The gift of family time

Survey results reveal positive outcomes from pandemic

An image of a mother and father cuddling with their son on the couch.

Image: wera Rodsawang/Getty Images

Image: wera Rodsawang/Getty Images

COVID-19 restrictions have impacted everyday lives, including those of our children. But one positive that has emerged from the lockdown has been the increase in quality family time.

Over the past two months, UQ has collected data from more than 700 individuals and families within Australia and around the world in order to understand the social and economic impacts of COVID-19.

Through the COVID-19 social impact survey, researchers at UQ's Institute for Social Science Research have been able to study how family life has evolved and changed since the outbreak of the virus.

Lead researcher Dr Sally Staton said findings identified some important life lessons, including the value of family time.

“Parents were asked about the losses and gains experienced by their children during the period of isolation,” Dr Staton said.    

“While children learning from home missed their friends, found learning at home challenging and concentrating more difficult, there were significant gains in both the quantity and quality of family time."

“Free from the demand of school routines and stressful work life, children were reported to experience personal growth, increased independence, and a development of hobbies and interests.

“They also learnt resilience and adaptation to change, as well as an increased opportunity for expressing their creativity.”

The majority of survey participants (60 per cent) were working for pay at the time of the initial survey and, with 75 per cent of school-aged children learning at home during the lockdown, Dr Staton said it was a challenging time for all.

An image of a father playing soccer with his three children.

Image: Robert Kneschke/EyeEm/Getty Images

Image: Robert Kneschke/EyeEm/Getty Images

“Some parents were feeling overwhelmed while juggling work and home-schooling, but the survey responses showed the positives that emerged from this experience,” she said.

“Children enjoyed spending more time with their families and siblings – playing games, exercising, cooking, and doing craft together.”

One respondent said lockdown had increased her child’s willingness to participate in more family time.

“Our daughter is ready to be involved with anything we do, she is so much more present because usually she'd be out with her friends,” she said.

In addition, local neighbourhoods may have become closer thanks to the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions put in place.

An image of neighbourhood children playing together after school.

Neighbourhood children playing together after school. Image: miljko/Getty Images

Neighbourhood children playing together after school. Image: miljko/Getty Images

Findings indicated some children had developed stronger connections with their neighbours as the pandemic impacted their regular social connections through school.

“Our daughter has spent almost every day playing with a new friend across the street, which has been great,” a survey respondent said.

Children have also used this opportunity to stay connected and develop friendships through an increased use of online platforms.

The freedom from the stress of everyday life was also flagged as a positive for both parents and children.

“Respondents indicated there was less stress having to get up and get to school on time and be ready for after-school activities,” Dr Staton said.

Despite the positive outcomes, Dr Staton said the findings identified some challenges.

“It may prove difficult to maintain the gains that families experienced as children return to the classroom and their extra-curricular activities, parents return to their workplaces, and life resumes its usual pace,” she said.

To access the details on the full survey and for an opportunity to participate in the ongoing tracking of the effects of COVID-19, visit the Institute for Social Science Research website.