‘More angry outbursts, more crying, more feelings’: How kids are handling lockdown
We asked parents how they thought their kids were coping. Here’s what you had to say
Roger Doyle’s sons Jack (7) and Ryan (4).
Sarah*: ‘Their behaviour has definitely changed’
My three children are alright, on the surface at least. But many times every day we hear “when can we...” and “when this is over...” and “I really miss...”. They miss everything – school, their friends, family, the things that made up their week. We do get out every day, but still they are watching too much TV. They are young, so we only have one short school session a day, but the social aspect of school is sorely missed.
Their behaviour has definitely changed; there are a lot more angry outbursts, a lot of crying about missing everybody, especially in the evenings, a lot more feelings that are hard for them to cope with. They worry a bit about germs and spreading things around, and who might get sick, although we try not to talk to them too often about it.
We do video calls, but it doesn’t work that well – sometimes it makes the situation worse, because they are reminded of what they are missing out on. It makes me angry, because I feel nobody cares. We are talking about opening DIY shops and restaurants and flights, but the reopening of crèches and preschools and schools has to be planned for, in order to allow many parents to go back to work. Children have to be thought of, not last, but among the first.
Their lives were upended on March 12th and they have no voice. It hit them quickest, hardest, and so far, for the longest. They are least able to understand, but nobody is mentioning them. There is no sign of normality on the horizon for them, and they are the least at risk from the virus.
Teresa Cauley: ‘They are not missing school at all’
I have two children and they are happy as Larry being at home. We live in the countryside, so they have plenty of scope for roaming around the fields. They have animals which they look after, and that keeps them occupied. It can be hard to get them to do their school work, but once that’s done, they can then amuse themselves. They are not missing school at all, and I worry they will find it hard to get used to it again when the schools re-open.
In the main they have coped well with lockdown. However, the reality of it all just hit them recently when they lost a grandparent to Covid-19, which is incredibly sad. It’s their first experience of having to deal with a death so close to them. They do realise the importance of us all staying home.
Claire Uibh Eachach: ‘She asks 10 times a day why she can’t hug her nana’
At first, my five-year-old was great, excited even. She loved the novelty of baking at home, playing in the garden, watching a lot of silly TV, banging around on mommy and daddy’s laptop, eating ice-cream, and Zoom calling her nana.
Now, it’s not so much fun. She’s started asking about all the talk of death. Will she die? She gets up in the middle of the night to wash her hands in case the bug gets her. She asks me 10 times a day why she can’t hug her nana.
Now instead of baking and painting, we try to do meditation, and we talk it out. I turn the radio and television off. I know we’re keeping everyone safe; well, their bodies anyway. I’m just not sure about her little mind.
Roger Doyle: ‘It has been a chance for more family time’
Our two young boys Jack (7) and Ryan (4) are managing well enough, considering school here in Dubai closed in the last week of February. Days begin with a morning class Zoom meeting followed by daily homework that they complete by end of the week. There are fun activities, PE, French and Arabic lessons, and “silly Thursday’s” are a flexible day to complete any remaining work or have fun baking and playing games.
Boredom has so far eluded them, as they relish the chance to do art, Lego, and construct stuff out of odds and ends, with the extra freedom being home from school. There’s more screen time in the day than usual which is a big hit with them, allowing us parents quiet periods to focus on work. Exercise amounts to daily walks on scooters, and occasional joining their dad on the 59th floor apartment balcony gym.
Jack’s seventh birthday was last weekend, and he considered his “digital birthday” celebrated over Skype with family and friends to be the best ever, a much simpler affair of homemade cake and decorations.
We consider ourselves lucky as the last nine weeks has gone by quickly. The odd squabble aside, it has been a chance for more family time together.
Jane Murphy: ‘My son is an only child’
My son is seven, and an only child. Under normal circumstances he is fit, active and sociable. We’d have lots of extra-curricular activities to keep him busy, but that is all gone now. The first few weeks were fine, we did the homeschooling, had a short walk, some lunch, did a bit of cycling in the fine weather and then home to play. But in the last few weeks he has become institutionalised. He doesn’t want to go outside anymore. Any suggestions of mine to leave the house are met with a grunt. He misses his friends and contact with other children deeply.
There should be more of an effort made to reopen the schools before this school term ends. The novelty has well and truly worn off the homeschooling. I have realised how resilient and adaptable my son is, but it’s so hard for him to be away from other children. I am worried he won’t ever be as sociable as he was again.
Roisin: ‘They are loving seeing more of their parents’
We are in a seaside village with a beach nearby. The youngest pair, 7 and 9, have overcome their reluctance to cycle and now take to the roads with relish.
Nothing can make up for missing friends. On some of our outings we have bumped into other families and it has been hard to keep the kids apart, so everyone moves on quickly. The kids are sad after such encounters, it seems to be when it sinks in the most.
