Childcare During Lockdown: How have parents’ attitudes been affected?

For families with children, the COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges, forcing parents and their youngsters into closer proximity for months of prolonged lockdown. As such, Nannies Matter is asking the question: have these events affected parents’ attitudes to childcare, and in what way?

With schools closed and heavy restrictions on time spent outdoors, parents have had to find new ways to keep their children entertained, active and mentally stimulated indoors, while also taking responsibility for maintaining their education. This has created new opportunities for family togetherness and close bonding - but also a risk of strained relationships.

In order to measure these positive and negative impacts, Nannies Matter has carried out a survey of 531 parents and individuals with childcare responsibilities, in order to find out how the lockdown conditions and new homeschooling expectations have affected their relationship with the children in their care. The results highlight some revealing insights into the way British family dynamics have been influenced by these unusual times - and in some cases, show how this could lead to longer-term change.

The full findings of our survey can be seen below; please feel free to use our findings for your own content, citing Nannies Matter at www.nannies-matter.co.uk if you do so.

Key trends and findings

The lockdown has brought a new way of life, with more time spent at home

  • Of the 531 respondents, around 46% of respondents have seen their working hours reduced since the lockdown, including those who have been furloughed or released from their jobs due to the pandemic
  • A significant majority - 71% - have been spending more hours at home during the working day as a result of COVID-19, including 42% who said they were based entirely at home during the lockdown. Only 8% said they were spending fewer hours at home than before the pandemic

Lockdown has given many families a chance to bond and spend time together

  • Under these circumstances, 82% of those polled said they agree to some extent that they have been able to spend more quality time with their children as a result of the lockdown, with 39% saying they strongly agree
  • Similarly, 73% agreed that lockdown has created positive opportunities for their family to do more activities together, with 29% saying they strongly agree with this sentiment

Here is a sample of some of the comments our survey respondents provided to explain some of the more positive aspects of lockdown life:

  • “Without the usual hectic days, we've been able to take a breather and spend time together doing fun things at home.”
  • “We have exercised together, played games together, read Shakespeare out loud to each other and researched submarines, platonic solids, pirates, worms and the Amazon. My children are much more enthusiastic and engaged than I have ever seen them.”
  • “More time together at home without commuting has given more time back at the end of a working day.”
  • “We are enjoying dinners together as a family, playing more board games, working out together, spending time in the garden and going out for long walks, which wasn't realistic before lockdown, as my children had hobbies to go to every night and weekend.”
  • “We have much more time together; I am lucky to have a garden, so have introduced gardening into our curriculum - seeing seeds sprout, grow, being fed, watered and - for the garden peas - producing things for us to eat. This has been something I would have felt blessed to experience.”

Childcare during lockdown has been stressful at times

However, many are also finding that the lockdown has created additional stresses that have made these benefits harder to enjoy. 50% say their experiences with their children during lockdown have been stressful to some degree, compared to only 27% who did not.

Here are some examples of the more trying aspects of parenting under lockdown:

  • “I’ve still been working and doing more hours for the NHS, so although they have more time with my husband, we don’t [spend time together] as a family.”
  • “The activities we would usually undertake as a family are outdoor ones - often visiting places that have activities and playgrounds. A lot of the places we would usually like to visit together are, or have been, closed throughout. Having said that, we have been playing a lot more family games at home.”
  • “The fight to get the kids to do their work means family activities take a back seat.”
  • “The children are obviously fed up not getting out and doing their regular things, seeing other family members and friends, so we have had a few tantrums.”
  • “My child has autism and ADHD and needs special help, as well as routines etc having been affected, making things stressful.”
  • “Some days I have felt so trapped and claustrophobic - we were always out and about before and our house is small with only two bedrooms.”

Parents have stepped up to the challenge of homeschooling their children...

  • More than 70% of UK children have been receiving homeschooling from one or more members of their household during the lockdown period, with only 5% still able to attend school as normal
  • Around 83% of parents and carers rate their own literacy and English skills as good or very good, while around 69% said the same for their numeracy and maths, giving them confidence in taking on the responsibility of teaching their children
  • Around 50% have felt positive to some extent about the standard of education their children have received since the lockdown began, with 13% saying they felt very positive. Only 23% felt negative about how their homeschooling efforts went
  • Worryingly, 13% of parents said their children received no schooling at all during lockdown

...despite some concerns about the effectiveness of homeschooling

  • Many parents in the UK have had reservations about teaching their children at home, with only 29% saying they had a positive outlook on homeschooling before the lockdown started. By contrast, 30% felt negatively about the concept to some extent
  • Following their lockdown experiences, 31% now feel more positive about homeschooling, but 20% feel more negative about the idea, while the remaining 49% have not had their opinions changed at all
  • 42% said they found it difficult to accommodate their children’s education alongside work since the lockdown, whereas 39% found it easy
  • Only 23% would be keen for homeschooling to continue if given the option, compared to 61% who would not be keen, including 33% saying they would not be enthusiastic about this at all

Here are some examples of some of the preconceived notions about homeschooling held by the parents we surveyed:

  • “No way the average parent can deliver the breadth & depth of knowledge and life experiences that being in a school can.”
  • “Homeschooled children miss out on the opportunity to learn valuable interpersonal skills.”
  • “Not convinced that teaching your own child is a substitute for a large number of trained teachers in a more social environment”
  • “Feel that being at school with trained teachers who have resources available is better for learning. Mixing with other children is better for wellbeing.”
  • “It’s not something I have ever thought about.”

