Children may be 'less adventurous' due to Covid-19 lockdowns

Home-Start in Suffolk provides care for families struggling across the county Picture: Home-Start in Suffolk

Home-Start in Suffolk provides care for families struggling across the county Picture: Home-Start in Suffolk - Credit: Archant

Separation anxiety and lower confidence are among the impacts of lockdown on early years children in Suffolk, according to a family support charity. 

Home-Start in Suffolk said that it was finding that parents and carers spending more time with their children during the national lockdowns has improved speech and language but increased separation anxiety. 

The full effect of the additional bonding and attachment time may not be seen until these babies and children begin school, when a difference in sense of adventure, risk-taking and engagement may be noted. 

Tara Spence, chief executive of the family support charity based in Martlesham, said: "Usually when there's a newborn come into the family home there'd be people traipsing in and out, you may or may not go to the baby groups but you'd be out in public, go to the supermarket, do all those normal things. 

"Over the last 18 to 20 months that has stopped.  

"I think that certainly for parents and carers when you're nervous or struggling with your own emotional wellbeing you tend to hold onto your child more, you tend to rely on your child more, which means you're less likely to let them socialise, so children just haven't got that experience. 

"And this is not the time we're going to see it so much; it's going to be when we have those children starting school.  

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"It absolutely will have an effect further on. We see it in normal non-pandemic times, children that have spent more time at home with parents and less social interactions with other people, find it harder to separate. 

"Parents that have used childminders, their child is more likely to not get upset in that school playground, to want to engage in that school setting.

Tara Spence, Chief executive of Home- Start in Suffolk. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown

Tara Spence, Chief executive of Home- Start in Suffolk. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown - Credit: Archant

"You're going to see children slightly less adventurous, more risk-averse, less likely to try an activity, less likely to engage with other children, less likely to explore and climb on things and so on. And that can have a knock-on effect on their confidence. 

"And it's harder for parents, it's not just one-way. It's difficult when you take a child to school for the first time. For parents that have spent all that time and their world has been the household and the home with the children in it, the change will be hard on them. 

"There are benefits though. What we're seeing is that speech and language has improved significantly because they've spent a lot more time talking to parents. Parents and carers have had more time to talk and engage with them." 

For slightly older children, Home-Start has seen an increase in engagement and empathy since they returned to school after the last lockdown. 

Mrs Spence said: "Initially when older children came back they'd lost a bit of confidence, they were more anxious, they'd witnessed a lot, because children of seven and eight were seeing the news and knew what was going on.  

"But they're increasingly more engaged and a lot more confident. They're more willing to express themselves and be supportive to peers, which is really nice. 

"They've almost got this underlying community having been through this thing together, so that's really positive." 

She stressed that children are resilient and that improvements would come as time passes and support groups can continue in a more normal way. 

"In younger children the reality is you've affected a smaller percentage of their life. It's older children, who will remember more about this and potentially know someone that has suffered, who will be more affected. 

"Parents and carers are our children's first educators, they are ridiculously important, so we need to make sure they're supported to support their children. They make the huge difference to this." 

Sarah Olley, project manager for Get Suffolk Reading - a 10-year campaign to improve literacy levels across the region -- said that children starting reception school are demonstrating the need for more support than previous cohorts.

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