Advice for the children of essential workers and volunteers

Last reviewed on 5 October 2020

Some people’s jobs are critical to the UK’s response to coronavirus (COVID-19) and to keeping the country running. Nurses, care workers, teachers, delivery drivers, farmers, supermarket assistants, water engineers, police officers and many others are working hard to deliver essential services every day. Others have chosen to return to work for the NHS or to help vulnerable people as NHS Volunteer Responders or local community aid volunteers.

If your mum, dad or carer is an essential worker (sometimes called a key worker or a frontline worker) or volunteer, you should be really proud of them. Just remember how many people joined in with #ClapForCarers every Thursday to say thank you to them and take a look at this 'Dear Key Workers' poem. Of course, you might be worried that they still have to work and that this might be making them feel stressed.

The Good Thinking team has looked at some of the concerns you might have and put together some advice for you and your siblings.

It’s a good idea to talk to your parent or carer about how exactly they protect themselves at work and tell them what you’re worried about. They will be extra careful while they are working and, depending on their job, they might have access to face masks, gloves and other equipment.

If your parent or carer works in a supermarket or pharmacy, for example, they might now have a perspex screen between them and their customers. If they work in a factory, they might have split shifts so that fewer people are at work at the same time. The more you understand the safety measures that their employer has put in place, the better.

Your parent or carer might like to read the Government’s guidance for employers and businesses.

Because your parent or carer is doing such an important job, that meant you could still go to school during lockdown. We understand this might have seemed unfair as most of your friends were at home but they should have been carrying on with their school work too. If someone is being mean to you about going to school during lockdown, tell your mum, dad, brother, sister or teacher. You can get more advice in our article about bullying. Your parent or carer might find the Government’s guidance for schools and colleges useful.

Unfortunately, some people don’t understand how important your parent's or carer's job is. Often, this is because they don’t have the full information – they might not even realise what they do for a living or what they are doing to protect themselves and others from the virus. If someone in your family is being harassed or experiencing abuse at work, they should report it to their employer. If it happens at home or in the community, they should contact the police. This guidance on taking action against harassment on the Citizens Advice website might be useful for your family.

Some essential workers, especially those who work in health and care, have made the difficult decision to live away from home during the coronavirus outbreak. This is their way of further reducing the risk of anyone else in their family catching the virus.

If your parent or carer is not currently living at home, you can stay in touch by phone and video chat and send photos and videos – you might like to arrange a set time each day to speak to them. You could even draw pictures for them, write a story or film yourself doing a dance.

Even though your parent or carer isn’t with you, they will be thinking of you lots. Whenever you feel sad and miss them, remember they are doing an amazing job – whether it’s looking after people who are ill, keeping food on everyone’s table or something else. This situation won’t last forever so hopefully they’ll be home soon.

Great idea! Your parent or carer might feel very tired at the end of the day or might be stressed about something that happened at work. Even the smallest things like making them a cup of tea, doing a drawing for them, making them laugh and helping with the chores can really help them to switch off and relax when they’re at home. Check out this list of suggestions for being helpful around the house.

If someone in your family needs support, they might find the Our Frontline website useful. For urgent help, they can call Samaritans on 116 123 or text KEYWORKER to 85258 to talk by text with a trained crisis volunteer at Shout. If they are an NHS worker, they can contact the free NHS staff support line on 0300 131 7000 or text FRONTLINE to 85258 for 24/7 support via text message.

Read our advice for children and young people and our article about how to handle uncertainty. The British Psychological Society has also produced guidance for children whose parents or carers are key workers.