Rachel, Isla and Olivia’s story

Rachel lives with her husband and daughters Isla age 5 and Olivia age 7.

Images from Rachel, Isla and Olivia’s discussion.


Have you talked about coronavirus with the children? What do they understand about it?

We would say Coronavirus when talking about it but Olivia has now started saying Covid 19 so that must be something she has heard at school. But I wouldn’t say we have gone into it much, very basic, that it’s a germ that you can catch. And talk about why they are being asked to wash their hands all the time. They picked stuff up at school before it closed, and they watch Newsround, so there is information on that.

What was it like back in March?

The first week was when it properly kicked off and the schools closed, well it was challenging enough. My husband usually works away but initially he was working at home, I was still working, we were trying to home school. I know lots of families managed that over the whole period, for us it was just that week as my husband got furloughed and it just made things so much easier for us. I work (keyworker) and so never stopped working. Without furlough I don’t know how it would have worked otherwise. Obviously we were concerned about him losing his job but when a lot of people were being furloughed it seemed okay. His furlough is ended now and he’s back at work after that 3 month furlough.

Being a key worker and continuing work did you feel you had to manage risk as you continued to work?

I’m pretty sure I had Coronavirus March/April time, I got hit with something very unpleasant. We didn’t have PPE and things like that, it was risky. I guess at that stage I wasn’t overly concerned about the girls, my partner sure, a bit of a worry but as he was also working and was away a bit it felt okay. I never felt overly anxious about that, probably a good thing, I’m glad I’m not an anxious person because I don’t think I’d otherwise be happy going to work.

How did the girls experience those first few months, with school closed?

They probably had the best few months of their life. They absolutely loved it. I know it’s not like that for a lot of kids. But they had their Dad around, such a novelty because he will work away. For them it wasn’t just that he was around but he was around just for them. They had a great time. the weather was good, we have a garden and living in a cul-de-sac they could be out front and back, I feel like we were very lucky. I honestly think they had a good time.

The school work thing, well trying to do work, I was kind of stressing about that. I know they are young, you kind of think well the oldest is only 7 but its such an important year, yeah I found that a bit stressful. Some days they weren’t doing much school work. I wasn’t impressed with what came from school. I understand it may have been difficult for the school to coordinate what to send but it’s difficult to get a kid to do something when it’s a parent asking. Yes, we found that stressful, two bits of work of a sheet in a day was sometimes it. But it wasn’t inspiring stuff coming home either.

It was a point of transition to P1 for Isla, how was that?

I don’t feel like she lost out because of not having that last term. I think she was already able to do a lot of the stuff that might be expected of her in P1. It was good she had an older sister to model stuff, maybe different from what it would have been like for an only child. Over the final term the nursery sent stuff out about building resilience. I was thinking she was fine, but you know the week before she started school I asked her how are you feeling about starting school and she just burst out crying – ‘I don’t want to start school, I just want to stay at home with you!’ I was like oh my god… but as we talked she was fine, just something that built up, and she’s been fine starting school. I don’t know how different it would have been if she had had that last term, if her transition had been any different really. The nursery really were amazing up to that point. They kept in touch throughout lockdown, there was like online things, learning journals, they kept in touch, there was a Facebook group where they would read a story that everyone could hear, there were virtual assemblies. And a bit of contact through the summer too, even though it was the holidays.

So now she’s in P1 loving it. They are not doing any kind of bubble in P1, just carry on as normal, with lots of handwashing and singing, just ingrained in them now. It’s just become part of their day, join the line, get soap, wash wash wash. Just part of the day. Since they have been back both of the girls have been talking about feelings at school, lots of watching of Inside Out, but they have been talking about how they have been feeling, I think that has been prompted by talking at school.

What’s changed most in recent weeks?

My husband is back at work now, going away again for part of the week. One thing that remains tricky is that before, my girls granddad would do some childcare for us when we were both working, but he is an older man and although fit and healthy we haven’t been able to see him and he’s the only grandparent that lives near us, so that’s been tough for him and for us. So back to work and school but we have still lost our informal, family childcare support.

How were you feeling about the girls going back to school?

I had no concerns at all, I was very very happy for them to go back. I wasn’t hearing much evidence of risk for kids. So I guess I had that good medical information to hand. Initially, before it hit us here, that was a worrying time as there was planning for us not coping, so that was before we really understood what was coming.

So them going back, its been fine, it feels like the things they need to do are just ingrained in them. You hear them, like at 4 or 5 saying ‘social distancing’ or other language, you know the fact that they know what that means is a bit of a weird one isn’t it? It’s hard to know what will affect them. Maybe it’s not things they should know or understand, it shouldn’t be in their vocabulary, they should just be playing. It makes me feel a bit uneasy I guess. But the school is trying to do their best, staggered starts so the girls start at different times, trying to  keep parents apart in the playground. It’s been well done.

Have you got any concerns about the future and how we manage the situation we are in?

When the kids went back to school I thought it might not last, that they would close again before midterm. I didn’t think we’d get as far as we’ve come. So it’s really good we have got here, for the children and for the parents if they are trying to work. It’s so good for them to be in school, not losing out on education and friendships. 

In some ways it’s funny, the timeline is really fuzzy. The girls were doing their drawings and Olivia asked Isla when she saw her drawing that said playgrounds were closed and she said: When were the playgrounds closed? It’s like we are losing track.

I’m sure everyone would just love to know when it’s going to be over. Isla asked me that this morning: When is it going to be over? It would be nice to know when they can see my parents again. I’m sort of at the point where I’m so fed up thinking about it. You know we are fortunate, the girls have friends at school, in the street, if we went back not lockdown or school closure in the winter when its dark, you know that would be a different story – so please not again in the depths of winter. But nobody knows.

Olivia (age 7)

I heard about it as a bad thing. I heard it was like a flu thing. It goes on to your hand and if you put your hand into your mouth it goes into you and then you get a cold with it.

In my drawing this is planet earth and the pros and cons of coronavirus. I think it’s been bad because I had to do so much hard work and I couldn’t see my friends or go to school. We went on lots of walks, that was good. My Dad was off work but my Mum was working.

It was weird to go back to school. We have to do a one way system, put on hand sanitiser when we go in and out. We have to eat in our classrooms and we are in bubbles. A bubble is like we stay together with your class and you like can’t go near other classes or touch other people in that class. It feels okay. Everybody is kind of following the rules.

Coronavirus is annoying. There were things we couldn’t do, like go to the park or to gymnastics. I can go back to gymnastics now.

My little sister had a question – how did coronavirus start and I knew the answer to that question. A bat bit a fish. The bat had poison in its gums and it got into the fish. Then the fish got taken to a fish store, the person bought the fish, they ate the fish and so they got Covid and passed it on. My cousin told me that’s how it happened, it could be.

Isla (age 5)

It’s like a bug. This is the coronavirus in my picture. We couldn’t got to the park. There’s me and my cat. I am in P1.