There’s no question about it: world pandemics change the course of history in many unavoidable, inexplicable ways. One of the most noteworthy spaces affected by a world event like COVID-19 is the home.
Due to changes made in the spheres of education, commerce, public interaction, healthcare, politics, and more, many Americans find themselves asking: how has life at home changed for families during COVID-19? Parents wonder if their home is like others’, inquire about raising children during a pandemic, and wrestle with feeling like parenting during this unprecedented time is a grand experiment.
So how exactly has COVID-19 impacted family life? We surveyed parents via an online poll and gathered data regarding dynamics at home, top activities and behaviors, and overall health. The questionnaire included 20 multiple-choice inquiries; keep reading for our survey highlights.
Disclaimer: This study was conducted using Facebook and reaching out to a small segment of participants within the United States. We reached out to parents rather than children to see the insights of the family home from a parental viewpoint. The following information is an independent study and doesn’t provide national or global information in regards to parenting your children during COVID-19 or post the pandemic. This information is solely based on personal experiences the participants have encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic and were willing to share with us. The following information also includes our speculations based on these experiences and shouldn’t be taken as facts but rather professional opinions.
Families Are Cooking and Eating Together More
We asked our study participants if they were cooking together more as a family, to which ⅔ of the sample responded with a resounding yes. In addition, over half of the respondents said they were eating at home together every day. Though there seem to be a myriad of options available for delivery and take-out eating, families are choosing to cook together and eat meals made at home.
Research maintains that eating at home as a family has countless scientifically-backed benefits for children and teens. The Family Dinner Project boasts a few:
- Improved academic performance
- Increased self-esteem and resilience
- Lessened chance of substance abuse and teen pregnancy
- Decreased rates of depression, obesity, and eating disorders
While COVID-19 has caused inconvenience and loss for families across the country, more time at home, especially at the dinner table, may well result in increased positive outcomes for children and teens partaking in shelter-in-place mandates.
Kids Are Playing Outside Less
When asked, “How often does your family go outside for leisure activities?,” approximately ⅓ of survey participants responded with “daily,” with the second most popular answer being “only once in a while.”
Additionally, over half of respondents admitted that their teenage child was spending less time outdoors than before COVID-19.
There are many reasons this decreased time outside could be the case, among them: cold temperatures and inclement weather at the beginning of the year, school closures (resulting in less daily structure), restrictions and closings in parks, recreation centers, even public nature areas, and increased time with technology and social media.
However, whatever the reason individual families are spending less time outdoors, research about development and mental health proves time and again that nature and leisurely activities outside greatly improve well-being. Depression, anxiety, stress and memory can all be positively impacted by time spent in nature.
Sanford Health published an article arguing for children spending more time outdoors, and gave the following as research-proven reasons:
- Stronger, healthier children
- Cognitive and socio-emotional development
- Improved sensory skills
- Increased attention spans, immunity, and happiness
No matter the age of your child, it’s not too late to encourage him or her to spend more time outside. This may require creativity and flexibility on everyone’s part, but their development and well-being depends on stimulation from nature, unplugged and away from stress and technology. Look to your local government mandates for what outdoor activities are possible during COVID-19.
Teens Are Talking To Their Parents More
Finally, some good news. Thanks to increased time spent at home and, likely, greater dependence on a stable caregiving figure, teenage children are having more conversations with their parents. 73% of our study participants reported that they were talking more with their children.
Additionally, 67% claimed that their children are initiating conversations with their parents more than before COVID-19.
Psychology Today writes what many parents know instinctively: it is essential that children feel safe to speak to their parents about what’s happening in their worlds, minds, and hearts. This builds relational safety, emotional intelligence, and adult autonomy.
Parents: be mindful of the way you talk to your child. During a time such as this, when world tensions are high, the goal of your communication should be to create safety and non-judgment. Teens especially have many questions about current events, the future, the effects of a pandemic like COVID-19 on all spheres of life.
If your adolescent or teen doesn’t feel safe to discuss these topics with you, they will likely converse with their friends or go to the Internet, both of which aren’t inherently reliable sources of information.
Teenagers Feel More Engaged With Friends
When we asked parents if their children were more engaged with their friends in 2020, 60% of respondents said “Yes” or “Slightly.” This statistic is surprising, since children are no longer at school and unable to spend time together in public spaces without masks or social distancing, but it would seem as though youth feel more connected to their peers thanks to technology and social media.
