A rare survey of both parents and children has found that 70 percent of kids have felt overwhelmed, worried, or sad because of the pandemic as recently as the past week. Children living in families that earn less than $50,000 per year reported these feelings twice as often as those whose families earn $100,000 or more, a sign that the pandemic is hitting parents of lower socio-economic status harder.
The survey of over 500 parents and children, conducted by ParentsTogether, employed open-ended questions in addition to multiple-choice, allowing children to explain for themselves exactly what was on their mind.
When asked what worried them most, children again turned to the pandemic, citing worries their parents may get sick or be unable to provide for them as their top concerns. “The last time I was scared was a couple of days ago, I had a bad dream that my dad got sick,” wrote Marcus, an 8-year-old from Texas. Children as young as 5 reported similar concerns. “I was scared about losing our house and not having nowhere to stay,” said Aalyah, a 5-year-old from Pennsylvania.
Kids are also clearly suffering from missing friends and family. “The last time I felt happy was when I was able to see my grandfather without being worried that I might bring a virus that could kill him,” shared 15-year-old Gage, from Washington. Beyond grandparents and extended family, the pandemic has impacted kids even closer to home, too. Emma, a 10-year-old in California, heartbreakingly said, “I am scared about my mommy not getting better because she has Covid. The last time I was feeling happy was when my mommy was better and I was able to hug her and play with her again.”
“Children across the country have sent us a clear message six months into the pandemic — the kids are definitely not alright,” says Justin Ruben, Co-Director of ParentsTogether. “Millions of kids are facing a food security crisis, piled on top of an educational equity crisis, piled on top of a school funding crisis, piled on top of a mental health crisis.”
If the kids aren’t alright, how can the parents be? Almost half of the parents surveyed said they’re worried about their child’s mental health. Another 30 percent worry about whether their child has enough to eat every day. When parents were asked how much faith they had in the schools’ ability to reopen safely, only 22 percent said they felt schools were “very prepared.”
If you’re worried about your child, it’s important to know the signs that they may be struggling. A lot of it depends on their age and how they tend to handle stress under normal circumstances. Also, as much as parents’ tendency is to focus on the children, it’s important to bear in mind that taking care of yourself is just as critical. From keeping in touch with friends via FaceTime to finally giving meditation a try, there are myriad ways for parents to keep their engine running on a full tank. And the better we care for ourselves, the better we’re able to care for our kids.