You’re Not Alone: Parent-Child Relationships Are Strained By COVID-19

You’re Not Alone: Parent-Child Relationships Are Strained By COVID-19

by Lisa Davis, June 1, 2020

No one could have planned for the Coronavirus pandemic nor could they have predicted it would go on this long. Even with social distancing measures, parents in Florida are looking at a summer of staying inside and regularly sanitizing surfaces. 

Most parents are doing their best to help their kids through the pandemic, but it still feels like it’s not enough. Stress mounts and it’s not uncommon for families to yell at each other or wish they had more space. 

If this sounds familiar, keep reading. Understand that you are not the only family that is stressed-out right now; and that no one expects you to be a perfect parent. We are here for you and we have the COVID-19 resources you need. 

Parents are Juggling Child-Rearing With Work Stress

Students in the Tampa Bay Area transitioned to distance learning at the start of April. Almost overnight, parents were charged with taking over their child’s studies: answering questions, making sure they were learning, and guiding them through class projects. 

Even in the best of situations, most parents would have a hard time teaching their kids each day. They have to remember middle school math and science – concepts they likely long forgot – while balancing their time between multiple kids at different grade levels. While a high school student is more independent in their studies, a fifth-grader and a second-grader both need constant attention. 

These full-time needs clash with the expectations of employers. Millions of employees were sent home at the start of the pandemic and have been working remotely since. This leaves parents trying to combine a full school day with eight hours of productive work. 

“Neither my children nor my clients are very satisfied with this division of labor because I’m not fully present in either capacity,” M. Elston, a Maryland-based consultant, writes in an op-ed for the Baltimore Sun. “I’m not satisfied because I don’t really exist in this equation. I’ve been subsumed by my role as a parent-worker robot.”

It doesn’t get easier for parents who are furloughed or laid-off. One study of 562 adults by the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, found that 61% of parents have “shouted, yelled, or screamed” at their children at least once over the past two weeks. Within the same survey, 55% of parents said they worried money was going to run out and 52% said financial stress was interfering with their parenting.  

“It’s totally overwhelming,”  Rachel Pearl, chief program officer for the national nonprofit Friends of the Children says. “A lot of our families already feel they’re not doing enough when they are working so hard and I fear they will fear they are failing at it,” 

In a survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 72% of families who earn less than $50,000 annually are worried about their kids falling behind academically compared to 56% of parents in high-income households. 

Parents have a seemingly insurmountable number of worries right now, from paying the bills and putting food on the table to making sure their kids are learning and keeping up in school. At the root of everyone’s worries is the Coronavirus itself, and how it can ravage families in a matter of days.

The Stress Isn’t Going to Let Up

As May transitions into June, school ending may be a relief for some parents. Kids can play in the backyard all day or watch TV while parents continue to work remotely or leave for work. However, stress levels are still expected to be high in the coming months for a variety of reasons. 

The first is that the Summer of 2020 isn’t going to look like anything we have ever seen. Summer camps across the country have been canceled, from long-term sleepaway camps to local day camps. These camps served as a source of entertainment for kids while offering childcare for parents. Along with camps, many events, like sports competitions, concerts, and other activities are also canceled, limiting entertainment options for kids and opportunities to relax and recharge for parents.   

Even with Pinellas county opening community pools and playgrounds, social distancing is still required. This means that gatherings of friends and neighbors are frowned upon – especially for children of younger ages who might not understand why they can’t hug a friend or pass toys back and forth. 

A lack of social engagement is stressful for kids and teens. Younger kids might not understand why they don’t see their friends and will feel left out. Teens may feel more insecure and lonely because of the pandemic. This creates a recipe for them to act out or channel their energy into destructive behaviors. 

Resources for Maintaining Healthy Parent-Child Relationships

Through the end of spring and into summer, know that you are not alone. There are resources out there you can lean on to help your kids, your family, and yourself through this stressful time. Here are a few of our top picks for your family.  

COVID-19 Resources For Kids

COVID-19 Resources For Teens

  • Understand what your teen is going through right now. Wired recently shard an article explaining why social distancing is so hard for teenagers right now. Learn to check in with your kids so you know what they are feeling. 
  • Give them a project. Challenge them to make masks for the community or start a fundraiser for a local nonprofit (like Family Resources). This also gives them an activity that they can engage their friends in virtually. Use this page by Youth Service America to get a few ideas. 
  • Pay attention to what is going on at school. Some counties still held drive-up proms or graduation parades at the end of the year. These events allow teens to be social safely.  

COVID-19 Resources For Families

  • Major life disruptions like COVID-19 can put a significant amount of stress on families. Learn about the free family counseling services offered in Pinellas and Manatee Counties by Family Resources. This is available to families with children and teens ages 6 to 17. We are currently offering counseling sessions remotely due to the pandemic.
  • The Child Mind Institute curated resources for families that cover a variety of topics, from remote learning to identifying signs of depression. You can use this guide no matter the size or shape of your family. 
  • Beat boredom and have fun as a family! Kids Out and About came up with 250 creative ways to stay entertained during the pandemic – many of which are free and don’t require resources. You can take turns hiding items and creating treasure maps or download a language app and learn new words together.   

COVID-19 Resources For You

  • Take some time to yourself. Even if you only have 10 minutes for you each day, make that time count. Try a few guided meditation apps to calm your mind or challenge yourself to go for a walk or bike ride to get outside. 
  • Find an online support group to connect with other parents. Your local church or community center may offer this, or you can find online groups from this list by Parents Magazine. Reach out and ask for advice or share stories with other parents who are in the same situation.  
  • Know what resources are available to you. We curated a list of 25 COVID-19 Resources in Pinellas County with food banks, child care, news, and education resources. Use these tools to get what you need.   

Know that our team at Family Resources will always be here for you and your family. Whether you need counseling as a family or know a teenager who needs a safe space. We are open and ready throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.