Parents increased quality time at the onset of the pandemic

Parents increased quality time at the onset of the pandemic

During the first months of the pandemic in the United States, Dina Levy got her young daughter and son to go for walks with her three times a day.

They kicked a football around the nearby high school. The children, then 11 and 8, made an obstacle course of chalk, and the three timed each other to run through it. They also ate all their meals together.

Levy is among dozens of parents who in a new study from the US Census Bureau stated that they spent more time eating, reading and playing with their children from March 2020 to June 2020, when coronavirus lockdowns were at their most intense, than they had in previous years.

“With school and work, you separate and go your own way for the day, but under the coronavirus we were a unit,” said Levy, a lawyer living in New Jersey. “It really was, I would not say it worthwhile, as this pandemic has been so terrible for so many people, but there was a lot of value to us as a family.”

In a report on the survey released this week, the Census Bureau includes some caveats: A large number of people did not respond. Also, compared to previous years, more of the parents in this study were elderly, foreign-born, married, educated, and above the poverty line. The study also does not measure the long-term effect of the pandemic, which is now entering its third calendar year, so it is unknown whether the increased time with the children has held up.

The results of the survey on income and program participation are based on interviews with a parent from 22,000 households during the first four months of the pandemic in the United States. The study showed that the proportion of meals that the so-called reference parents shared with their children increased. from 84% to 85% from 2018 to 2020, and from 56% to 63% for the other parents.

Some parents also read more to their children in 2020 compared to previous years, although there were variations based on income, education and other factors. In 2020, 69% of parents reported reading to young children five or more times a week compared to 65% in 2018 and 64% in 2019, the report said.

“Families knew before the pandemic that they were stressed. Children had so many places to be. Parents juggled terribly,” Froma Walsh, co-director of the Chicago Center for Family Health at the University of Chicago, said in a telephone interview. “The pandemic made people not go to work and our children were at home. It really helped parents to say, ‘Hey, wait a minute. We’re able to have real family time together like we were not before.’ “

On the other hand, the report found that excursions with children decreased for parents due to travel restrictions and lockdowns, decreasing from 85% in 2018 and 87% in 2019 to 82% in 2020. The decrease was most marked for solo parents from 86% in 2019 to 75% in 2020 according to the survey.

The pandemic also affected many families. The death of loved ones, job losses, financial worries, distance learning, social isolation and the demands of child and elderly care all took a toll, Walsh said.

“The key point is that families have experienced extreme stress and strain during this prolonged pandemic,” Walsh said. She said her research shows that families do best when they share positive values, take a creative approach to problem solving and have the flexibility to adapt.

“The families that can pull themselves together and practice resilience are doing well, and that actually strengthens their bonds,” she said.

That was certainly the case for Eugene Brusilovskiy, a statistician living in the suburb of Philadelphia. He said the pandemic allowed him to be with his daughter, who was born in the first months of the virus’ spread. When he worked from home, he and his wife decided not to put her in day care as originally planned.

“I was involved in every routine, everything from feeding her to changing her diaper,” Brusilovskiy said. “I was able to spend real quality time, go for walks and see all the first milestones that I otherwise would not have been able to.”

Although many people now limit their activities to the omicron-driven coronavirus flare-up, it is possible that when schools reopened in 2021 and children returned to their leisure activities, parents fell back into previous habits, said Melissa Milkie, a sociologist. at the University of Toronto.

“Still, some families may have experienced eating multiple dinners together and reading as something they pushed for to ‘keep’ even beyond the first months of the pandemic,” Milkie said.

For Levy, the downside of all the meals with her kids was the intense cleanup.

“It made me insane,” she said. “It was tons of dirty service.”

Yet it was not enough to diminish the unique sense of togetherness she was able to create with her children.

“It was time we had never spent together,” Levy said, “and we probably never will again.”


This story has been corrected to correct the spelling of Froma Walsh, not Roma Walsh.


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