50% of Working Parents Say They’re More Concerned About Their Kids’ Mental Health Since Before the Pandemic

50% of Working Parents Say They’re More Concerned About Their Kids’ Mental Health Since Before the Pandemic

7th annual Modern Family Index looks at crisis’s impact on families
A boy frustrated with his homework

Millions of Americans have had to alter how they take care of themselves and their loved ones amid a global pandemic. A new survey indicates that the crisis has taken its toll on families.

Bright Horizons, a child care provider based in Newton, Mass., recently published its seventh annual Modern Family Index, revealing that working parents are particularly worried about the pandemic's effect on the mental health and well-being of their children and spouses or partners — and themselves.

Parents worry COVID-19 pandemic is hindering their children's development

Half of working parents have become increasingly concerned about their children's mental load and mental health over the past year. In fact, at least 7 in 10 working parents were especially worried about their children's:

  • Views of what healthy childhoods should be (79%)
  • Waning interest in activities outside the house (73%)
  • Confidence and self-esteem (71%)

Respondents predicted negative consequences for their children, ones that may potentially impact them long after the crisis is over.

In fact, 69% of parents said they were concerned their children wouldn't meet certain developmental milestones because of the pandemic. This included crucial developments in the following areas:

  • Social and emotional (76%)
  • Communication (70%)
  • Cognitive (68%)
  • Physical (64%)

Increased pandemic-era responsibilities weigh on working parents' mental health

Even before the pandemic began, working parents were already juggling familial responsibilities. The Modern Family Index found those duties have expanded even further, as parents took on new remote work challenges, a growing list of household chores and new child care responsibilities. Those responsibilities often included taking charge of their children's daily needs, development, schoolwork and entertainment.

As a result, 91% of respondents said they’re concerned about their spouse or partner's mental loads — and their own.

Related: A recent survey from the NHP Foundation found that more than 50% of renters with school-age children fretted over their housing situation for at least a few hours every day during the pandemic. Meanwhile, findings from Finn Partners indicated that women are experiencing more negative emotions — including anxiety, sadness and fear — than men amid today's health crisis.
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Parents are also worried that the state of their mental health and well-being is affecting their families, with 28% of Bright Horizons respondents sharing that this outweighs any other concerns.

But brighter days are on the horizon, and 45% of parents are keeping their children's happiness and well-being top of mind in their vision of a post-pandemic future.

A recent MetLife survey revealed that employees are experiencing a renewed commitment to protecting themselves and their families, and this reflects in Bright Horizons’ findings. In addition to flexible working hours or remote work, parents also want to see employer-sponsored benefits that include:

  • Child care or emergency child care (46%)
  • Academic tutoring (27%)
  • College preparation tutoring (26%)

Methodology: Bright Horizons and Kelton Global conducted an online survey, between Feb. 2 and Feb. 12, 2021, of 2,083 working parents ages 18 and older who have children younger than 18 at home.

Feli Oliveros is a finance and business writer with experience covering personal finance, small business finance, and payment processing. In 2015 she graduated from UCLA, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in English and minored in Anthropology.