Otherwise they are loving seeing more of both their parents (we are separated), they say it is what they will miss most when things “return to normal”. My employers are providing flexible working hours, and I try to work early shifts to be free in the afternoon to do a bit of schooling and then we head out on the bikes. It makes me sad to think this is a kind of falsehood, that I cannot always spend time so simply with them.
The eldest is doing the leaving certificate. She is remarkably calm in the face of all of the uncertainty. She hasn’t always been so. Maybe the many trips to mental health professionals to help learn the skills to cope with overwhelming emotions are bearing fruit. No longer being in the school environment has a lot to do with it. She is more focused and applied without the stresses of social interactions and running around to eight 40-minute classes a day.
She has made more dinners in these strange weeks than in the previous year - we joke that she is practicing for living away from home for college in the autumn. I hope she gets the chance to.
Jennifer Caffrey: ‘I have real concerns about their mental health’
I have two boys aged 10 and seven, and a three-year-old girl. The seven-year-old gets angry more easily these days. The 10-year-old struggles to find words for the questions he wants to ask. I don’t want to stress them out by talking about it too much, and I’m not sure what is right to explain to them. They are very bright kids, so some of the fluffy virus stuff aimed at children won’t work.
I don’t believe resilience is born out of a crisis, so we have to hope what we’ve done up to now will stand to them and help them through. My biggest concern is the silent damage being done to their mental health. We all applaud them for getting on with things and doing their schoolwork, but children in very damaging situations can seem happy. What are they really thinking about not being able to see or hug their grandparents, and play with other children? What can they possibly say about how this is impacting them at their young age?
I think no matter how happy a family, is or how well a situation is going at home, I have real concerns about their mental health and the lack of a roadmap for navigating a crisis like this with them.
Catherine Cosgrave: ‘They have been champions dealing with the situation’
Overall, my children (aged seven and 12) are coping well. They attend Canal Way Educate Together and the school has been very supportive, keeping in touch regularly by email, and through an excellent remote weekly school assembly from principal Dermot’s living room. The children can send in their own videos, showing what they’ve been getting up to (baking, art, gardening, exercise, even iguana bathing!) and giving “shout outs” to their classes. Last week there were 190 families participating by Zoom, and the assembly is posted on the school website afterwards for anyone who couldn’t join “live”. It was chaotic but fun.
The school has set up Google classrooms with suggested activities and links to further resources, but all assignments are not mandatory. The emphasis has been on kindness and taking care of each other.
Our boys are close and despite the age gap, they get on very well. They have taken up baking and, as our dishwasher broke, they have learned how to wash dishes without too much grumbling. They have also started learning the piano using an app. They keep in touch with friends in Kinsale by FaceTime, and check in most days to play piano for each other, play quizzes and chat.
Their grandparents in Blackrock and Wexford have taken up FaceTime and Zoom, and chat regularly, with my youngest boy showing off his herb propagator and flowers in the back yard. The weather has mostly been great and we live close to the War Memorial Gardens and Phoenix Park. They get exercise every day on their bikes, and have joined me in my efforts to get fitter by going for lots of walks and slow runs.
They miss being able to run in and out of our neighbours’ house to see their pals, but have enjoyed a bit of occasional banter while chalking on the pavement from three houses apart. My older boy is in sixth class and a bit sad that they won’t get back to school for graduation before starting secondary.
While occasionally grumpy, mostly they have been champions dealing with the situation, and this has really helped us, their parents, who are both trying to work from home. We are very proud of them. It is much more difficult for parents with younger children or additional needs.
Valerie Cooke: ‘He’s missing the social interaction’
My biggest concern for my seven-year-old boy is the social interaction he’s missing out on, just learning to cope with the ups and downs of schoolyard and friend life, especially as he’s an only child on a country road where he hasn’t even seen a child his age from a distance. He’s a sensitive kid that tends to overreact to things, so he really needs that interaction to learn. We haven’t done many video calls with his friends as I don’t want to over-play that.
I’d stick with the current lockdown for as long as it took if we could have any easing for him, if he could have a couple of days of school or could go to the beach or (I know it’s a long shot) – a playground.
In fairness to him, he’s coping very well especially as he’s an only child with two parents trying to work from home. For us, it’s never been a problem of boredom, but of the guilt when he asks “will you play with me?” and for the 11th time that day you say you have to work. I’m lucky that my employer has been flexible and understanding, but inevitably you still end up giving that answer several times a day.
He was always a fan of jail cells in his play, but during lockdown I couldn’t help but notice it has changed from putting the bad guys in them to the good guys, including Batman’s Robin and a poor baby-doll.
*Some names have been changed.
- Compiled by Ciara Kenny