Sat 13 Jun 2020
‘The truth is children’s lives are not really back to normal, and will not be for some time.’ A member of staff takes a child’s temperature at the Harris primary academy Shortlands, London, on 4 June. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
There is something horribly sad about an empty playground.
For weeks now, the primary school next door has been far too quiet, save for the odd key worker’s child; no break-time hubbub, no morning school-run chaos. I didn’t realise how much I had missed the sight of small persons exploding through the gate at home time until a handful returned this week. One more baby step, perhaps, towards normality.
But the truth is, children’s lives are not really back to normal and will not be for some time. Talk to parents, and the stories come spilling out: of angry children, sad children, bewildered children, who have only just got used to lockdown and are now thrown off balance all over again by emerging from it. This week I spoke to the mother of a seven-year-old who burst into tears at the idea of going back to school, because she was terrified of getting coronavirus and dying, and another whose toddler is so unsettled by returning to his old nursery after three months off that he won’t sleep in his cot.
Children are sticklers for routine, and like to know what’s coming, but we can no longer tell them with any certainty. It’s stressful enough for grown adults, so every parent will wonder about the psychological impact of growing up under this shadow. Will the millions of children born or raised in a pandemic shake off their strangely disjointed early lives when it’s over, or will there be longer lasting effects for the Covid-19 kids?