The charity’s annual survey of children’s well-being was completed by just over 2,000 young people and their parents between April and June.
It found 18 per cent of children were dissatisfied with their lives overall. That is a marked increase in a figure which has ranged from 10 per cent to 13 per cent over the last five years.
The Children’s Society says the coronavirus crisis and lockdown is likely to explain the worrying surge. Its report, Life On Hold, also found that half of parents (50%) expected coronavirus to harm their children’s happiness over the coming year.
It found that, while for the last two years more children reported being unhappy with school than with nine other aspects of their lives, this year more young people said they were unhappy with the amount of ‘choice’ they have. When parents and their children were asked questions about the impact of coronavirus, nearly half (46%) of parents reported their child was unhappier with how many choices they have in their lives due to the pandemic.
The crisis also appears to have had a real impact on children’s relationships with friends and family. Children reported that the aspects of coronavirus they struggled to cope most with were being unable to see friends (37%) and family (30%).
Despite this, a majority of children (84%) said they had coped to some extent with the impact of the pandemic overall. Girls reported coping less well than boys with being unable to see friends, school or college closures and exam cancellations.
The Children’s Society also held virtual consultations with 150 young people aged 8-19, asking them whether coronavirus had changed how they felt about the future.
One 15-year-old boy said: “It’s quite scary because you can die from it. I’m scared that the school has closed down. I’m worried about my exams next year. I need my exams to get a job.”
An 18-year-old said: ‘People aren’t really understanding things like how much stress this is putting on some people, because I’m really anxious about this all the time, my dad is really anxious about this all the time.’
The survey found fears about the financial impact of coronavirus among parents – and evidence that children in poverty were more worried during the lockdown.
Jonathan Richardson, Children, Youth and Families Development Officer for the Diocese of Norwich said: “The Life On Hold report confirms much of what we imagine the negative impacts of Covid-19 on children has been. Negative impacts on mental health, feelings of uncertainty about the future and negative impacts on education. Encouragingly it also highlights areas where young people have felt a positive impact – in having less stress or bullying and more time to do hobbies or spend time with close family.
“I would encourage anyone wanting to see young people thrive in their community to read the report and focus on how we as individuals and churches can help enable the positive impacts to continue and respond appropriately to some of the negative ones.”