Sarah lives with her two sons who are Duncan age 5 and Harvey age 7 years old.
Images from Sarah, Duncan and Harvey’s discussion.
Have you talked about coronavirus with your child? What do the children understand about it?
I always say the Coronavirus but the boys usually just say ‘the virus’. At the start of the whole thing they both were quite upset that they didn’t get to go to school and so I had to explain why that was. And I had to explain, because I am a (key worker), because I might have to go to work – it turns out I didn’t – but there would be procedures I would have to go through and things I might not be able to do. Like I wouldn’t be able to give them cuddles. And even now in shops I explain they can’t touch things, and they have to be careful when we are outside. Going past parks I had to explain ‘oh we can’t go in there because of the virus’. They do know it’s because someone ate a bat in China, that’s what they think, that’s how it started basically. But I haven’t spoken much about the ins and outs of the virus, all the rules or all the political stuff about it.
It’s just me and the boys most of the time because I’m a single parent and I’m quite open with everything in life with them. The only thing I did was to try not to let them see much about it on television because that was overwhelming for me, I didn’t want them to be upset or scared. But I still tried to tell them that it’s a very serious situation to be in, but I didn’t want them to see what was being portrayed in television, that might have been too much for them.
What was you experience of those first months of lockdown?
For the boys I don’t think it was too bad. At the beginning they didn’t quite understand what was happening. They couldn’t understand why we weren’t allowed to go out, or go to school, or see their friends. Or why they weren’t getting to visit their Dad at the beginning, because obviously you weren’t allowed to meet anybody and the rules weren’t clear about that. So that was a bit overwhelming and their behaviour changed a lot at the beginning. They were just really confused and acted out a lot. They didn’t have any outlet for their energy because they were always in the house. So their behaviour got worse. And with me stuck in the house too, and so well my moods… the first couple of weeks was really bad and the build up to it was worse for me because just before Covid happened there was a long weekend break off school, and I had had a bad time, and I was thinking I don’t know how I’m going to cope with them being off school for weeks and weeks of time. But luckily I had one good neighbour who I used as like a support, if I was having a really bad day she would help. But the first couple of weeks when I was on my own it was quite hard.
As I say they stopped seeing their Dad for a little bit. They would normally see him every second weekend. But we weren’t sure on the rules at the start, if they could visit a different household. I was always quite good at taking them out, going to the park. And we had (support agency), lots of groups to go to. We were always out the house, never in, I don’t like being in the house, so you know it was really quite hard. And the boys just missed socialising with the friends, they are really interactive boys.
What happened with learning during that period when the schools were closed?
The school were quite good. They set everything up on Glow and they said if you couldn’t get on Glow then they would send out writing packs. But there was only one we used. One thing I wasn’t too keen on, the school phoned me one day and said ‘Oh we’re just phoning to make sure you have your password to the Glow account because the boys haven’t done any work and you should log on and do it’. And like, I understand that their education is important but I’m teaching them other things, I was teaching them maths, and weights when we were baking, learning in every opportunity we could, but I wasn’t always going to sit down or try to get the kids to sit down for an hour a day and work on Glow. I just felt a wee bit out of place that they were phoning me to ask me to do the work, it made me feel like I’m doing this wrong here.
They had to access anything on the internet on my phone. But one thing I did buy was an Xbox so they have been playing Minecraft a lot. I was one of those parents that did limit time playing games, I’d say ‘go in the garden and dig for worms!’ but with lockdown and nothing much to do they have spent more time on the Xbox. But it’s been nice to see, my oldest is passionate about Minecraft, building things, he’s really quite good at it, teaching me to do it.
Learning at home is hard because you are like their safe space. As their mum I get all their bad emotions stuff too. When they’re stressed they come to me. It wouldn’t have been nice to put them in strict learning, what I’m saying is it wouldn’t have been right to mix school and home, they wouldn’t have learned much. I might have got frustrated if they weren’t listening, they wouldn’t have been learning properly. So that’s why I tried not to make it so like ‘sit down and do your work’, we tried to just do stuff through the day, if we were cooking, things like that.
Did lockdown affect you being able to work?
