Now that most US students are back in classrooms, parents are feeling mixed emotions. In 2020, the percentage of students participating in distance learning went from 72% in April to 67% in September. That number continued to drop as 2021 began and as the number of vaccinated people increased. Families were new to balancing working from home and supporting their children as they became remote students. Depending on the age of the child, the level of supervision and ability to teach their children cause increased stress for parents and children alike.
For the past decade, wellness and wellbeing have been a topic of growing interest for employers. From benefits such as decreased healthcare costs to increase productivity of employees, leaders learned the importance of ensuring employees mental, emotional, social, and financial needs were supported. The past 18 months, the pandemic quarantines and restrictions have amplified these needs.
The US Census Bureau conducted a Household Pulse Survey to determine the impact the pandemic is having on anxiety and depression in the US. The findings included those mothers and children are experiencing greater incidence of poor mental health and well-being. This is in large part due to lack of childcare and school closures. These mothers were found to be more likely to report symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder than men with children (49% vs. 40%) The results are not surprising. Our need for more wellbeing support is more important than ever. Our families depend on it.
The solution is for parents to INVEST in your family in ways that promote connection. Since children are in school now, we are seeing and talking to them less. Here are a few tips to increase communication, decrease depression and anxiety, as well as strengthen your family bond.
- Family meals- Having a regular family meal is an exciting way to introduce dedicated time for the family to bond. It provides time for parents to teach important lessons while demonstrating care for each family member. The struggle is finding time to meal plan, grocery shop and prepare healthy, delicious meals. DashPass for Work is an easy, cost-efficient way to support your efforts. It gives employees the ability to order meals, groceries and prescriptions so you have more time to enjoy eating and bonding with your family.
Family meals are also a good venue to promote health and nutrition literacy of your family. Talking about making healthy food choices while eating a healthy meal is a good way of actively reinforcing the behaviors we hope children take into adulthood. Family meals also give time for families to relax and have fun. Tell favorite stories and jokes. Celebrate each person’s “wins” of the day. These are all ways to strengthen the family bond.
- Family meetings- Scheduling time as a family to talk about issues that impact everyone is a progressive way to build connection. Have a few topics in mind and let children know what is on the agenda. This gives them time to prepare their own thoughts and questions. You might use the time to teach financial awareness or to talk about mental health education. You might use the time to talk through the schedule for the upcoming week. Regardless of topic, it’s a welcoming and open format to build connection.
- Game night- This is a family favorite! Board games, cards, dice or outdoor games are a great way to have friendly competition that gets everyone communicating. Encourage kids to relax and have fun. This will not only show them it’s important for their wellbeing, but that mom and dad can also have fun and relax too.
- Sports- Whether you’re playing a sport together or watching a favorite team on TV, rallying the family around a sport is an effective way to build connection. The endorphins that are released while participating in or watching a favorite sport can help reduce stress, depression, and anxiety.
- Reading- Reading to your children has many benefits. “When parents read with their children more . . . they learn to use words to describe feelings that are otherwise difficult and this enables them to better control their behavior when they have challenging feelings like anger or sadness.” Making time to read to kids of all ages is a good way to settle the family down, get everyone ready for bed, and promotes better sleep. It also gives children a way to use words to describe their feelings and concerns about the current state of the world.
With the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, and possible future variants, families will remain flexible in how they work and how children participate in school. Whether at a workplace, in a school building, or doing it all from home, taking steps to care for yourself and your children is something we all need to do. Learn more about the future of the workplace and how to be agile as things evolve.