Parents concerned about children’s social life, survey finds

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© Provided by The Canadian Press

A survey of Canadian parents shows that almost three-quarters of participants are concerned about the social life of their children during the pandemic.

An expert says the Statistics Canada report released on Thursday provides an overview of the challenges children and parents face as a result of COVID-19, and these pressures will only intensify as the school year approaches.

According to Statistics Canada, more than 32,000 Canadians with children under the age of 14 voluntarily completed an online questionnaire on parenting during the pandemic between June 9 and 22.

Unlike most of the agency’s studies, the survey was not randomly sampled, so it reflects the opinions of the respondents, but is not statistically representative of the population of Canada.

The results suggest that 71% of participants are very or extremely concerned about their children’s opportunities to socialize with friends, and more than half are really worried that their children will be alone or socially isolated.

Balancing childcare, education and work requirements was a major concern for parents surveyed, with three in four participants saying the issue weighed heavily on their minds.

Almost two-thirds of parents say they are very or extremely concerned about managing their children’s behaviors, emotions and anxiety.

Some parents also seem to have trouble controlling their own emotions. More than half of the respondents said they fear losing patience, raising their voices and scolding or yelling at their children.

The report suggests that many caregivers are turning to technology to help fill the hours, since there are so few options for keeping children busy, especially for parents who need time to to work.

Almost two-thirds of parents said they were very concerned about the time their children spent in front of the screens. According to the survey, nine out of ten respondents said that their children use digital devices daily or almost daily.

About 60% of parents reported that they supplement their children’s schedules with physical activity or reading almost every day.

Responses indicate that some parents also find it difficult to take care of themselves. Forty-three percent of participants said they were very concerned about staying in touch with family and friends, while 37% were concerned about getting along and helping each other.

Toula Kourgiantakis, family therapist and associate professor at the School of Social Work at the University of Toronto, said the survey captures only part of the far-reaching effects of the pandemic on Canadian families.

“I am concerned not only with what we are seeing at the moment, but with the effects that we will see in six months, a year,” said Kourgiantakis.

“It affects (parents) on so many levels. And some families feel it more than other families. ”

According to Statistics Canada, a large proportion of the survey participants were women born in Canada and holding a bachelor’s degree or more.

Therefore, Kourgiantakis said that these participatory responses probably do not take into account all of the difficulties that parents face.

In addition to juggling their professional, educational and caring obligations, many families face the additional stress of financial loss, health problems and learning or behavioral difficulties, said Kourgiantakis.

Critical workers face the added barrier of finding child care when they are at work, while lone parents have to shoulder all of these burdens on their own, she said.

“It just isn’t sustainable for families to continue like this,” she said.

“We do not know what will happen in September and how families will manage if the children do not attend school full time. ”

While many school boards are dragging their heels on back-to-school plans, more and more parents are facing the possibility that they will be called back to the office before classrooms are fully reopened, said Kourgiantakis.

She said government officials must provide a comprehensive framework to support parents in such scenarios or risk putting the next generation of children back.

“There must be a very clear plan … so that families are not expected to try to do their jobs while having children in the background,” said Kourgiantakis.

“I hope this plan will not come on Labor Day weekend. ”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 9, 2020.

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press

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