Impact of COVID-19 on families varies widely, surveys show

Recent surveys in Canada and Australia have revealed that the impact of COVID-19 on families varies widely, partly depending on the age(s) of their child(ren).

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, 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%.

Many of the grandparents who responded to the Australian survey said that before COVID-19 they had provided child care at least once a week; most said this was no longer the case.

Overall, however, the results of both surveys would 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.

For example, Canadian parents said the other major concerns for their families were 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%).

They were also worried about things like their children’s opportunities to socialize with friends, the amount of screen time, mental health and academic results.

The Triple P – Positive Parenting Program® have made a number of free resources available to parents to help them cope with COVID-19 changes, including a new guide to healthy relationships and managing conflict between parents; Top Tips and full parenting guide to help parents cope with uncertain times and COVID-19, including advice 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 from the Triple P parent website:

See a graphic summarizing the key findings of the Statistics Canada survey here.  (In French, here.)