BPC’s most recent parent survey aimed to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on our children’s social-emotional and behavioral health, an important foundation for cognitive skill development and a predictor of later educational and professional outcomes.
Overall, parents in our survey reported:
- Negative changes in their children’s daily routines and
- A high interest in acquiring support to address their child’s social and emotional health.
As we recover from the pandemic, it’s important that policymakers, child care providers, and families keep these issues top of mind as future investments are made to best support children’s development.
Parents reported that the pandemic had a negative impact on their children’s routines and behaviors.
- One-quarter of parents reported that their children’s daily eating habits (24%), ability to follow rules (24%), and amount of sleep nightly (23%) changed negatively over the past month.
When exploring these behavioral impacts by geographical area, we found parents in urban areas were more likely to report negative health changes than parents from suburban or rural areas.
- Urban parents’ reports of negative changes in daily eating habits (33%) and communication skills (21%) were about double that of parents in rural areas (16% and 10%, respectively).
Interestingly, parents with higher income levels were more likely to report certain negative developmental changes like changes in amounts of sleep, attention span, and communication skills.
The survey results also highlighted differences between families needing care during traditional hours versus those needing care during non-traditional hours.
- Parents needing care during non-traditional hours were more likely to report that their children’s overall development had changed negatively across all eight indicators. More notably, 1 in 3 parents needing care during non-traditional hours reported negative changes in their children’s eating habits, amounts of sleep, and ability to follow rules.
Moreover, geographical differences were also present in parents’ reports of their child’s overall suspension or expulsion incidences from child care because of behavioral or disciplinary issues.
- Urban parents (14%) were more likely than suburban (3%) or rural parents (8%) to say that their child had been suspended or expelled from child care.
By identifying which groups of children are experiencing the most negative changes, mental health practitioners and child care professionals can inform their practices to better support children and families as we begin to understand the long-term impacts of the pandemic. State child care administrators can use American Rescue Plan funds to develop and support early childhood mental health consultation models that can serve parents not only in the coming months but long into the future.