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18 May 2021 | 13:13 | [email protected]

Covid-19 A Year On: The Impact on Parents and Small Children

As things begin to settle back down due to the successful release of the Covid-19 vaccine, along with the long awaited roadmap out of lockdown, we thought it might be a good time to reflect upon the effects that the pandemic has had on parents and their small children.

The opportunity to spend extended periods of time together at home has been thrust upon us all, but at what cost to relationships and mental health?

For some families, it has been a time to reconnect and re-establish a healthy family relationship. However, for others, this has not been the case.

These unusual circumstances have meant that alongside being forced to stay at home with children and spouses, many parents have had to face a lack of work, financial uncertainty or having to work from home whilst trying to educate and entertain young children. Add into the mix a complete lack of the usual outlets and support networks that parents depend on to help them keep calm and sane – it is no surprise that NHS England have announced the rollout of ‘mental health hubs’ for new, expectant or bereaved mothers offering physical health checks and psychological therapy.

DorPIP’s experience during the pandemic

At DorPIP, we endeavour to help create a happy, healthy society where families flourish. We offer support to expectant parents and parents with children under 2. In the last year, not surprisingly we have seen a significant increase in the use of our services.

Our figures show that we have facilitated 161 psychotherapy sessions in the last year, a 96% increase compared to the same period the year before.

As part of the regular monitoring and evaluation of our service to ensure that we offer the best possible care we asked Mums a series of questions. Here is a snapshot of what they said about how the pandemic affected them:

 “On a scale of one to ten, with ten being extremely difficult, please give us your view on the impact the pandemic has had on your relationship with your child?”

Mum's felt the pandemic has made it extremely difficult to be a Mum - due to increased feelings of anxiousness, isolation and sadness. They rated the difficulty between 8 and 10 which is classed as being between difficult and extremely difficult.

It’s clear from these answers that the pandemic has made parenting even more challenging than usual.  Being plunged into a new reality of becoming a parent whilst facing long-term isolation, has clearly had a detrimental effect on parents – increased feelings of sadness and anxiousness.  We know that this has a knock-on effect on children too.

Parents and new babies have not been able to meet close family members. They have missed out on this essential extended network of loving and practical support.  Parent and baby groups have been cancelled. This has led to increased feelings of isolation and anxiety. Being a new parent is daunting and as the old saying goes “It take a village to raise a child”. Families need to be at the centre of our community.  

Here is what one parent told us after they had completed their series of 121 parent infant psychotherapy sessions.

“Having regular support has allowed me to focus on the positives. Being a new mother is scary enough, but the pandemic stripped me of my key support groups, DorPIP restored that support” 

What does the future have in store for us?

As we now look to the future, we are looking forward to recommencing our in-person services. Peer Support and Infant Massage groups starting up again in April. Plus, our 121-therapy session will remain online so that geography is no longer a barrier to accessing this vital support.  

 It’s not clear yet what the impact will be to those babies born in lockdown. However, we do know that babies thrive through interaction, we are hard wired for relationships.   

If you have found the pandemic difficult and are a parent of a child under the age of two, please do get in touch. We are here to support you.