So I thought we might be able to get the boys into school because I could work, well there was a rule about parents being a key worker. Well actually after I applied they didn’t even get in touch. I wasn’t told I had been declined or anything. I kept calling, they said they were busy. I eventually got to speak to someone and they said ‘oh didn’t you get the email, your place wasn’t accepted’ and they said because the boys’ father wasn’t a key worker it would be his responsibility to look after them. I explained that I’m a single parent, even though their Dad will take them sometimes he’s not reliable enough for me to be able to work, so basically I haven’t been able to work the whole time during lockdown because I had no childcare. So that was quite frustrating, the school didn’t seem to understand that. So when it came to me working, the way it works is that I’m in a bank, on a zero-hours contract, and I pick up work when I can. But you are supposed to pick up a minimum number of shifts and so obviously with the boys off school I had to explain and say please don’t kick me off, I will try to work any chance I get, so they were quite understanding and just said take the time you need, we understand schools are off.
How would you summarise the boys’ experience of that lockdown period? And your own as a parent?
I think we had a lot of the support we needed from (local third sector support agency). They have been really good with keeping us up to date, doing things online, they’ve been handing out veg packs. They brought out packs for picnics, outdoor games. They made sure all the kids got as much as they could, parents too. That helped a lot because I knew they were there to support us, even though we couldn’t go to groups.
I think they liked being home with me, because I did work quite a bit before. When they were at school I’d be working. They liked being in the house and spending time with me and learning new things. But the thing they struggled most with was probably not getting to see their friends, or their Dad. There was quite a few nights of tears. But it couldn’t happen.
For me, I never actually anticipated, but looking back now, the amount of food you have to feed kids to keep them happy! It felt like a lot more than we would usually eat. And because I get quite anxious, I’ve got anxiety, I can have some bad mental health days. What was hard was not being able to get that break when they’d be at school. Or go for a walk. It was constantly together all the time. Quite stressful sometimes. Not being able just to have a seconds break. I would be up all day, and when they’d got to bed I’d be tidying up and then having to go to bed. Really, no time to myself for weeks at a time.
One thing that happened during lockdown was that we moved house, probably one of the most stressful things I’ve ever had to do. The Council gave me 2 days to move, they told me about a house at the start of lockdown, then it was on hold. I had to use any money I had saved during lockdown. Then eventually when things started happening again I got a call saying come and see this house tomorrow. So we saw it on Friday at 11am and signing keys on the Monday and had to move on the Wednesday. I had nothing sorted because I didn’t know what was happening with lockdown. I’ve been here 3 weeks now. We moved from a flat to a house with a garden. A much better house. But because of that something that was quite sad that has affected the boys was that they had to move school, so obviously they couldn’t say goodbye at their old school. And normally they would have an introduction to the new school, with me, but they had to go in without me, I couldn’t even go into the office. So they had to start and go into this big scary school where they knew nobody at all, by themselves. That was hard on me, so difficult to do that to them. They were fine. But that was the rule, it was difficult.
So thinking about where we are now, what’s changed most as we come out of lockdown?
The fact that they are back at school. That’s good for them and me. They’re making new friends, learning things. And we moved house of course, I feel much better in the new house than I did in the old one. And we were able to go out for a lunch to the park, that’s something we’ve not done for months. After that I was walking down the High Street and I stared crying, it’s like you don’t appreciate how much you miss just doing simple things. It was such a relief, I thought they’d run wild and misbehave, but they were so nice. Such a relief, I really miss just going out and having lunch with them, going to the park, having a nice day. You know it all took its toll.
How’s it going for the boys back at school?
I take them, we only live 2 minutes away, so we walk. We can go into the playground, the kids have different lines and doors to go in. But parents aren’t wearing masks, there’s not much social distancing, but there is room to stand apart. The boys haven’t said much about any differences in school. There was an issue online, people saying the children had to hold their breath walking in corridors, of course that wasn’t the case, but things get miscommunicated. It seems different schools have different rules which doesn’t feel fair, and its confusing. One thing though they’re not allowed to take a school bag in, the boys loved that, you know with their gym kit and stuff. They’ve got smart sacks on the back of their chair, and they can put their tuck in their in a bag and they can keep it there.
