Opinion: Canadian parents struggling under COVID-19 strain

Aug 18 2020, 6:49 pm

Written by Gavin Dew, a father, the president of BeHeard Research, and the founder of the Forum for Millennial Leadership, a non-partisan group working to engage and elect young Canadians.

Millennials have been blamed for ruining everything from mortgages to marriage to mayonnaise. As COVID-19 wears on, news articles and social media posts are painting young people with a broad brush of ambivalence to efforts to #stopthespread. It is fair to say that some are not doing their part, but the reality is that most Canadian millennials are responsible adults being hit with a double whammy not of their own making.

First comes the immediate health impact, with recent reports showing rising infections among people aged 20-39. Then comes the impact on their finances and family life, with sweeping job losses, a new generational burden of private and government debt, and diminished prospects in a weakened economy.

Young parents are particularly feeling the strain as they juggle work, childcare, and school, and they are worried about the effects on their children.

A new cross-Canada poll, using the BeHeard Research survey panel, finds parents struggling as they physically distance at home with children.

Only 28% of parents report that their day-to-day routine with their child or children has not changed; the vast majority are facing stress and change on multiple fronts.

More than half of parents (59%) say they are finding it hard to juggle working from home and parenting, and 35% report that one parent has considered giving up work or has already done so due to a lack of childcare or school.

Parents are worried about the mental and physical health effects on their children, with 75% saying they are worried about the long-term psychological effects and 76% saying they are concerned about the long-term effects of increased screen time and sedentary lifestyles on their children.

Even as parents are focused on keeping their children safe and healthy, they have concerns around healthcare facilities: 45% report that they have delayed their child visiting their family physician or the emergency room due to COVID-19.

Despite the challenges they face, the majority of parents are confident in the public health information they are receiving and giving, with 35% reporting that they find it hard to explain the COVID-19 pandemic or answer questions from their children, and 53% not finding it difficult.

A heartwarming finding: 82% of parents say a silver lining of COVID-19 is the amount time they get to spend with their children.

Parents are struggling; making sure the new normal works for them is a critical priority.

Survey results were derived from an online survey of 878 Canadians, of whom 134 were parents who were physically distancing at home with a child under 18. The survey was fielded from July 28 to August 6, 2020.

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