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Join our Webinar Series this Summer: 3 Easy Steps

We are very excited to invite you to our FREE virtual webinar series, ‘Lessons from COVID-19: Reflections, Resilience and Recovery‘. For five Wednesdays between 2 June to 28 July 2021, 5-6:30pm (GMT) we’ll have a chance to share and discuss our findings with you on how COVID-19 has impacted our livelihoods, health and relationships. Importantly, we’d love the opportunity to hear from you! Want to learn more?

Sign-up and read our 3 simple steps!

1. Who is speaking?

This webinar series will feature speakers from across 6 institutions from Italy (University of Trento), Singapore (Nanyang Technological Univeristy), USA (University of Pennsylvania, University of Massachusettes Lowell), China (Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences) and the UK (University College London) and experts working in the field.

2. Who are these talks for?

Anyone and everyone! Given that the pandemic has affected all of us in differing ways, your input is as good as any. We would really value your participation in the interpretation and understanding of our findings and as always, the sharing of your experiences of the past year. In these challenging times, we’d like to bring people from all walks of life to reflect on the past year, engage in discussion about the lessons from COVID-19 in order to assess the ways in which we can recover better. We hope you will join us!

Our 5 webinars cover a range of topics including COVID’s impact on mental health in the general population across different countries, family relationships and social trust in others, postgraduate student wellbeing in higher education and what kinds of support we need to recover. We hope there is something for everyone!

3. How do I sign-up?

Head over to our Events page, or sign-up for notifications for all of the talks here. If you have any questions, email us directly and we’ll help you out at contact@globalcovidstudy.com.

We look forward to e-meeting you wherever you are in the world!

Dr Keri Wong & Global Covid Study Team

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Children students

‘So much for no physical contact’: The impact of Covid-19 as schools re-open

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption for education and the wider world. With the end of the Easter holiday seeing the return of the last secondary school pupils in Scotland and Northern Ireland, most children in the UK have now returned to the classroom for at least the second time. Although the emotional impact of not being in the classroom has roused considerable debate, less attention has been paid to the emotional impact of their return to schools.

Some argue the pandemic has had a widespread and potentially permanent negative impact, while others believe we should not be promoting a victim mentality among children. A recent article in The Times questioned how much concern is too much concern for the ‘Covid generation.’ While the pandemic has not been an ideal nor enjoyable experience for most, the author claims the current sense of doom is demoralising and preventing the development of resilience. Equating the experience of today’s children to children during the Blitz, which saw the evacuation of over 3 million children from London under Operation Pied Piper, has been argued by some to be melodramatic, while others have claimed that the need to find the balance between safety and calm is not dissimilar.

One rule for them, another for us?

The rapid changing and often incongruent rules at the country level can be a real cause of stress, as observed in our UCL-Penn Global COVID Study. This is even truer of the rules pertaining to school closures and COVID safety guidelines, as reported by pupils. For example:

‘Assembly has been cancelled for today: they’re trying to limit large gatherings. They can’t stop the crowds in the stairwells and hallways though. If we’re going to spread the virus anywhere, it’s there… So much for no physical contact.’

Pupils are clearly aware that many of the rules of the outside world do not apply at school but were assured they were less likely to spread the virus. Any reassurance this gave in the first return to the classroom was obliterated by Boris Johnson’s January lockdown announcement: schools are safe for children but “act as vectors for transmission, causing the virus to spread between households.”

These ‘mixed messages’ left teachers and parents befuddled as they had to grapple with the uncertainties on their own, with a narrow miss of a revolt. The potential re-opening of schools saw head teachers taking legal action against the UK Department for Education and teaching unions advising their members not to return.

Are they ‘All in the same boat’?

Anecdotes from secondary school pupils suggest feelings about returning to school are mixed, for example:

“It’s exciting because you haven’t seen your friends in a while, and you get to learn more things, easier.”

“I, for the first two weeks or so, was stressed and scared on every way. Of course for others they may have enjoyed it. But I was fearful and stressed.”

A similar lack of uniformity can be observed among their views about how the pandemic has impacted their families:

‘It hasn’t really effected me.’

‘It has made me more anxious and reclusive to some extent. However, it’s given me the opportunity to see my family more and grow closer to them, which is nice.’

‘Have had a parent completely shut down mentally.’