One thing though has been what to do if you think someone has Covid. So, the boys, a couple of weeks ago, had a cough. I ordered home testing kits and we stayed in to do them. Doing it on kids was actually quite horrendous, even to do it on myself. You have to stick the cotton thing to the back of your tonsils. It wasn’t easy on a 5 and 7 year old. I told the school on the Monday we had done the test and we would wait on results. We got the results back on the Wednesday, all negative, I checked online that this didn’t mean we had to self-isolate so phoned the school and they were like, ‘When did you do the test? What are the results? We don’t know if you can come back to school…’. I was asking ‘Why can’t they come back?’ I had to wait the whole Wednesday for them to try to clear this up, then I got a phone call and was told they can’t come back for 48 hours after any sickness or diarrhoea, and I said they haven’t had either of these things, no fever, and no covid because we did the test. And they said no, just don’t bring them back, if you bring them back before another 48 hours we will send them home, so they mustn’t come back until Monday. So they had Thursday and Friday off school because the school weren’t clear on the rules, but had this thing about being clear of anything for 48 hours. I don’t think this has been very professional, to say if they come to school they wouldn’t accept them basically, even though they have no symptoms. They said that was from higher up. I could understand if they had symptoms and no test, but basically totally unclear.
I was nervous about them going to a new school, but they say there are less chances for children to catch the virus so I thought they would be okay, I never really had concerns. But then when the oldest started coughing I though oh no, have I sent them back to early. If they got ill it would be my fault because I chose to send them to school. And then I’ve been really quite wary after that, like the boys carry napkins if they have to sneeze. I’m always telling them to wash their hands, just because we had that scare that they might actually catch it.
Have you got any concerns about the future and how we manage the situation we are in?
No, I think we have cracked it. We have learned how to manage the new rules and stuff like that. But there has been talk about going back in to lockdown, or rules getting stricter and I think that would be quite tough on the boys. They’ve been like enjoying their freedom, getting out. It’s hard because you want things to be consistent in your kids life. Changing the rules is very confusing for them. I don’t want to turn round and tell them they can’t go to school because of this virus, or tell them they can’t see their friends. It’s quite hard to know you will upset your child by saying things like that.
Is there anything that would help you as a parent in the next wee while?
I don’t know what would help in that situation. I think having somebody there that won’t judge you. Like having someone like (local support agency worker) who knew I wasn’t doing online work with the boys and she never once turned around and said ‘but you should be!’ Or I would tell her, we’ve been in the house and we have done nothing, I’ve not done anything exciting with them, I’ve not tried to do anything fun with them, she would be like just chill, you are fine, you will have these days. They are so supportive no matter what I chose to do and that really helped a lot because there were a lot of people that felt like they weren’t being good parents during lockdown and that was me included, and so having someone there that was just encouraging you and reminding you that you were a good parent, well it would have been a lot worse if I didn’t have that person reminding me every couple of weeks.
I am 7 years old.
The virus is called Covid 19. It’s deadly. I don’t know anything else. I just know it’s deadly. I feel worried and sad.
In my picture the coronavirus is up the top, the people are playing with the ball and it’s got coronavirus on it, because you’re not allowed to play. I put coronavirus above their head. The virus is different shapes, squares, circles and ovals. And the bit at the bottom says ‘deadly virus’.
My other pictures are Mum and Dad. I felt sad because I couldn’t see Dad. I missed school and my friends. I’d be sad if we had to go back into lockdown.
I love being back at school. It’s awesome, I’m in P3. We can’t get out of our seats. In the corridors there are arrows. You need to follow them so you know what way to go. I love the feeling of hand sanitizer, but if you have a cut it nips.
I am 5 years old.
My dad was walking and the virus was outside somewhere. I don’t know where the place was. I feel Coronavirus is evil. I’m in Primary 2. I felt sad when I couldn’t go to school. I couldn’t see my Dad. I was playing with my brother and playing Minecraft and with my toys. I liked that. I’m not scared to go back to school. It’s awesome.
This is my picture. The virus started when someone ate a bat. A good person. At the top that’s Coronavirus. And that’s the bat there. And down there is the ocean, and he’s swimming in the ocean. And the Coronavirus is trying to get the bat, and the bat is flying down to the person and the person is eating the bat and that’s how Coronavirus started.