Commentary: In pandemic’s second year, families still struggle to find balance

By Leeann Wallett
Posted 10/17/21

In a survey conducted by Rodel and the Delaware Readiness Teams, more than 300 Delaware parents and caregivers shared their thoughts about daily life during the second year of the COVID-19 …

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Commentary: In pandemic’s second year, families still struggle to find balance

Posted

In a survey conducted by Rodel and the Delaware Readiness Teams, more than 300 Delaware parents and caregivers shared their thoughts about daily life during the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, on topics ranging from child care to health screenings to economic stress.

The nonscientific survey was completed in July, before the delta variant and updated nation- and statewide mask policies were released. The survey aimed to gather information to help the Delaware Readiness Teams and other partners better serve families during the pandemic.

While a majority of parents want children to return to school for socialization, education and childcare (so they can work), they cite major concern about balancing work and family demands with caring for children — all while providing support for their and their children’s mental health and wellness.

Compared to the 2020 survey results, a greater share of respondents was concerned about meeting financial needs this year compared to last year (32% versus 28%). While the share of respondents decreased, more than half were concerned about balancing family and work demands with caring for children.

Respondents replied that they were worried about:

  • Balancing work and family demands/caring for children (60%).
  • Supporting children’s mental health and wellness needs (45%).
  • Providing children socialization (45%).
  • Providing children education and interaction with family/friends (39%).
  • Supporting their own mental health and wellness needs (39%).
  • Protecting family from exposure to COVID-19 (37%).
  • Meeting financial needs (32%).

In June, the Biden-Harris administration announced the passage of the child care tax credit in the American Rescue Plan, which provides the largest child tax credit in history. As of July 15, most families automatically received monthly payments of $250 or $300 per child depending on their kids’ ages.

“Even though advance child tax credit payments have eased some of the financial anxieties for some families like putting food on the table and paying down debt so many Delaware families are struggling with their work and life balance, all while protecting their children’s mental and physical health,” said Diane Frentzel, director of the Delaware Readiness Teams.

The pandemic has significantly changed parents’ child care arrangements and other parenting duties.

Before the pandemic, about half of respondents said their children attended public K-12 school, while 40% used full-time child care. However, during the crisis, those percentages dropped to 26% attending public K-12 school, while 34% were in full-time child care.

Not surprisingly, almost 40% of survey respondents indicated that their children were at home with a parent or caregiver. While 40% of respondents from New Castle County indicate that this is true, the percentage is lower for respondents in Kent (28%) and Sussex (7%) counties.

“My work schedule has shifted to where I’m in the office part time and at home part time, which has made it difficult to find child care,” said one of the DRT Family Survey respondents. “My previous child care provider was near my work, but now, since I’m at home part time, I can’t drive the 35 minutes every day.”

When responding to what accommodations would be helpful to support their child’s growth at home going forward, 71% of parents prioritized resources to aid child development and learning, as well as free online education programs, like the Readiness Teams’ Virtual Kindergarten Academies.

By the numbers

Vaccinations:
  • 69% of respondents are fully vaccinated. About a quarter of respondents said they are waiting for more data before deciding or that they are not interested in receiving the vaccine.
  • Almost half of respondents said they would have their children vaccinated against COVID-19 if/when it becomes available for their age groups. About a quarter responded “no,” and almost 30% said they were “unsure.”
Programming:
  • About half of respondents said they would be comfortable allowing their children to participate in in-person activities that included masks or were outdoors. Almost 90% said they were willing to allow their children to attend school in person.
  • When responding to what accommodations would be helpful to support their child’s growth at home going forward, 71% of parents prioritized resources to aid child development and learning, as well as free online education programs.
About the family survey

Just over 300 Delaware parents and caregivers of children ages 0-21 responded. The survey was conducted online from July 2-16. Data collected will be shared with state leaders, including but not exclusive to, the Delaware Department of Education, its Reopening Schools Task Force and the Pandemic Resurgence Advisory Committee, as well as district and charter leaders, legislators and the Delaware Early Childhood Council.

About the Virtual Kindergarten Academies

The Virtual Kindergarten Academy series provides an educational journey full of learning opportunities for families and their children entering kindergarten. Each month, the academy will focus on a different learning area. Parent sessions will be prerecorded and available on our website.

Upcoming Virtual Kindergarten Academies in English will be held the second Tuesday of each month from November to May. And new this year, there will be sessions for Spanish-speaking families the second Wednesday of each month, also from November to May. For more information, visit delawarereadinessteam.com.

Leeann Wallett is a communications and media specialist with Rodel. Full results of the survey can be found here.