How lockdowns harmed our children – and helped some harm themselves

Book review: The Children’s Inquiry: How the state and society failed the young during the Covid-19 pandemic by Liz Cole and Molly Kingsley, Pinter & Martin, paperback, 272 pp, 6 July 2022

READ THIS BOOK and weep. Weep for the millions of children we’ve failed to cherish, protect and nurture for the past two-and-a-half years. Weep because this has been happening for much longer. 

Weep because our governments and big businesses have built falsehoods to replace healthy parenting evolved over millennia and have addicted our children to technologies and gambling; to sugary processed diets; and have leveraged childhood trauma and self-loathing for political and financial purposes. It’s wilful, skilful, and systemic. And mostly hidden. 

In these few hundred words I can summarise only a tiny fraction of the evidence, humanity and practical power of The Children’s Inquiry. So I can best mainly reflect on this hugely important book in my own words, informed by my life and work; in suicide, health and education. Please note there are references to suicide below, so if you are vulnerable in this respect, please be careful. 

Illness and death are different for children 

It’s usually sad when someone old dies, especially for the bereaved. It’s more sad when a less elderly person dies. But when a child dies. Think about it. 

And when a child kills himself or herself, steps in front of a train, or searches on social media for other methods. Can you begin to imagine? Unlikely, unless you’ve lived it. 

Adults who are not parents, and parents who haven’t experienced childhood self-harm, can’t imagine children cutting their own bodies, and the blood and the bandaging, and the dangerously secret shame, and hiding the scarring; these children so terrified by what’s in their heads. 

Big boys don’t cry. Girls and boys should be like airbrushed celebrities and cartoon warriors and princesses. Happiness can be bought, usually on credit. Climbing trees is too dangerous. This is the nonsense our children try to make into sense and meaning. 

For generations before the pandemic, children have been addicted to sugar and processed foods, causing harmful inflammation in their growing minds and bodies, persisting into adulthood addictions and ill-health. For a generation, children are also addicted to smartphones and screen technologies too, because that’s how it’s all designed. 

Now think about school closures and remote learning. Forcing children to endure so much screen technology, that is child abuse. Forcing children to stop exercising and playing. Stop singing, dancing, drama and sports. All also child abuse. 

The Children’s Inquiry explains and proves that the UK’s leading experts in children’s welfare and health predicted the harms to children and young people at the outset of the pandemic lockdowns, rules, restrictions and school closures. These warnings were ignored, censored and undermined by forces that are sinister, negligent or worse. 

The masking of children and removing children’s freedoms were far more extreme and enduring than adult restrictions. The double-standards, especially laughing bare-faced politicians visiting masked children for PR and news stories, are all profoundly disturbing. 

Understanding expressions on people’s faces is an incredible human evolutionary capability and necessity, and part of non-verbal communications. In babies too especially. We sense mood and feelings from physical presence. Even smell. Think about face-masks and what face-masking does for children and youngsters. Think about what this dehumanising does to people – especially little children – especially the very sensitive, neurodiverse, deaf and the abused – yes even these little children. Think about what face-masking does for cooperation and mutual understanding and trust. 

We have no idea yet how deep the damage is 

How many more children will be cutting themselves after what’s been done to them in the past two-and-a-half-years? How many more children will be killing themselves than before our already overwhelmed health services in 2019? 

Do you think some vulnerable children might have disappeared from the education system during the school closures and have never returned? In fact 94% of vulnerable UK children failed to attend school as invited during the closures, and 100,000 remain missing from the system now, and nobody knows what’s happened to them. 

This is just one of the hundreds of shocking facts in The Children’s Inquiry, which is 272 pages of densely packed, robustly referenced information (504 references), all brilliantly written and constructed. This book is infinitely more than a story. It’s a guide for how we fix humanity and the planet. 

Do you think that child abusive head trauma cases increased in the pandemic measures? Yes, they did; dramatically and very quickly evidenced in the first lockdown. 

Very early in the lockdowns and school closures there was evidence that children are not seriously at risk from Covid, nor are they ‘superspreaders’, and yet pandemic rules for children were harsher than for older people.  Until the wickedness of those rules is widely understood and completely reversed, the wickedness will persist. 

Knowing how many children and teenagers are contemplating suicide, not even talking to their friends about it, let alone their parents or teachers, has become a deeper mystery than ever. The pandemic measures further silenced what was already unspoken and unheard, and the biggest killer of young people. 

While every suicide is different, isolation and withdrawal are extremely dangerous final stages in the typical spiral from depression and anxiety to suicide ideation, to the planning and deciding of suicide methods. Think about the isolating effects of face-masks, lockdown measures, school closures, shame and guilt, in mainstream media and children’s TV. Children as ‘vectors’ for transmission was, and remains, official news – now a traumatically embedded belief of millions of children, part conscious part unconscious, in ways we can’t yet know, which takes years to emerge, if ever for some. 

Play was ended. Playgrounds closed with police tape. Play and exercise became against the law and added to the deep embedded new beliefs of millions of our children. 

Politicians with no understanding of childhood growth, and no experience of raising children in the normal world, or at all, said it’s possible to ‘pause’ a child’s development. And we have no idea now of the damage to our children, and no feasible political plans or budgets to remedy the harms. UK children suffered more in the pandemic than every European nation except Italy, compounding prior failings, whereby pre-pandemic UK child wellbeing was worse than dozens of other countries. 

Somehow adult populations, especially UK, were and continue to be persuaded that children are so resilient and adaptable that even babies and toddlers can be collateral damage and sacrificial human capital in order for adults to feel safer and less fearful, and to feel more virtuous, in this ‘mass formation’ hypnosis, this nightmarish spell, of harming our own children. 

So it became more important that a great-grandmother be protected than her great-grandchild. Every frightened adult became more precious than every child. The book refers to the ‘Inversion of Nature’. Do you see it? 

Political power does not self-regulate 

The Children’s Inquiry will help adults understand that children are being harmed, including harming and killing themselves, while adults are obsessing about their own needs, wants, fears and divisions. 

Liz Cole and Molly Kingsley are parents, writers and co-founders of UsForThem, together with others in its team [including co-founder Christine Brett] they’ve led multiple national political, media and letter writing campaigns advocating for children to be prioritised during the pandemic.

I’ve understood for decades that great leadership takes responsibility when nobody else can or dares. And so besides its distressing and brilliantly practical content, The Children’s Inquiry is also a story of uplifting inspirational leadership, and a guide for what we must change. I am in awe of and hugely grateful for the work of these wonderful people. Thank you. 

Please buy or borrow The Children’s Inquiry. Read it, and share and discuss it with family, friends and colleagues. Be the change. Be the loving ripples. Look after our children. 

Available on Amazon here.

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