Negative impact of COVID-19 felt in the core of family life: survey

A father kisses his daughter prior to entering the school yard at the Philippe-Labarre Elementary School in Montreal, on Thursday, August 27, 2020. Thousands of Quebec students return to class in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

The COVID-19 pandemic brings ill effects that snake their way into the heart of family life, according to a new poll unveiled Tuesday by an early childhood observatory (l’Observatoire des tout-petits).

Sources of stress build up for parents and many children are more irritable and agitated than usual, as well as being quicker to have a tantrum.

L’Observatoire des tout-petits, a not-for-profit organization aiming to improve the well-being of children up to five years old, sought to take the pulse of these Quebec families.

How were they doing in this second wave of COVID-19?

The results of a poll revealed Tuesday, in the context of la Grande semaine des tout-petits, celebrating World Children’s Day, show fractures and difficulties.

One in two parents in Quebec says the pandemic has had a negative effect on their child.

“Little ones react to drastic changes in their lives,” said Fannie Dagenais, the Observatory’s director, in an interview.

As for parents, they are more stressed: 51 per cent say their stress level in the COVID-19 pandemic is “high.” About 30 per cent of mothers and fathers who responded to the poll asserted that their stress level was higher than during the first wave.

Families who are less privileged are hit hard by COVID-19 since the pandemic has caused people to lose their jobs and food banks have been overwhelmed.

The poll revealed two major sources of stress for parents: the possibility that schools or daycares close again.

It is not easy working remotely with young children at home who need constant attention, said Dagenais. It is no easier when classrooms have to close – without warning – because of a COVID-19 outbreak and parents are out working as nurses and truck drivers.

Who would take care of the kids?

In addition, a large number of parents cannot count on their usual support network -- they can't call a grandparent to babysit when trying to limit contact, added the Dagenais. This was the case for 40 per cent of parents who responded.

Among other negative effects recorded by the poll, 44 per cent of parents with very young children said the pandemic has affected their ability to stay calm with their kids.

“Of course, this can affect the child-parent relationship in the house,” said Dagenais.


Despite everything, some good things are coming out of the poll: 75 per cent of parents with very young children in Quebec say the pandemic has had a positive effect on their ability to spend time with their children. 

“That’s good news, since time spent with children encourages the creation of a safe bond, which is essential for the child’s development and self-esteem,” said Dagenais.

The pandemic is also having a positive effect on parents’ ability to build healthy food habits in their children.

At the same time, 35 per cent of parents say the pandemic has had no effect on their young children.

The poll was done through the web by the firm Léger between Oct. 29 and Nov. 2 with a sample size of 501 parents in Quebec. Results were filtered by gender and region in order to make the sample size representative of the entire population, the firm said. 

Immediate aid resources for parents:

  • Ligneparents: Intervention service available day and night, free, confidential and offered to parents of children between zero and 20 years old -- 1-800-361-5085.
  • Info-Social: to quickly reach a psychosocial intervention professional, dial 811.
  • Priorité Parents: Confidential support service, personalized and adapted to the needs of the parents.
  • Naître et grandir: Information source for parents.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 17, 2020. 



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