Lockdown: Little research on how children will cope

Psychologist says children are resilient and should mostly be fine in the short term, but impact of a longer lockdown is less certain

Tes Reporter

Lockdown: Little research on how children will cope

Children are "typically resilient" and should be largely unaffected if the coronavirus lockdown is over relatively quickly, a psychology expert has said.

However, she also said that the longer it goes on the less certainty there is about children's ability to cope.

With schools and nurseries closed amid the coronavirus pandemic, young people are in the unprecedented situation of spending several weeks separated from their peer group during term time.


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Dr Yvonne Skipper, a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Glasgow, said that while there have been studies of how adults cope in isolation, such as in space or in polar exploration, there has been little research into how children would cope in such circumstances.

She said children are "typically resilient" and are likely to come out of the experience with no ill-effects.

Dr Skipper said: "It should not really be problematic if it only goes on for a couple of months, it should not lead to long-term problems. Parents should not be too worried.

"Kids are used to having some time to themselves so hopefully if it is only a couple of months they will pick up their friendships where they were and it should be OK."

In Scotland, first minister Nicola Sturgeon previously said schools may not go back before the summer holidays, which could mean children will not return to the classroom until August, although that did not appear certain when Ms Sturgeon addressed the issue this week.

Dr Skipper said it is less clear what the impact of a longer lockdown would be on children.

She said: "The longer it goes on it's more difficult to judge. I think in the short term it's OK so long as they are getting some social interaction somewhere, whether from parents or with friends online.

"In the shorter term it's not likely to be too problematic."

While video calls can be a good way for friends to keep in touch, they may be more tricky for younger children who prefer to play than chat.

Dr Skipper suggested getting young children to do something with their hands such as colouring or playing with Lego while on a video call with a friend so that they can still do something together.

She said this can take the pressure off a face-to-face call when they are not used to interacting in that way, and can help keep up their social skills.

The expert said that while older children are more used to interacting with their friends online, they may actually be more affected by being physically away from their peer group as it becomes more important to identity at that age.

She said creating some kind of structure and routine to the day can help children cope, as can encouraging them to discuss how they are feeling, while knowing that someone cares for them is also reassuring for children.

Family circumstances will also have an impact on how children cope as some parents may be facing health and financial worries.

Once schools do go back, it may be a struggle to get back into the swing of lessons and timetables.

Dr Skipper, who is based in the university's school of education, said: "It will be a challenge to go back to that routine again as they will be used to more flexibility.

"There may be issues to iron out and it's important to keep talking to children to help with their expectations and to try to smooth the way as transitions are always challenging."

Meanwhile, the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland has said that being in lockdown could be difficult for children struggling with their mental health and they will need extra support when returning to school.

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