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Parents concerned about COVID-19’s emotional impact on families

With Queenslanders keep a close eye on COVID-19 cases in other states, and looking at ways to improve the economy, many parents are reporting feeling stressed and overwhelmed. A new free guide to healthy relationships and managing conflict between parents is being released as part of the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program’s suite of tips and advice for coping with uncertain times, during COVID-19 and beyond.

Recent surveys around the world have revealed that the impact of COVID-19 on families varies, partly depending on the age(s) of their child(ren), and it seems a majority of parents are struggling to balance child care, schooling, and work.

Overall, the results of various surveys (from the US, UK, Europe, Canada and Australia) will probably cause few surprises for any parent who has experienced multiple disruptions to work, school, and life in general as a result of this year’s coronavirus crisis.

Whatever the age of their children, a majority of parents were ‘very’ or ‘extremely concerned’ about balancing child care, schooling, and work, according to a new Statistics Canada survey.

Parents of school-aged children between 4 and 11 years old appeared to be struggling the most, with 80% of those with children in that age group saying they were either ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ concerned. Even of those who were the least concerned (parents of school children aged 12 to 14), more than half (55%) rated themselves very or extremely concerned about balancing these factors.

Meanwhile, an Australian survey of more than 7300 families found that the percentage of families working from home skyrocketed from a mere 7% to 64% during the survey period. The Australian Institute of Family Studies “Families in Australia Survey: Life During COVID-19” looked a number of aspects of family life, including who usually looked after children before COVID-19 and compared to during the pandemic.

In many families, there was only a small change to care arrangements (for example, in the Australian survey, 54% of children were ‘always or usually’ cared for by their mother normally; this dropped to 52%). However, there were striking differences for families of under three-year-olds. Within that cohort, whereas 63% said children were ‘always or usually’ cared for by the mother prior to the pandemic, this fell to 56%. At the same time, equal sharing of child caring responsibility between mothers and fathers whose children were under 3 increased from 28% to 37%.

Canadian parents also said they had concerns about managing children’s behaviours, stress levels, anxiety and emotions (61%); having less patience, raising their voice, scolding or yelling (46%); staying connected with family or friends (43%), getting along with and supporting each other (37%) and feeling lonely in their own home (30%).

Other surveys have found that parents are also spending more time cleaning now that everyone’s at home, and many are unable to ask grandparents to help care for children, (either for travel or health reasons). Parents also say they’re worried about things like their children’s opportunities to socialise with friends, the amount of screen time, mental health and academic results.

Free Triple P resources to help parents during this time include Top Tips and full parenting guide to help parents cope with uncertain times and COVID-19 (there are separate guides for parents of younger children, parents of teenagers, and parents of children with a disability); and a free online magazine featuring articles and ideas, and interviews with parents and Triple P providers. All resources are available via Triple P's parent website: www.triplep-parenting.net

See links to various surveys here, here, here, and here.