Education is a really important part of a child’s development – but at what cost for kinship carers, and particularly carers who are older and have underlying health conditions? School gives children the time to see their friends, to learn, be creative, and it also offers carers some respite. But at the moment the risk to your family’s health can overwhelm the want to return. Janet’s story shines a light on how many of you feel about your children going back to school.
“Talking to other kinship carers about survival during the coronavirus virus pandemic has made me feel in many ways comparatively fortunate. I have friends who are struggling financially and also having to cope with children who are not managing being off routine, and who are challenging them with difficult behaviour. In my house, our 7 year old has settled into his new routines comparatively well and although homeschooling is hard, because of his concentration problems, we are coping. So far, so good, but the announcement that schools will open as early as June 1st has raised one of the toughest dilemmas for many of us.
Like a lot of grandparent carers I have health conditions that make it imperative that I don’t get this virus. Many of us older carers are either sheltering or taking additional care to avoid infection because we don’t fancy our chances if we contract the virus. The thought of a child or children coming home after contact with hundreds of others every day is terrifying. More than anything we know that our children don’t have anyone else, which is why they are living with us. So staying alive and not abandoning our children before they are independent is a prime goal of grandparent carers.
But school is a massive part of most children’s lives and also provides respite for us older carers who may not have the physical energy and stamina to support and entertain their children every hour of the day for months on end. Our children are under stress during the lockdown. Whether being away from school feels like a relief from academic and social struggles, or a loss of community and friendship; they still have to deal with being off routine and the loss of familiar people and places. Although my 7 year old is doing okay, there are signs of him fraying at the edges; sudden tears, the odd bout of unusually uncooperative behaviour, sleep problems and some slightly obsessive behaviour.
The impact on their mental health may not be evident just yet, but our children are under siege mentally, and there will be more serious consequences for some. The re-opening of schools would be welcome for these reasons and would signal a return to some sort of normality and a reduction in stress for grandparent carers. But for those of us who have health issues that put us at additional risk of dying from contracting COVID-19, then a return to school can feel like a death knell. So this is what keeps me (and many others like me) awake at night, wondering what the best thing to do for all of our family is. And there are no easy answers.”
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