‘Less patient with each other.’

‘Higher stress and tension in my family. I’ve become much more anxious.’

‘More stress and anxiety. There are way more anger explosions and it’s harder to control our anger.’

Their accounts suggest all children are not ‘in the same boat’ in terms of the emotional impact of the pandemic. This appears to be true both in terms of individual experience and the exacerbated wellbeing issues amongst those already disadvantaged. While some will be relatively unaffected, treating some children ‘as though their granny had just died’ may be entirely appropriate, because for many that has been their reality.

So what support do pupils need to thrive?

At a recent public engagement event, 14–18-year-olds from a secondary school in the US told us how they would like to be supported:

‘More patience and grace from others.’

‘More understanding from everyone.’

‘Time away from school and understanding.’

‘I feel like schools should provide an outlet for students to possibly vent. I also believe there should be a lot more understanding with others.’

‘Others to be more understanding and patient due to everybody being in the same situation.’

‘I think emotional support is needed to thrive and recover from the pandemic as there should be time and patience given to others when they are not feeling emotionally stable.’

‘Period of time in the day where one can get away from the computer and refresh.’

The dominant theme of their responses is the need for understanding. It is clear that whilst pupils will have had very different individual experiences of the pandemic and learning from home, preceding with understanding and patience appears to be the favoured strategy to help pupils settle back into the classroom.

In sum, there are many factors that should be acknowledged when considering how the return to the classroom has impacted pupils. Mixed government messages on the safety of schools have caused confusion and concern; children have had contrasting experiences during the past year with mixed feelings and thoughts about what schools should do to best support them here onwards. One universal strategy for aiding this return is increasing understanding of others, a mindset that everyone should adopt on returning to the classroom.

This post was written by Ms Liberty Milne (@milne_libby) a third year BSc Psychology with Education student at UCL with minor comments from Dr Keri Wong (@DrKeriWong).

Are you a parent or teacher? Do you have similar experiences or comments to share? Please get in touch with us via email or follow us on our social media @GlobalC19Study. We’d love to hear from you!

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Children Parents students

A year onwards…

A year since the first coronavirus cases were reported in the UK – some of you reading this have now received not one but perhaps two doses of the COVID-19 vaccination. We hope you are recovering well. We would love to hear your experience of the jab too, as many of us continue to wait patiently.

While vaccine rollouts continue around the country and the world, we have completed and closed our second wave of data collection. There will be just one final survey in April to look out for – as this will be the 12 month point in which we can compare your responses from last year. Again, we’d like to say a huge THANK YOU for returning your survey – we really appreciate all of your support! The survey has now closed. Should you need more time, do get in touch with us and we’ll try and reopen your survey. Meanwhile our team are processing the data. We will shortly be contacting our winner for the £50 Amazon voucher and making an announcement.

As some of you may know, this project is unfunded. Our research team thus far have been operating on zero funding, yet we continue to pursue this work because we recognise the importance of conducting this timely piece of research now. It’s vital that studies like ours are gathering data now to help us understand and inform policy responses now and in the future. As we continue to apply for larger grants to support the running cost of our study, we wanted to share two pieces of good news from yesterday:

1) We reached 200 Followers on our Twitter account @GlobalC19Study!

2) Our team was successful in receiving funding from the UCL Global Engagement Fund 2020-21!

This is fantastic news to our study as it will enable us to run a themed webinar series this summer to share our study findings with the wider public. Importantly, YOU and all those interested are invited to this free event as we want to hear your thoughts on the findings in co-designing solutions as well. More details to come.

Meanwhile, we do have a few virtual events coming up where we will be presenting some of our findings as well. We sincerely hope to see you at some of our events below. Recordings will also be uploaded to our website wherever possible, so you may wish to catch-up on the study in your own time. If you are a researcher interested in learning more about this study – study variables and on-going preprints/publications – please visit our Open Science page.

Virtual seminars

  • 9 February Tuesday 12-1pm: Lunchtime seminar series at the UCL Department of Psychology and Human Development. Join via Zoom: https://bit.ly/2N5gI32
  • 18 February Thursday 5-6pm: XXI International Congress for Educators 2021: Post-COVID Recovery: Education, Resilience & Mental Health. Recording available after the event.
  • June-July 2021 (TBD): UCL Global Engagement Fund Webinar Series on with study partners on Global COVID study findings.

