Your working parents are feeling the most COVID-19 stress

By Melissa Busch, associate editor

June 1, 2020 -- Striking a balance between work and home has always been a challenge for parents. COVID-19 has raised the stakes, with about 60% of workers in a new survey reporting that they have had no outside help in caring for and educating their children during the pandemic.

Another 10% of workers have less help than before the crisis began, according to the survey released on May 21 by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Unsurprisingly, nearly half of parents of children younger than 18 say their stress levels related to the pandemic are high, with managing their kids' online learning as a major source of strain, the American Psychological Association (APA) has reported.

"For many parents, it can feel overwhelming to face competing demands at home and work along with possible financial challenges during this crisis," said APA CEO Arthur Evans Jr., PhD.

In addition to concerns about income, infection control, and shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), parenting issues also affect dentistry on many levels. During the past few weeks, more and more dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants have been called back to work. With no schools, day cares, or camps to turn to, some have struggled to make it work.

Even those parents who aren't working in the profession are affecting dentistry. Some parents may be nervous to return to a dentist or send their children. Single parents may decide jamming a dental visit into an already-packed schedule is a low priority.

Then, there are those families who have lost an income and insurance benefits. It may not get a lot better soon, so greater flexibility and creative approaches for patient communication and understanding may be in order.

The struggle is real

On a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 meaning little or no stress, 46% of parents said their average stress levels related to the coronavirus pandemic are at an 8 to 10, according to the APA. The APA survey was conducted by the Harris Poll from April 24 to May 4 and had approximately 3,000 adult participants who lived in the U.S.

Only 28% of adults who don't have children reported similar stress levels, according to the APA.

The top stressor for working parents was managing their children's distance or online learning. About 71% of parents said it was a significant source of stress. Meanwhile, 70% of parents said they were stressed about basic needs, compared with only 44% of those without children, the survey showed.

Other stressors for parents were access to healthcare services and missing milestones, such as graduation ceremonies.

"The mental health ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic are immense and growing," Evans said. "We need to prepare for the long-term implications of the collective trauma facing the population. On an individual level, this means looking out for one another, staying connected, keeping active and seeking help when necessary."

Gender matters

Though both mothers and fathers have stepped up to handle household tasks, women continue to bear a disproportionate share of the burden. Mothers also did more than fathers prior to pandemic. Now, on average, women spend 15 hours more on domestic labor each week than men, according to the BCG poll.

The extra work and stress could have significant ramifications for dental practices, considering approximately 98% of dental hygienists in the U.S. are women, according to the American Dental Hygienists' Association.

On a positive note, in the BCG survey, 80% of workers said their employers have taken actions to help them manage the new lifestyle COVID-19 has forced them to live.

About 40% reported that their employers have made daily work schedules flexible. Though this was the most common accommodation, it was only available to about 50% of employees working from home. Employers also have helped by reducing hours and shifting deadlines.

Feel for them

Given that everyone is under an unprecedented amount of stress and anxiety, employers should lead with empathy for all workers, including those with kids.

"There are no perfect solutions to these issues, but proactively reaching out to employees, acknowledging their challenges, and where relevant, role modeling by being open with leaders' own family situations is the first step," BCG stated.

Copyright © 2020

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