Poll: Parents increased quality time at start of pandemic


In this October 2020 photo posted by Eugene Brusilovskiy, Eugene holds his then 3-month-old daughter, Aya, in Philadelphia. Since Aya was born in the first months of the pandemic, Brusilovskiy has been able to stay home and spend time with her. US Census Bureau survey says parents shared more time with their children from March through June 2020, when coronavirus lockdowns were most intense in many parts of the United States, than they did the previous years. (Eugene Brusilovskiy via AP)


During the first months of the pandemic in the United States, Dina Levy made her young daughter and son take walks with her three times a day.

They threw a soccer ball at the nearby high school. The children, then aged 11 and 8, created an obstacle course with chalk and the three timed each other as they completed it. They also ate all their meals together.

Levy is among dozens of parents who indicated in a new US Census Bureau survey that they spent more time eating, reading and playing with their children from March 2020 to June 2020, when coronavirus lockdowns were at their peak. intense, which they had in previous years.

“With school and work you go our separate ways and go your own way for the day, but during the coronavirus we were a unit,” said Levy, an attorney who lives in New Jersey. “It was really, I don’t mean to say it was worth it since this pandemic has been so terrible for so many people, but there was a lot of value for us as a family.”

In a report on the survey released this week, the Census Bureau included a few caveats: Large numbers of people did not respond. In addition, compared to previous years, more parents in this survey were older, foreign-born, married, educated and above the poverty line. The survey also does not measure the long-term impact of the pandemic, which is now entering its third calendar year, so it is not known whether the time spent with the children has stuck.

The results of the Income and Program Participation Survey are based on interviews with a parent of 22,000 households in the first four months of the pandemic in the United States.The survey found that the proportion of meals that so-called benchmark parents shared with their children increased from 84% to 85% from 2018 to 2020, and from 56% to 63% for other parents.

Some parents also read more to their children in 2020 compared to previous years, although there were variations based on income, education and other factors. In 2020, 69% of parents reported reading to young children five or more times a week, up from 65% in 2018 and 64% in 2019, according to the report.

“Families knew before the pandemic that they were overworked. The kids had so many places to be. Parents juggled a lot, ”Froma Walsh, co-director of the Chicago Center for Family Health at the University of Chicago, said in a telephone interview. “The pandemic prevented people from going to work and our children were at home. really helped parents say, “Hey, wait a minute. We can have real family moments together that we weren’t before. “

On the flip side, the report found that outings with children declined for parents due to travel restrictions and blockages, from 85% in 2018 and 87% in 2019 to 82% in 2020. The drop was most marked for lone parents, dropping from 86% in 2019 to 75% in 2020, according to the survey.

The pandemic has also put a strain on many families. Deaths of loved ones, job losses, financial worries, distance learning, social isolation and demands for child and elderly care have all taken a heavy toll, Walsh said.

“The key point is that families have been under extreme stress and strain during this protracted pandemic,” Walsh said. She said her research shows families do best when they share positive values, take a creative approach to problem solving, and flexibility to adapt.

“These families who can come together and practice resilience are doing well, and that actually strengthens their bonds,” she said.

This was certainly the case for Eugene Brusilovskiy, a statistician living in the suburbs of Philadelphia. He said the pandemic allowed him to be with his daughter, born in the first months of the virus’ spread. Since he was working from home, he and his wife decided not to put her in daycare as originally planned.

“I was involved in every routine, from feeding her to changing her diapers,” Brusilovskiy said. “I got to spend some quality time, take walks and watch all those early milestones that I couldn’t have done otherwise.”

Although many people are limiting their activities now with the omicron-induced resurgence of the coronavirus, it is possible that once schools reopen in 2021 and children return to their extracurricular activities, parents will revert to their previous ways, said Melissa Milkie, a sociologist from the University of Toronto. .

“Still, some families may have experienced eating more dinners together and reading as something that they pushed to ‘keep’ even beyond these first few months of the pandemic,” Milkie said.

For Levy, the downside to all meals with her children was the intense cleaning.

“It drove me crazy,” she said. “It was tons and tons of dirty dishes.”

However, this was not enough to diminish the feeling of unique unity that she was able to forge with her children.

“It was time we had never spent together,” said Levy, “and probably never will be again.”


This story has been corrected to correct the spelling of Froma Walsh, not Roma Walsh.


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