One of the biggest threats facing children during the COVID-19 pandemic is not the virus itself, but the risks of living in a highly stressed and unstable home.
That’s the view of multiple child protection agencies and experts, as the wider social impacts of the pandemic become clearer.
With the vast majority of local kids now being homeschooled, the weight of caring for and educating them has fallen onto parents, many of whom are also working from home.
The loss of contact between kids and their friends and the suspension of activities such as weekend sport is leaving a big hole in children’s lives that is putting more pressure on families to fill the void.
Child advocacy organisation Lookout says, ‘Family violence advocates in China have already reported that family violence incidents have tripled for the month of February.
‘Research into other natural disasters in Australia suggests that family violence could increase anywhere from 30 per cent to 100 per cent [owing to COVID-19].’
Experts and advocates are urging parents to make use of the services available to support families, including a number that have been set up specifically to meet the unique needs of being in lockdown.
A number of local phone counselling services have also been set up, including the Byron Community Centre counselling service (call 0414 322 064 between 10 am and 2pm to arrange an appointment), and the Women’s Resource Service and Staying Home Leaving Violence at the Mullumbimby District neighbourhood Centre on 6684 4299 with appointments made on 6684 1286.
There are also simple tips for homeschooling and child care during lockdown that can help to smooth the way.
Luminous Youth provides classes for local kids to explore spirituality and their inner worlds.
Its co-founder Paul Crebar says, ‘In an extremely challenging and intense time for everyone’s wellbeing, it becomes so important to connect to the fundamentals: listening to each other, hearing each other, taking care of each other’s feelings.
‘It’s important to ask kids how they’re feeling about this situation. Do they feel like just getting on with life, or talking about what’s happening and how they’re coping with the huge changes?
‘I think it’s also important to be careful with having too many expectations on your kids at the moment.
‘I can see how parents might want to keep up with all the school work, but it’s also important to consider whether they really need to do maths today or whether just spending some quality connecting time together is more important.’
Mr Crebar said it was also very important for parents to look after themselves.
‘There are enormous mental and emotional challenges, so self-care is really important.’
Luminous will soon launch some of their programs in an online format.
For more information, visit Luminous Youth.