(edited)

24 June, 2020

Survey finds that over 25% of parents ‘very concerned’ or ‘extremely concerned’ about the mental health of their young children

Close to 1,500 parents across Ireland took part in our recent survey, carried out in conjunction with the National Parents Council Primary, to explore the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on children.

Findings reveal that 70% of parents of young children are concerned about the impact of the pandemic on their children’s mental health, with 25% of parents either ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ concerned.

With lockdown restrictions easing and primary schools closing for the summer break this week, the survey was developed to gain insight to and reflect on parents’ concerns for their children’s mental health and to explore the best ways in which they can be supported at this time.  

Exploring the findings

The survey was issued to over 9,000 parents on the National Parents Council Primary network and completed between 15 and 19 June. Findings from the survey reveal that:

  • Almost 70% of primary school parents are concerned about the impact of the pandemic on their children’s mental health; one in four would say they are either “very” or “extremely” concerned (18% very concerned, 8% extremely concerned)
  • Lack of social interaction, transitioning back to school and missing friends are among some of the top concerns parents have about the impact of the pandemic on their children’s mental health during this time
  • Isolation and loneliness, anxiety and coping strategies are among the top three areas that parents feel they need assistance with to support their child’s mental health
  • 17% of the children of parents surveyed have received mental health support from places such as schools, private counselling, helplines, Health Service Executive (HSE) local community support, local clubs or inpatient care
  • 8% of parents believe their child’s ability to access mental health services during this time has been impacted
  • The majority of parents surveyed turn to friends and relatives to seek information on supporting their child during this time
  • Over one-third of parents would not know where to turn to for advice, resources and information to assist them in supporting their child's mental health during this time.

The full results of the survey can be downloaded here. 

Responding to parents’ concerns

The survey also found that over half of parents surveyed would first turn to downloadable resources to support their children’s mental health during the pandemic, and as such, the results will now be used to help guide us in the development and sharing of resources and to complement our existing suite of online resources, available here. 

A webinar for parents will also take place on Wednesday, 29 July, exploring two of parents’ main concerns highlighted in the survey: reducing anxiety and developing coping strategies for their children. Paul Gilligan, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services (SPMHS) and Dr Colman Noctor, Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist at SPMHS, will both present at the webinar.

Speaking about the survey and the importance of supporting parents at this time, Paul Gilligan, CEO of SPMHS, said: 

“We know that the pandemic has had mental health impacts for all of Irish society, and children, in particular, are feeling the effects from disruption to their school and social lives. Loneliness, isolation and anxiety all present real challenges for parents, but we want to remind any concerned parents that there are multiple resources available to support their children’s mental health and help them positively adjust to a new normality, and that these impacts will gradually subside as we begin to integrate managing the effects of the pandemic and life begins to return to normal.

As schools come to a close for summer holidays, it is timely to remind parents that the key ways to keep our children mentally healthy apply during these unusual times, reminding them they are loved, teaching them how to be happy and to have self-belief, ensuring they feel safe and helping them to meet emotional challenges. Protecting our own mental health is also vital. What we have learned from this survey will inform the development of resources that will not only help parents to support their children’s mental health but encourage young people to keep motivated and find new ways to socialise and enjoy their summer in line with the ongoing restrictions.”

Aine Lynch, CEO of the National Parents Council, said:

“This study was done on behalf of parents, the majority of whom we now know are concerned, many to a high degree, about the mental health of their children during this pandemic. This is a timely survey as young people prepare to say goodbye to the academic year and look toward the summer months.  This survey shows that parents are engaging with online information for mental health support, and this information is key to developing accessible and reliable resources that will empower them to help their children through this difficult time.”

Finding out more

More downloadable resources, articles and helpful tips for supporting children’s mental health in the ongoing pandemic can be found here.

Registration for the upcoming webinar for parents is now open here. 

Click here for more information about the National Parents Council.