As always, we value your continued support and would love to hear from you on any topics you would like to discuss or suggestions on things you would like to hear from us. Please follow us on twitter for more regular updates and to access helpful resources for lockdown/working from home @GlobalC19Study. As always, please stay healthy and be kind to yourself.

Kind regards,

Dr Keri Wong

@DrKeriWong | UCL website

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Children Parents

How COVID-19 impacts children and young people’s mental health is a concern for many. What can parents do to help?

Talk to your child about the facts.

Children need to be aware of what’s happening so they can keep themselves and others safe, even from a young age: A friend with a 3 year old talks about the “yucky” germs that are making people ill, the need to wash their hands and to be careful when out and about.

Knowing the facts can also help with managing emotions. Reassure your children that experts are working around the clock to keep us safe.

Talk with your child about their feelings.

Don’t be afraid to bring up the topic and share your own feelings too. These worries are natural reactions to a scary situation.

Encourage your child to talk by asking them open questions about how they are feeling.

  • If it feels too heavy or serious, try talking about it during an activity you are already engaging in together – that way your child may be more likely to open up about their feelings.

Listen to children’s fears and worries “What makes it scary?” and validate them “That does sound scary”, “I know it is a worrying time”.

Labelling feelings will help your child to understand their emotions. For younger children especially, who may lack the skills to express themselves sufficiently, it’s helpful provide the emotion words and put it into context “I can see you’re upset at not being able to play with your friends”.

Model good behaviour.

Labelling feelings is the first step to managing them appropriately.

~All feelings are valid, it’s what we do with them that matters~

Parents need to employ their own stress management strategies to present a calm demeanour to their children. That’s not to say you have to be a robot! Showing vulnerability and expressing your own emotions in a healthy way is an opportunity to model good behaviour.

Encourage your child to come up with some strategies to help manage these feelings:

  • What makes them feel calm? What brings them joy?
  • Do they need a quiet space to be alone and read? To be distracted with fun activities and games? To interact with others?

Having a go-to list can help children (and adults!)

Create a visual timetable!

Many children find sticking to a routine helps to regulate their emotions.

  • A visual timetable may help younger children compartmentalise small tasks for each day and know what they should try and do. Again, start small. Aim for just one goal a day. If they like checking things off, even better!

Keep in contact with others.

  • If you’re feeling ‘Zoom fatigue’ letter writing can be a fun, creative activity with delivery incorporated on your daily walk

Give children a manageable goal for the day so they can feel a sense of achievement.

  • Not only do they learn new skills but they receive a boost to their self-esteem – especially after praise.
  • The goal can be something to help parents (e.g. preparing and serving lunch) so the whole family benefits!

What can children control?

  • If possible, setting up a special corner for schoolwork or some down-time can help children feel a sense of “normalcy”.
  • But remember, you don’t need to replicate school at home – you are just providing children with their own space to feel comfortable.

Having something to look forward to can really help.

  • Fill up a jar with ideas for all the fun activities you will do when the lockdown is lifted.

Take time to be grateful.

  • “What 3 things are you grateful for today?”
  • “What was a good thing that happened? What was a not-so good thing?”

Trust in your child.

Allow them space to work through their emotions, particularly through play. Providing a nurturing space will allow children to feel safe and comfortable to come to you when they have questions and give you an all-important breather.

This is a new situation and children’s different reactions to it are to be expected. Know that these new behaviours will pass. What they need is reassurance and to see how adults get through this together.

Trust in yourself.

Your first role is a parent, not teacher. Providing a safe, supportive environment for your child is the most important thing you can do (and likely something you are already doing).

Be kind – to yourself and others.

We’re all trying our best in a strange, new situation. Breaking things down into small steps and lowering our expectations may help. Everything works better when we show kindness to ourselves and others – in fact it’s the theme of this year’s mental health awareness week.

Dr Claire Forrest (@DrC_Fo) is a Research Fellow on the Nuffield Foundation funded project: Empowering staff to enhance oral language in the early years and based at the Department of Psychology and Human Development, University College London.


Do you have question or comments to share about this post or would like to hear about other topics? Please send your suggestions to contact@globalcovidstudy.com or tag us on @GlobalC19Study (Twitter) and GlobalC19Study (Instagram). We’d love to hear from you!