Parenting during Pandemic Times
“Just hearing that other parents are having the same problems is very reassuring” says Geraldine Kelly, Director of Children and Parenting Service with One Family. She is speaking to me in the context of the supports her organisation, One Family, offers parents. One Family is an organisation which supports single parents, but they found that parents from all family types were looking for help during the Covid 19 lockdown period. One of the impacts of Covid restrictions has been that parents support networks have been depleted.
For single parents, that sense of isolation was exacerbated. The initial, misplaced fears, that children were “vectors” of the virus, resulted in a huge emphasis on keeping children at home, which posed real challenges for single parents.
Louise Bayliss, activist and founder of SPARK (Single Parents Acting for the Rights of Kids) said that a lot of single parents contacted SPARK feeling hurt, anger and judgement. These feelings occurred because of sentiment they experienced when they needed to leave their house, or go to a shop, which necessitated them bringing their children along. It would seem that in some cases a common sense approach was not used regarding children, leading to feelings of stigma for single parents who were already feeling vulnerable.
That sentiment was echoed in the Barnardo’s survey, “Impact on Family Life During Covid19 Pandemic” from which one quote states; “As a single parent I feel judged when leaving my house with the children.” Louise Bayliss (SPARK) recounts stories of parents being refused access to shops when they had children in tow. She suggests that the specific realities of being a single parent were not given due consideration in the recommendations that emerged around the lockdown restrictions. As life moves on it will be necessary for society to be aware of the realities of single parents.
Both Bayliss and Kelly cite anxiety as a very real emotion experienced by parents during the Covid lockdown. During online training and online chats for parents, supported by One Family, home schooling was highlighted as an area which caused a lot of stress for parents. Geraldine Kelly underscores that no directive was given by the Department of Education about how schools should interact with children. As we face into the next academic school year guidance will be essential. Realistically Kelly points out that “while most parents and schools are hoping for a full reopening in September if that is not viable we need to prepare ourselves as parents so that we can support our children emotionally for this possibility”.
Not surprisingly, self-care is being widely promoted to parents. In the aforementioned Barnardo’s research when parents were asked about their ability to manage stress and worries 40% felt they were managing their stress or worries, but this increased to 52% among those parents who were practicing mindfulness, yoga or some other activity to help manage stress. Geraldine Kelly encourages us parents to “stop and look at yourself and see how you are coping”. Useful advice as a starting point in looking for support, or congratulating yourself on doing so well.
For all parents in Kildare/West Wicklow the website https://www.parentingsupport.ie/ provides lists of training supports available to parents. Information about all the training courses offered by One Family can be found at https://onefamily.ie/ . And the information supports available from Barnardo’s can be accessed at https://www.barnardos.ie/ .
 The survey focused on the Heart, Body, Mind and Wellbeing. There were 15 questions, primarily based on the experiences of families that Barnardo’s were working with during the pandemic. The survey included the standardised outcome measure – ‘Family Life Satisfaction Scale1’. All responses were anonymous. The online survey was active for a period of one week in May 2020. https://www.barnardos.ie/policy/the-issues/covid19-impact-survey