Parents and children spent more time together in US amid pandemic

During the first months of the pandemic in the United States, Dinah Levi’s daughter and younger son accompanied them on walks three times a day.

He kicked a soccer ball at a nearby high school. Then 11 and 8 year olds built an obstacle course out of chalk and between the three of them they took the time it took to cover it. They also made all their meals together.

Levy is one of thousands of parents who have indicated in a new US Census Bureau survey that they spent more time eating, reading and playing with their children between March and June 2020 – when lockdowns due to the coronavirus were most intense . – What happened in previous years.

“Between school and work, everyone goes their own way the rest of the day, but during the coronavirus, we were one unit,” said Levy, a lawyer who lives in New Jersey. “We really were. I don’t want to say it was helpful, because the pandemic has been terrifying for so many people, but it has meant a lot to us as a family.”

In a report on polling released this week, the Census Bureau includes some caveats: A large number of people did not respond. Also, compared to previous years, this time there were more participating parents who were older, foreign-born, married, educated and above poverty level.

The survey also did not measure the long-term impact of the pandemic, which is entering its third calendar year, so it is unknown whether parents continue to increase the time they spend with their children.

The findings of the Income and Program Participation Survey are based on interviews with parents from 22,000 families in the United States during the first four months of the pandemic. The survey found that the proportion of food these so-called reference parents shared with their children increased from 84% to 85% from 2018 to 2020, and from 56% to 63% among other parents.

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

“Before the pandemic, families knew they were under a lot of stress. The children had many places to go. Parents were behaving too much,” said Roma Walsh, co-director of the Chicago Center for Family Health at the University of Chicago. “The pandemic forced people not to go to work, and our children were at home. It really helped parents say, ‘Hey, wait a minute. We can spend time together as a family, as we could not before.’

On the other hand, the report found that moving out with children due to transfer restrictions and confinement decreased from 85% in 2018 and 87% in 2019 to 82% in 2020. From 86% in 2019, the shortfall was higher among single parents. According to the survey, up to 75% in 2020.

The pandemic also caused tension in many families. Walsh said the death of loved ones, job loss, financial concerns, distance learning, social isolation and child and elderly care were hit hard.

“The bottom line is that families have experienced immense stress and pressure during this long pandemic,” Walsh said. She notes that 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.

“Families that can join forces and practice resistance are doing well, and it really strengthens their bond,” he said.

Such was the case for Eugene Brusilovsky, a statistician living in the suburbs of Philadelphia. He said the pandemic allowed him to spend more time with his daughter, who was born in the first months of confinement. Since he was working from home, he and his wife decided not to enroll him in daycare as they had originally planned.

“I was involved in every routine from feeding her to changing her diapers,” Brusilovsky said. “I was able to spend real quality time, go for a walk, and see all those early milestones that I couldn’t have done otherwise.”

Melissa said, while many people are now limiting their activities amid a spike in omicron infections, it is possible that once schools reopen in 2021 and children resume their extra-curricular activities, Parents will revert to their old habits. ,

“Either way, some families may have experienced eating more together and reading something that they tried to ‘keep’ even after the first few months of the pandemic,” Millie said.

For Levi, the trouble with making all his meals with his kids was that he had to clean everything up afterwards.

“It drove me crazy,” she announced. “That was a lot of dirty dishes.”

Still, it wasn’t enough to dampen the unique sense of closeness she was able to create with her children.

“It was a time we’d never spent together,” Levy said, “and we’ll probably never do it again.”