While COVID-19 spared no one, young or old, children bore the brunt of the toll, as the pandemic disrupted their education and normal childhood.
Since the inception of COVID, there has been a significant increase in the proportion of children reporting elevated or clinically significant emotional difficulties, according to growing international evidence.
According to a new Cardiff University report, more than a quarter of 10-11-year-olds experienced elevated or clinically significant emotional difficulties during the pandemic, up from 17% in 2019.
The researchers from the Centre for Development, Evaluation, Complexity, and Implementation in Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer) discovered that not seeing friends or family members and family members becoming ill with COVID were among the most persistent concerns among 10-11-year-olds during the pandemic.
According to the survey data, children from lower-income families were roughly twice as likely as those from higher-income families to report elevated emotional and behavioural difficulties.
“While it is common to say that children are resilient, our data show that the pandemic has had a significant impact on children’s mental health. Many children will be able to recover once the current situation improves. However, for many people, the pandemic will have a long-term impact on their mental health if they do not receive adequate emotional support “Professor Graham Moore, Deputy Director of DECIPHer, is the project’s lead researcher.
Despite the heavy emotional toll caused by lockdowns and home learning, the study found that most children remained well connected to their primary schools, rating relationships with staff positively.
In an online survey of Class 6 students from 76 schools in Wales, 90% said they felt cared for and accepted by their teachers, while 80% trusted their teachers and agreed that there was at least one adult in school they could talk to about things that worried them.
“The relationships between teachers and their students remained consistently strong… demonstrating the critical role that education professionals played for young people during the pandemic,” Moore said.
“It’s possible that if teachers and support staff hadn’t done such an excellent job of connecting with their students in this way, we’d be dealing with an even worse mental health crisis among our children,” he added.