This is both encouraging and disconcerting, as we know how quintessential peer relationships are for the development of preadolescent and adolescent children, but little research has been done to study the risks and benefits of relationships founded and maintained online via social media. Face-to-face interaction is important for the emotional well-being and psychological development of children and teens.
Social Media Has Taken Over
83% of parent participants in our study admitted that their child uses social media (likely, where adolescents and teens are connecting with their friends).
The average time children spend on smartphones is over 2 hours per day.
Almost 50% report that their child is on his or her phone for more than 4 hours per day, with another 40% reporting more than 2 hours per day spent on phones. This is likely due to a less structured schedule, parents needing to rely on less than ideal sources to keep children occupied while working, and increased time indoors.
NPR reported that over half of American children own a smartphone by age 11.
It’s important to note that “phone time” isn’t what it used to be. Likely, your child or teen is spending very little, if any, of their screen time calling friends and family. Instead, adolescents spend most of their time on social media, interacting with virtual communities, meeting new people, playing video games, watching shows and media, and other activities (some innocent, others dangerous).
Social media and frequent Internet use is a “mixed bag” habit for kids and teens. While smartphones connect children to rich, creative opportunities and communication, there is much to be wary of.
Sex trafficking, pornography, comparison and cyber-bullying are just a few of the detrimental side effects that come with handheld technology. Discuss the pros and cons of social media, smartphones, and Internet use with a partner or trusted adult confidant. Then, create a safety plan with your family to combat the negative elements that accompany smartphone use.
Parenting in American society was already an uphill battle; a world pandemic certainly hasn’t made it any easier.
Parents Can’t Do It Alone
If you find yourself at a loss with your child or teen during this world pandemic, you’re not alone. 43% of our participants admitted that they’ve seen sudden outbursts of behavior in their child at home, and 40% claimed that their child is less healthy than he or she was last year.
Trying to balance work, home, political tensions, and parenting can be an exhausting journey. Thankfully, there are a myriad of resources available to parents today to aid the process of raising children, adolescents, and teens.
All Survey Questions & Answers
Has your family been cooking more often?
- 66.7% – Yes
- 33.3% – No
How often does your family go outside your home for leisure?
- 36.7% – Everyday
- 23.3% – Only once in awhile
- 16.7% – Every other day
- 13.3% – Once per week
- 10% – Twice per week
How often does your family watch television together?
- 40% – Everyday
- 26.7% – Twice per week
- 13.3% – Every other day
- 10% – Once per week
- 10% – Never
How often does your family eat together?
- 56.7% – Everyday
- 23.4% – Twice per week
- 13.3% – Every other day
- 3.3% – A couple of times per month
- 3.3% – Never
Does your child use social media?
- 83.3% – Yes
- 16.7% – No
How much time does your child spend on their phone daily?
- 46.7% – Over 4 hours
- 40% – Over 2 hours
- 6.7% – Around 1 hour
- 6.6% – Only to call and text
Is your child staying indoors more?
- 56.7% – Yes
- 43.3% – No
Are you talking more often with your child than last year?
- 73.3% – Yes
- 26.7% – No
Is your child healthier this year?
- 60% – Yes
- 40% – No
Does your child try to converse with you more often this year?
- 66.7% – Yes
- 33.3% – No
Has your child experienced sudden outbursts of behavior?
- 43.3% – Yes
- 56.7% – No
How involved is your child in the family?
- 46.7% – Very
- 43.3% – Moderately
- 6.7% – Slightly
- 3.3% – Not much at all
Does your child engage more with friends this year?
- 43.3% – Slightly
- 40% – No
- 16.7% – Yes
How is your child attending school this upcoming semester?
- 36.7% – Taking virtual classes
- 26.7% – They are attending school
- 26.6% – Other
- 10% – They are being homeschooled
Fire Mountain is proud to come alongside families as they deal with all of the aspects of parenting, home life, and troubling world events like COVID-19. If your child is out of control or struggling with addiction or mental health, our team is trained and equipped to help them find healing.
Fire Mountain is a residential treatment center in the Colorado Rockies where troubled teens are taught tools to allow them the opportunity to transform into more responsible, thoughtful, and confident teens. Using the latest rehabilitation innovations in treatment, along with traditional methods proven to be effective, our troubled teen program’s goal is long-term healing, recovery, and success for all teens and their families. We are available to help you and your teenager during COVID-19.
Reach out today to benefit from Fire Mountain’s team of behavior experts.