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Wellbeing, parenthood and Coronavirus

It is safe to say that COVID-19 has had an impact on all of our mental health, and particularly on working parents and those with caring responsibilities. The closure of schools and childcare services created a national childcare crisis with potentially severe effects on families’ livelihoods and wellbeing. We have seen study after study showing the impact of this exceptional period on families across the world. For recent parents returning to work is more fraught than ever, with many new parents feeling isolated as hospital appointments could not be attended by birthing partners, and much post-natal support less available in the age of COVID-19.

Co-SPACE is a project led by Professor Cathy Creswell (Department of Experimental Psychology), funded by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Council. The interim report from 5,000 responses to the survey led by experts at the University of Oxford, indicates some important concerns for parents, employers and health professionals. Parents cited work as their most frequent source of stress while in lockdown, followed by worries over their children's wellbeing and education.

Families with children who have special education needs and neurodevelopmental disorders report even higher levels of stress across all area. 80% of families who were previously receiving support from social services say it's been stopped or postponed, leaving them with further challenges.

Prof Creswell said, “This study is so important to understand the experiences of families currently and how this crisis is impacting on them, but also so we can know how best to support families going forward. Our results are showing some hotspots of concern, particularly for parents of children with special education needs and neurodevelopmental disorders. These parents report increased stress across all areas, including managing their children’s behaviour, they also express a desire for personalised support from professionals.”

Other highlights from the interim report included:

  • Parents particularly want support around their child’s emotional wellbeing, education and coming out of social isolation
  • Nearly half the parents/carers thought that their child was concerned about family and friends catching the virus
  • A third of parents/carers reported that their child was worried about missing school

Visit the Co-SPACE website to read more and to keep up to date with their work.

Watch a webinar given by Professor Creswell titled ‘The Effect of the Coronavirus Lockdown on the Mental Health of Children and Young People’, held by the Foundation for Science and Technology.

Support for Returning Researchers

Returning Carers Fund

The HT22 deadline of the Returning Carers Fund is coming up shortly on the Friday of 5th week – 18 February 2022. Any member of research staff can apply if they have been on caring/maternity/shared parental leave for six months or more returning within the last 2 years, at any institution. The MSD Athena Swan and EDI Advisor, Katherine Corr is happy to read and feed back on applications prior to the deadline to ensure the application is as strong as it can be, so please do not hesitate to reach out if you think you are eligible or have any questions.

Detailed guidance on the Returning Carers Fund, including the application form

In summary, applicants need to cover:

  • What impact has maternity leave, shared parental leave, adoption leave or caring leave taken on their career trajectory, activity or plans?
  • What barriers are they experiencing on their return?
  • How exactly will the requested activity help them overcome this impact/barrier?
  • What specific outcomes will this activity contribute to?
  • What specific career plans (i.e. on the route to independence) will this activity contribute to?

Resources for parents and carers

Returning Parents Workshop

An online workshop for expectant, new and returning parents on maintaining a successful work/life balance.

Wednesday 16 March, 10.30am - 12.30pm

This online workshop is being offered across the University to parents/carers who have recently returned or are about to return to work after a career break. The goal is to provide recent returners with the information, tools, support, and networks they need to ensure a successful and smooth return to work. The workshop will be open to all who have recently returned or will be returning to work after taking a break for caring responsibilities, with a particular focus on those returning to work following a period or periods of parental leave, paternity leave, maternity or adoption leave.

Over the two hour workshop, you will:

  • Learn about childcare and other family support;
  • Learn about relevant HR policies and practices, and have your questions answered by an HR team member and a Childcare Services team member;
  • Discuss how the landscape has changed post-pandemic;
  • Hear from a panel of returning carers (academics, researchers, and professional and support staff) who will share their tips on time management and balancing home and work demands.

Register for the Returning Parents Workshop

Childcare Services

Childcare Services provides high quality, accessible and affordable early years care for the children of collegiate university staff and students.

Visit the Childcare Services website

The Work + Family Space

University employees can register for free with the Work + Family Space (formerly My Family Care) to access support on family related issues. The Work + Family Space is a University benefit for all employees that offers access to emergency back-up childcare and adultcare, a 'speak to an expert' phone line, and a wide range of guides and webinars. Access to the services, phone lines and web guidance is free for University employees.

The Work+Family Space hosts a library of webinars, which is regularly added to, covering a broad range of work+family topics, helping working parents and carers combine work and family life. For example:

For parents:      

  • Understanding neural difference
  • My Old Man (Parenting in later life)
  • Choosing Schools: What, When, Why?
  • Fostering and Adoption

For carers:

  • Caring from a Distance
  • Resilience for Carers
  • Caring & Your Career: Keeping Work and Home on Track
  • Co-operation in Caring

As well as webinars for everyone such as

  • Performing under pressure, the neuroscience of stress management
  • Mindfulness for busy professionals

Student Parent information

Whether you already have a child or are about to become a parent, a wealth of services are available to support you in Oxford - from the University and Oxford Student Union to the County Council.

Visit the University of Oxford webpage for student parents

Advice and resources for parents with school aged children

This is a time of uncertainty and a lot of children and young people will be feeling anxious and worried about what is going on. This is a normal response to the situation and below we offer some advice about what adults can do to help and support children and young people.

There is a lot of information becoming available - this is great but may also be confusing, so we have pulled together some advice and some of our favourite links in to one place. We hope this will be helpful.

Visit the Emerging Minds website for a useful evidence-based resource for parents/carers on how to support children and young people with worries about COVID-19, this comprehensive evidence based guide filled with Advice for parents, carers and people that work with children and young people