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Parenting in a Pandemic: The Impact on Parents’ Mental Wellbeing (Part 1)

It might feel like there is light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel right now, especially as the days get longer and the weather improves. But, parenting in a pandemic has had a huge impact on parents' mental health and wellbeing and on their family relationships. And their struggles aren't over yet.

What Changes Affected Parents in the Pandemic?

Parenting is hard enough in our modern world, where many households have two working parents and there never seems to be enough hours in the day, but many parents experienced huge challenges during the pandemic.

Balancing home-schooling, remote working and parenting pushed every parent to their limits and whatever your circumstances, this period of time is likely to have been tough on your mental health and on your relationships.

With many people spending more time at home over the past couple of years, the home became a multi-purpose environment. It's been an office, a school, a hospital isolation ward, a recreation centre, a gym, a cinema; all the usual utilities families could escape to for entertainment, quality family time and personal space.

And it's not all been doom and gloom.

There have been opportunities to get to know your child(ren) better, pulling together to make the best of it, learning new things together, and being more connected as a family.

But, whole families living and working in such close quarters is bound to have an impact on family dynamics and wellbeing.

What Impact Did the Pandemic Have on Parents' Mental Health?

But, between the lost daily routines, missed social contact and lack of behaviour support and guidance children normally receive at school, family roles and relationships were sometimes tested. Many parents described stress, anxiety and exhaustion from navigating multiple pressures and conflicting responsibilities with home, schooling, and work, without their usual support networks and in the context of disrupted routines.

In fact, research has shown that 44.3% of parents with children under 18 years living at home reported worse mental health as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic compared with 35.6% of respondents without children under 18 living at home. Parents who reported more difficulties managing the quarantine reported increased stress which is known to impact their ability to be supportive caregivers.

The lack of support some children have received in such a difficult moment may be the reason for their more pronounced psychological symptoms and poor mental health.

It's not about blame. It's about acknowledging that it's been bloody hard and everyone has suffered. But it's time to accept this, forgive yourself, learn from the experience and move on.

The truth is, that now more than ever parents need to do the best they can with what they have.

What Were the Key Challenges Affecting Parents in the Pandemic?

So what have we learned about parental stressors during the pandemic?

Preliminary research published in the BMC Psychology journal has identified five themes affecting parental mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic:

  1. navigation of multiple responsibilities and change inside the home;

  2. disruption to home life;

  3. changes to usual support networks;

  4. changes in personal relationships; and

  5. use of coping strategies.

As you can see, this subject is too big to cover in one article, so I will cover these themes in more detail in part 2 of this blog post, along with examples of current challenges facing parents and solutions to help you navigate these challenges and improve your personal and relationship wellbeing.

To make sure you don't miss part 2, make sure you subscribe to my weekly positive psychology newsletter 'The Key to Happiness' for up to date blog posts, free personal coaching tools and strategies, links to current research and my favourite articles relating to resilience, mindset, self-esteem and wellbeing from around the world. Click here to sign up.


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