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Parents in Wales regret not having more time to spend with their children after lockdown

31 Mar 2022 7 minute read
A parent and child. Picture by Piqsels

Parents in Wales regret not having more time to spend with their children after lockdown restrictions have eased, according to a new survey.

While parents said they could spend more time talking and reading with their children during lockdowns, other priorities meant they were hampered from spending as much time as they like with their children in normal times.

Focusing on the time during the coronavirus pandemic, a majority of parents said they spent more time talking with their child (66%) during lockdowns compared to now, while only 11% said they spent less time talking with them compared to now.

When lockdown restrictions were initially eased and schools and nurseries were able to reopen, the number of parents who said they spent more time talking with their children dropped by 23 points to 43%.

The survey was conducted on behalf of Talk With Me, a Welsh Government programme which aims to share speech, language and communication skills tips and advice with parents and those caring for children aged between 0-5.

It found that parents want to spend more than 40 additional hours a year interacting with their children to help develop their speech and language skills, according to a new survey.

The 501 parents surveyed from across Wales said they talk with their child for an average of 47 minutes on a normal weekday, but would like to talk with their child for 57 minutes on average, which over the course of a year amounts to an additional 43 hours of talking with their child.

But experts said they were keen to reassure parents and carers that even short interactions with their child during every day routines was enough to help develop key skills that will help them in later life.

Miriam Jones, Senior Team Lead at Cardiff Flying Start Speech and Language Therapy, said: “Helping build a child’s language and communication skills can come from simple things like reading with them before bedtime, getting face to face with and talking about the toys they are playing with, or through general chatter throughout the day.

“One of our top tips would be to try and engage with your child even when you’re busy doing something else. Things like talking with them while you’re doing the ironing or preparing food, even things like pointing out animals or characters on their clothing when you’re getting them ready for the day or putting them to bed can make a huge difference.

“Busy work lives mean it’s sometimes hard for people to find the time to do this as much as they would like. That’s why programmes like Talk With Me are a really important resource which people can use for tips and guidance about the little things they can do which will make a big difference to children’s learning.”

“It all makes a difference and finding even just a few minutes a day to focus fully on our children is going to have a really positive effect on their lives and development.”

‘Adapting’

Louise and Andy Davis live in Brecon with their 3-year-old son, Ethan. Before the pandemic, Ethan was able to join nursery groups and interact with children as he normally would, but then lockdowns and closures came into effect while his parent’s working arrangements also changed.

Louise Davis said: “As things opened again after the initial lockdown, when Ethan was approaching two years old, we could see that he was become frustrated when he couldn’t verbalise what he wanted to say. We’d try to interpret what he wanted, but that often resulted in him becoming stressed when we got things wrong.

“We were keen to learn how we could make things better and it was important to be assured, that we were doing all we could to help. Our health visitor arranged for us to meet with a speech and language therapist. After some play-based assessments we came away feeling positive with some tips and guidance to help Ethan.

“I think most parents would love to be able to spend more time with their children, not just to help them with things like their communication skills but also to try and be there for all the special milestones that we can sometimes miss.”

Andy Davis said: “During the pandemic I transitioned to home working and then switched to working weekends, which worked really well for us as a family because it allowed me to spend more time with Ethan and helped us to better understand the issues he faces with his speech.

“But one of the most important things we got from our speech and language therapist was the reassurance that we were helping Ethan with developing his SLC skills just by including and talking with him as we went about normal daily activities.

“Some of the most useful tips involve the simplest things – like offering Ethan options, rather than asking direct questions that put him on the spot to tell us what he’d like to do. For us it’s about adapting the way we speak with Ethan and making the most of the time we have to interact with him during the day.”

‘Support’

Almost half of parents said they increased the amount of reading time with their child during lockdowns (49%) compared to 37% who said their reading time with their child went down.

And 45% of parents said that when lockdown restrictions eased they decreased the amount of time spent reading with their child.

The top factor stopping parents surveyed from helping their child with their talking during the pandemic was a lack of time because of other priorities (41%).
For respondents with children aged 1 year and 3 months or more, the top factor stopping them was due to a lack of time.

However, for respondents with a child up to 1 year and 2 months, the main factors stopping them are because they’re worried they’re not the best person to help with this (48%) and they are not sure of the best way to support them (48%).

The results suggest parents in Wales understand that increasing the time spent reading and talking with their children can have a positive effect on developing their SLC skills.

The decrease in the amount of time parents spend reading and talking with their children when restrictions initially eased suggests that one of the barriers facing them is time constraints.

The Deputy Minister for Social Services, Julie Morgan said: “Parents and carers have done an amazing job during the pandemic to help their children build vital skills that will benefit them in later life. It is encouraging that this survey shows they want to spend more time doing this with their children in future.

“It’s natural that some parents and carers may find less time to read and talk with their children now that restrictions are easing, and they return to more normal routines in nursery and school.

“But we are committed to supporting parents and carers to continue helping their child’s development with important resources like Talk With Me, to ensure advice, guidance, and support is available.”

The Talk With Me website includes tips on activities which can help develop SLC skills, information on different stages of a child’s development, as well as links to other resources provided by the Welsh Government and third party sites.


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