The Knowledge

What parents told us about their children’s mental health

Parents across the UK are worried about the mental state of their children, reveals a new survey

Parents across the UK are worried about the mental state of their children, reveals a new survey

15 Dec 2023, 12:30

We spend a lot of time talking about babies and toddlers, but our parent poll shows we need to be just as worried about teenagers. About one in seven parents with a child at secondary school told us their child doesn’t feel safe at school, more than double the figure for parents with a child at primary school. Parents in London are the least likely to say their child feels safe at school.  

Our parent poll found bullying is a still a major issue with just over one-quarter of parents telling us their child had experienced it. They also tell us they are not satisfied with the support on offer when they report bullying problems.

Mental health worries are a big concern for parents. It isn’t news that our children are reporting mental health problems in big numbers, but the national parent survey confirms it: almost half of all parents tell us they are worried about anxiety levels in their children. Once again, there were big differences between primary and secondary school-aged children in this regard.

When we asked parents about their biggest worries for their children, four in ten pointed to exam stress, with almost one-third citing homework-related stress as a major concern. There are big differences by school phase: around one-fifth of parents of a child at primary school reports worries over exam stress, but the figure jumps to over half for parents with a child at secondary school. It is almost two-thirds when it comes to parents with a child in post-16 education.

Homework-related stress follows a similar pattern. Just under one-quarter of parents with a child at primary school report concerns over homework stress, compared to almost four in ten parents of children at secondary school.

Almost three million children’s parents struggle with the costs of sending them to school

Depression is also stalking our classrooms, with one in seven parents telling us they have a child who has suffered it at some point, a figure that predictably increases as their children get older. Our polling shows that one in ten older children have self-harmed at least once in response.

Dig a little deeper into the numbers and you find one-quarter of the poorest parents have a child who has suffered from depression. We shouldn’t ever overlook the lasting impact of poverty on children growing up in the most under-resourced homes. According to our survey, almost three million children are growing up in homes where their parents are struggling with the costs of sending them to school.

When we asked about help to deal with some of these issues, parents were more often than not left to pick up the pieces by themselves. This isn’t just about schools stepping up; time and again our parents told us there just wasn’t enough support on offer when they needed it.

Almost two-thirds of parents with a child at secondary school who said their child has suffered from depression reported being dissatisfied with the support offered or receiving no support at all. The same is true when it comes to anxiety or exam-related stress: once again, fewer than half of parents say they are satisfied with the support they received. Getting help to parents needs to be a much higher priority and it can’t just be about schools doing more.

The national parent survey is one of the biggest surveys of its kind and all the data is available to scrutinise all in one place.

With a general election just around the corner, political parties need to look long and hard at our survey and put forward policy proposals to match the scale of the problem. There is a lot more we can do and we will be looking to them to respond to this data when it comes to their plans for government.

The national parent survey and the full data behind it are available to download at www.nationalparentsurvey.com

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