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Parents across the world have recently found themselves faced with homeschooling their children, as schools in some 180 countries have been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenges and stress that this new family dynamic brings is evident in the flurry of memes about the reality of homeschooling that have flooded social media in recent weeks.
Humour is a great way to diffuse the emotional burden of dealing with stressful situations and challenges, but there is the very real and serious risk to mental well-being on account of the stress associated with living in the time of a pandemic, not to mention pressures related to job security and economic uncertainty.
A recent survey by the mental health foundation and LinkedIn reported that 56% of workers (2,000 took part), felt that their mental health was worse since the beginning of lockdown in the UK on 23rd March.
Expectations and perceptions around lockdown quickly shifted from plans to make use of quality time doing wholesome activities, to accepting the realities and challenges of the situation. Many families have less time together as a result of staggered working patterns, loss of usual childcare arrangements and the additional demands of supporting children’s school learning.
Parenting can be challenging and stressful at the best of times and the current circumstances are inevitably making parenting even more stressful. Research has shown that stressed parents are more likely to be harsher in their parenting which in turn can affect children’s self-esteem, well-being and longer term outcomes. It is important to learn more about the triggers related to home-schooling during lockdown that are most often causing parental stress.
Having a better understanding of these triggers is the first step towards offering support to families, since the way people cope with a stressful event affects their well-being and their stress level. Homeschooling children who typically attend school is a big adjustment for the whole family.
There have already been many positive messages reassuring parents that choosing to home-school is very different from coping with home-school as a result of lockdown measures.
Families who usually home-school their children do so by choice and have worked out how to make this work alongside other family and job commitments. Websites have been compiled to provide parents with suitable resources and general advice about helping children learn at home and a national helpline for home-schooling parents was recently launched in the UK.
The circumstance associated with lockdown and home-schooling during the COVID-19 lockdown has presented a unique situation for families who find themselves in unprecedented and unexpected challenges. It is important to understand how parents are coping with the new challenges, and how different levels of lockdown restrictions have impacted their experiences and thoughts about homeschooling.
A group of researchers from the Childhood and Youth Research Group at the University of Winchester have launched a research project to evaluate how homeschooling has affected parents and their approaches to parenting. Read more about it here and take part if you are interested.
Image credit: Freepik
Dr Sarah Bayless carries out research in developmental research, which addresses aspects of cognitive development; Dr Ana Aznar is a developmental psychologist with a general interest in children’s socioemotional development.