This paper presents findings from a qualitative exploration of parents’ experiences of supporting their children throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. A diverse range of parents and professionals were interviewed between December 2020 and March 2021 about their experiences during the pandemic, including parenting through two national lockdowns. Researchers used thematic analysis to identify four overarching themes and sub-themes relating to parents’ experiences.
The key themes were:
- Worries and uncertainties: Parents reported worries and uncertainty about the (long-term) impact of the pandemic on their child’s wellbeing and behaviour, as well as uncertainty about how best to support their child and protect them from uncertainties and worries.
- Mental exhaustion: Participants discussed difficulties balancing the demands of work and childcare (particularly home-schooling) and, despite putting their needs last, often reported feelings of failure.
- Resources available to cope with the challenges: The resources available to parents were important in determining how well families were able to manage the challenges of the pandemic. Resources in the home environment, support and external networks, and parents’ own mental health all contributed to parents’ perceived ability to cope.
- Finding the positives: Despite these challenges, parents highlighted that they had been able to spend more time with their child and that this strengthened family bonds; some parents also hoped that, in the future, they might remember the positive things that happened during the pandemic.
Figure: Themes and sub-themes representing parents’ experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic