Parents whose children received virtual education or a combination of virtual and in-person education were more likely to report increased risks related to 11 out of 17 indicators of child and parent well-being, according to a new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Researchers looked at survey responses from 1,290 parents with children ages 5 to 12 between October and November of 2020.
About 25% of parents whose children received virtual or a combination of virtual and in-person education reported deteriorating mental or emotional health for their children, compared to 16% of parents whose children received personalized education.
They were also more likely to report that their children were less physically active and spent less time outside and with friends.
From New York City, Stephanie Cockenos, a mother of two daughters, one of whom is 7 years old and the second is 5 years old, said, “The difference between the two methods is the difference between day and night, especially for my daughter.”
Cockinos explained that she is used to the distance learning method, although it is not a natural method at all.
Cockinos, who is not currently working while her husband works from home, indicated that she cannot even think about whether she is working during this time, explaining that distance education has become a full-time job for her, just to make sure that her two daughters’ needs are met academically. And most importantly, from a psychological and emotional standpoint.
Since the pandemic began, Kokkinos explained that her two children had to face school closures and then return to classroom education again on March 19.
Cockinos believes that this coming and going with children the same age as her two children is very harmful, and added: “It is difficult to put yourself as an adult, (in their place) with what they face and how they behave.”
Cockinos pointed out that the matter looks different in every child, as some children are falling back in school, some have somewhat lost their luster, and some of them no longer have a love of learning anymore, according to what I mentioned.
“They are exhausted and suffer from headaches and eye pain, in addition to that they do not get social interaction and their needs are not met during this period,” Cocinos added.
Parents feel the influence, too
About 54% of parents whose children received a virtual education reported feeling emotional distress, compared to 38% of parents whose children received a personal education.
Parents of children receiving virtual education were more likely to report job loss, concerns about job stability, childcare challenges, conflict between work and childcare provision, and difficulty sleeping.
Fathers and mothers of children who received a combination of virtual and in-person education were more likely than those whose children had received a personal education to report job loss and struggle between work and childcare provision, and about 43% of them reported feeling emotional distress.
Addressing this year’s mental health concerns
About 66% of Hispanic parents and 55% of dark-skinned people reported that their children received a virtual education, compared to 32% of white parents.
Stephanie Burrow-Carpenter teaches third-graders at Fraser Elementary School in Louisville, Kentucky, who has just returned to the personal classes.
“I think it definitely differs according to the student and the situation,” said Boro-Carpenter. “We have some children who have suffered a lot more trauma than others.”
Specifically, Borough-Carpenter has had to pay special attention to the racial trauma some of its students have suffered because they live in Louisville, where Briona Taylor was shot dead by police in March 2020.
Because of that trauma, as well as the uncertainty caused by the epidemic and the shift between distance and personal learning, Borough-Carpenter has placed a special emphasis on the mental health of its students.
Boro-Carpenter set up a session for her students with a mental health counselor, in which students conduct weekly sessions with him, by providing them with an online form as a way to request help without having to disclose it.
The researchers wrote that children who do not receive a personal education and their parents “may be at increased risk of negative mental, emotional or physical health consequences” and may need more support to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.
“Community-level actions to reduce the incidence of COVID-19 and support mitigation strategies in schools are very important to support students’ return to personal learning,” the researchers note.
Not everyone is looking for another change
Experts say that returning to school will not be beneficial to every child’s mental health, as some children who have been bullied or bullied at school or feel more free to express themselves at home and outside the social hierarchy in their schools, will not necessarily want to return.
Lenore Skincey, president of the non-profit “Let Grow” organization that works to promote childhood independence and resilience, spoke with CNN at the start of the epidemic about why some children have positive mood-related benefits during distance learning.
Some of these benefits that children saw at the start of the pandemic may still persist, such as increased independence and the development of better skills such as the ability to plan, problem-solve and follow-up.
“Just because we used to get kids to go to school five days a week and then spend a lot of the remaining time on activities that are organized and led by adults, that doesn’t mean that this was the only or better option as a way for children to spend their childhood,” said Skinsey.
And for parents who struggle to navigate this challenging time, Skinky recommends focusing on the extra time their children may spend outside of the classroom remotely.
“I would like parents to be satisfied with this strange ‘downtime’ year, and to realize the growth their children are experiencing, even when things seem somewhat disjointed and crazy and the distance learning part does not go so well,” added Skinsey.