergency care packages, and for TLG Education Centres – a form of Alternative Provision – we continued one-to-one contact and teaching via video link. As the guidelines change and schools open, we are continuing to adapt our services to make sure we continue to support children and families no matter what the circumstances.

Our hardworking church partners and volunteers did everything they could to get alongside the children and families they support, regardless of any personal challenges many of the volunteers were working through themselves during the pandemic.

Lockdown easing and children returning to school does not mean the end of these challenges for our children, but simply another new chapter to adapt to. Their emotional wellbeing will continue to spiral if they do not receive the support they urgently need. There are also so many more children out there that TLG or other great charities who are doing similar work have not yet been able to reach, who have endured this entire pandemic without critical wellbeing support that would have made a huge difference.

Children processing emotions they never imagined they would have to deal with; sudden bereavement, a family member seriously ill, the toppling of their world and routine, pulled away from their friends, aware of their family's money issues, knowing their parents have been made unemployed and many more.

Children unable to focus on catching up on their education, because instead their mind is constantly agonising over the ongoing situation at home.

Children no longer enjoying the innocent, care-free days of childhood but instead lie awake feeling the crushed weight of their anxieties.

I know your heart, like ours, will be breaking for these children and for their families.

TLG knew that something needed to be done as a matter of urgency to support children across the UK in their hour of greatest need, or risk this pandemic not only impacting our children now but for the rest of their lives and our society for generations to come.

It felt like a momentous task, but we knew the key to it was with teaching and equipping people who regularly work with children and families to spot the signs of emotional distress and how to respond to them effectively.

We have 20 years of experience in equipping churches to understand and walk alongside children and families and its knowledge of trauma, emotional health and mental wellbeing and have used that to create online training called Emotional First Aid (EFA). EFA is a 90-minute webinar exploring the impact of stress on our emotions and how to support someone, of any age, who is feeling overwhelmed or emotionally distressed.

TLG's second resource is The Emotional Rollercoaster which is a 2-hour webinar training course to hwlp churches and schools to explore emotional health with 8-14-year olds. It unpacks how our brains and bodies react to overwhelming situations and how to cope with the spectrum of emotions that can, at times, feel like a rollercoaster ride.

We are calling for churches and teachers across the UK to join in with these brand new and free trainings to equip them to support children in their local communities who are currently reeling from the impact of the current global pandemic. For more information and to sign up please visit our website.

Giving children wellbeing support, equipping them to deal with their emotions and walking alongside them as they settle into the 'new normal' will not only mitigate a potential wellbeing crisis, but also mean children are in a position to learn, socialise and look forward their future with hope.

Rae Morfin is Head of Therapeutic Practice at Transforming Lives for Good (TLG). TLG is a national charity that supports struggling children and families. This may be through intensive support for those that have been excluded from school through TLG Education Centres, a volunteer coach offering one to one help as a mentor in local schools through TLG Early Intervention, or providing food to children on Free School Meals who would otherwise go hungry during the holidays through TLG Make Lunch. They run all their services through local churches across the UK.