Right now, many Australian families are emerging from lockdown. We’re looking forward to the summer, and to the end of a very tough year. But this was also a year when many parents stepped up and modelled kindness and positive use of technology.
We want to take a moment to celebrate just a few things that Australian parents did well in 2020.
Earlier this year, the Australian Institute of Family Studies surveyed more than 7,000 families to ask how they were coping during the pandemic. Parents made it clear that communication had been especially important in 2020. Almost half of all mums and more than a third of dads said they’d spent more time than usual this year having meaningful conversations with their children.
Many young Australians drew strength from talking to their parents this year. Recently, UNICEF surveyed 1,200 Australian teens about their experiences during 2020. While many teens had struggled, the overwhelming majority (96%) said they trusted their parents to provide them with accurate information about COVID-19 and how to respond. And more than two-thirds of teens said they talked through the news about the pandemic with their families.
During lockdown, immediate families were more or less forced to be together. For many people, this was a hard time, and our hearts go out to children and their families who are living with poverty, poor health, or violence in the home.
However, we also know that many parents took the opportunity to spend more positive time with their children this year. When the Australian Institute of Family Studies surveyed over 7,000 families about their lives during the pandemic, they found that around half of all parents had spent more time than usual this year doing arts and craft with their children, while a third of mums and a quarter of dads had spent more time playing sport with their children. A quarter of mums and almost a fifth of dads had spent more time than usual reading to children this year.
Parents and children valued this extra time together. For example, the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia surveyed more than 4,000 students and more than 7,000 parents, and found that parents and teens both listed ‘more family time’ as one of the top 10 positive things about learning from home.
Learning from home posed huge challenges for families and teachers, but there were good things, too. Research released by Victoria’s Department of Education and Training found that parents tended to engage more with their school communities this year than previously. Parents gained a deeper understanding of their children’s learning and communicated better with teachers, and many parents expressed new appreciation for the work teachers do. We must now reflect on how to keep strengthening parent-school relationships in the future.
This year, many teens did more than usual to support their families. According to UNICEF, more than half of Australian teens had to take on more responsibilities at home during the pandemic, such as cooking, cleaning, household maintenance, and caring for younger siblings.
For some families, this was a very difficult experience. However, we hope teens will look back on this year with pride: as a time when they stepped up and showed their maturity, their initiative, and their care for other people.
During COVID-19, most Australians had to increase their use of technology, and often it was parents who led the charge. When the eSafety Commissioner surveyed more than 1,200 Australian adults about their experiences this year, they found that parents and carers were twice as likely as childless people to have significantly increased their online activities during the pandemic. For example, more than 4 in 10 parents and carers used the internet a lot more this year to stay up-to-date with news. More than a third of parents used the internet a lot more for their work, and nearly a third used it a lot more to stay in touch with loved ones via videoconferencing.
These experiences weren’t always positive, and many families have struggled to cope with the role of ‘screens’ in our homes. But it’s still worth celebrating the hard work parents did to learn new tech skills and use them to make 2020 an easier, better year for their families.