What will the coronavirus do to our kids? Parents in Austria dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on their children
Keywords:COVID-19, children, parents, stress theory, qualitative longitudinal data
Objective: This study investigates parents' experiences in dealing with the potential negative effects of the pandemic on their offspring, and seeks to explicate (1) how parents have assessed their children's situations during the pandemic; (2) what challenges parents have experienced in accompanying their offspring through the crisis; and (3) what strategies parents have developed for helping their children cope with the effects of the pandemic.
Background: The COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying protection measures have placed heavy demands on parents and their children. Both groups have been shown to experience stress, as families have been forced to adjust their daily routines under rapidly changing circumstances.
Method: Data are based on an Austrian qualitative longitudinal study, relying on interviews and diary entries of 98 parents of kindergarten- and school-aged children who have been contacted repeatedly since the first week of the first country-wide lockdown (nine waves of data collection between March and December 2020). Data analysis employs a combination of thematic analysis and the grounded theory coding scheme.
Results: Results show that parents see the pandemic as having many detrimental effects, and very few positive effects, on their children’s emotional, physical and social well-being as well as their educational performance. Parents have experienced a wide variety of challenges (explaining the pandemic and the measures; handling emotions; managing new roles; accompanying children through repeated adaptation processes). To deal with these challenges, respondents developed four distinct strategies (structure, cohesion, information, and independence).
Conclusion: We conclude that parents are making substantial contributions to society, and are shouldering large burdens in accompanying their children through the crisis. However, their capacity to meet all of their children’s needs is limited. Thus, to prevent the pandemic from having devastating long-term consequences, it is essential to provide sufficient support for children, parents, and families.
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