British parents spend the equivalent of more than two working days extra a month on the school routine due to the additional childcare management needed as a direct result of the pandemic.
The research of 2,000 parents of children aged between four and 16, found that parents were spending on average 46-minutes extra a day (230 minutes a week) undertaking new tasks like staggering school drop-off and pick-up times, washing school uniform regularly and stepping in for lack of wrap-around care as an immediate consequence of the pandemic.
61% of parents say they need up to an hour more per day to meet new childcare demands, 21% will now need to put aside at least another 60-minutes and a number of parents (6.2%) say they need to find over two-hours more.
The new research by VitaMinds, a free NHS mental health psychological talking therapy service provided by Vita Health Group, has revealed that almost half (47%) of parents admit to feeling overwhelmed by the additional childcare management and admin needed as a result of changes to life caused by Covid-19.
The research also found that parents are feeling significantly more anxious (35%) than they feel their child(ren) have (19%) about returning to the classroom, many for the first time in six-months.
Despite the additional pressure and weight of childcare causing a stark increase in parental anxiety, a quarter (25%) of parents say they have no coping strategies in place to support their own mental health.
Upon evaluating the research results, Jane Muston, Clinical Director at Vita Health Group, emphasised, “Anxiety and feelings of overwhelm are completely normal, particularly during times of extreme uncertainty. As a parent, it’s important for you to be pragmatic about what you can control – especially as coronavirus threatens school closures – and learn to accept you can only do your best with the information that’s provided to you.
“Practicing acceptance, recognising the additional input of hours needed from you as a parent as a new reality and turning one’s mind towards acceptance and compassion, could greatly improve your ability to navigate this difficult situation. The mental and physical benefits of children being back at school cannot be understated and, as a parent, you will need to ensure that you put this at the forefront of your mind when dealing with this additional overwhelm. Saying that however, we would stress that it is natural and understandable for you to struggle with the extra weight on your shoulders, and if overwhelm sets in, you must feel comfortable to talk about how you are feeling and take some time for yourself to deal with this in the right way.”
The research, undertaken by one of the UK’s leading healthcare providers, comes as many parents have experienced an unprecedented 24-weeks juggling childcare, home-schooling, and work.
More than double the percentage of men (32%) than women (14%) say the school routine will take them more than 61-minutes extra a day and over half of men (51%) say they feel overwhelmed by the additional childcare management needed as a result of changes to daily life caused by Coronavirus.
However, it appears male respondents dedicate more time and resource to looking after their own mental health than female respondents. Nearly a quarter of men (24%) say they meditate of practice yoga (compared to 16% of women), 28% say they block out time for themselves (compared to 19% of women) and 20% of men say they seek therapy or speak to someone outside of the family (compared to 10% of women claim the same).
Muston continues: “Work-life balance is a thing of the past. Now, the focus for you as a family is to create a work-home synergy that suits your individual needs and then, most importantly, communicate this back to your employers. The emphasis must be on both parties here to make this ‘new normal’ work. Taking the initiative to open up an honest and open dialogue with your employer one where you share your true reality, could help create a flexible working package for you that reduces daily stress and anxiety. Ultimately, this will make you more productive throughout your working day”.
Muston says: “We can see from the research that families are adapting to meet new childcare needs, with men dedicating longer hours. But let’s be clear, finding an additional two working days* a month to plug into childcare management in an already time-consuming world, is no mean feat.
If you are concerned about your mental health, please contact your GP in the first instance. In addition, any parents who are struggling with their mental health are encouraged to use a free NHS mental health psychological talking therapy service, provided by VitaMinds**.
Additional, noteworthy results from the VitaMinds survey:
– Younger parents (18-34) appear to be more overwhelmed than parents older than them, with 40% of this age group claiming they feel ‘very overwhelmed’ compared to 22% of those aged 35-55+
– The age group that feels they – as the parent – are more anxious than their child(ren) about the start of the new school year is those aged 25-34 (48%), whilst only 29% of those aged 45-54 claim the same.