Post-lockdown verdicts on the homeschooling experience also delivered a mixed verdict:

  • “I have found it hard, but I have also enjoyed the time I have spent with my children.”
  • “Hard to provide the specialist support that a 15-year-old needs in such a wide range of subjects.”
  • “Don't think homeschooling can replace the learning environment and social interaction of school.”
  • “I don’t believe what is happening in most homes now is really homeschooling, so it doesn’t alter my opinions at all.”
  • “My son's 11+ practice test scores have risen dramatically with me homeschooling him. However, the tradeoff has been dropping RE, music and languages. I wouldn't be able to teach those subjects.”

Has the lockdown helped to change family relationships for the better?

  • Of those polled, 63% say their relationship with their children will be improved by their lockdown experience, compared to only 4% who would disagree
  • However, when asked whether they would want their relationship with their children to return to a pre-lockdown norm, the respondents were more mixed: 30% would be keen to see this happen, while 26% were not, and the remaining 44% were ambivalent

When asked to elaborate, the survey respondents shared the following comments:

  • “I like doing things together much more than our usual busy lifestyle. I want to carry on baking, crafting, watching movies etc. with my son.”
  • “Being home together all the time in our small house and having schooling battles, we are all craving our own space and for things to return to normal.”
  • “I feel we had a much better relationship when we weren't in each others' pockets. The kids enjoy time away from me, as I do them, and they thrive off being social. They've really struggled with that, and we've often been on the receiving end of their frustrations.”
  • “Our relationship is great. It was great before and will continue to be great after. Lockdown hasn’t changed it at all.”
  • “I already had a strong relationship with my son, but I do enjoy taking a more active role in his education than just reading at night and spelling practice for school.”
  • “I do think there have been huge benefits, but we are ready for the lockdown to finish.”
     

The complete survey findings

Are you a parent or a primary caregiver, with responsibility for a child under the age of 18?

Response % Number of people
Yes - More than two children 19.59% 104
Yes - Two children 34.84% 185
Yes - One child 45.57% 242

 

How have your working hours been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Response % Number of people
Increased hours 12.43% 66
Unchanged 41.43% 220
Reduced hours 15.07% 80
Furloughed 19.96% 106
No longer employed 11.11% 59


How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the amount of time you spend away from home during the working day?

Response % Number of people
Increased hours away from home 8.10% 43
Unchanged 20.90% 111
More hours at home 29.19% 155
Based entirely at home 41.81%

222

How have your children been receiving schooling during the COVID-19 lockdown?


 

Response % Number of people
They are being homeschooled by multiple members of the household 25.42% 135
They are being homeschooled by one member of the household 45.20% 240
They are being homeschooled by a private tutor 1.51% 8
They are receiving no schooling 12.81% 68
They are still able to attend school as usual 4.90% 26
Other circumstances (please specify) 10.17% 54

 

How would you rate your own literacy and English skills, based on your own level of education?

Response % Number of people
Very good 45.57% 242
Good 36.72% 195
Average 15.63% 83
Poor 2.07% 11
Very poor 0.00% 0


How would you rate your own numeracy and maths skills, based on your own level of education?

Response % Number of people
Very good 32.20% 171
Good 36.72% 195
Average 22.79% 121
Poor 7.53% 40
Very poor 0.75% 4

How positive have you felt about the quality of your child's education since the lockdown began?

Response % Number of people
Very positive 12.81% 68
Quite positive 36.72% 195
Neither positive nor negative 27.87% 148
Quite negative 19.40% 103
Very negative 3.20% 17


Prior to the lockdown, what was your perception of the concept of homeschooling?

Response % Number of people
Very positive 7.01% 37
Quite positive 22.16% 117
Neither positive nor negative 41.10% 217
Quite negative 25.19% 133
Very negative 4.55% 24


Since the lockdown, have your perceptions of homeschooling become more positive or negative? Explain why.

Response % Number of people
Much more positive 9.68% 51
Somewhat more positive 21.44% 113
Unchanged 49.53% 261
Somewhat more negative 13.66% 72
Much more negative 5.69% 30

 

How easy have you found it to accommodate your child's education needs alongside your professional responsibilities since the lockdown began?

Response % Number of people
Very easy 14.12% 75
Quite easy 24.67% 131
Neither easy nor difficult 19.21% 102
Quite difficult 30.32% 161
Very difficult 11.68% 62


Based on your experiences during lockdown, would you be keen for your children to continue being homeschooled, if you were given the option?

Response % Number of people
Very keen 8.10% 43
Quite keen 14.50% 77
Neutral 16.38% 87
Not very keen 27.87% 148
Not at all keen 33.15% 176


To what extent do you agree with the following statements?

"I have been able to spend more quality time with my children as a result of the lockdown."

Response % Number of people
Strongly agree 39.36% 209
Agree 42.18% 224
Neither agree nor disagree 9.98% 53
Disagree 6.59% 35
Strongly disagree 1.88% 10


"The lockdown has created positive opportunities for my family to do more activities together."

Response % Number of people
Strongly agree 29.38% 156
Agree 43.31% 230
Neither agree nor disagree 13.94% 74
Disagree 10.92% 58
Strongly disagree 2.45% 13


"My experiences with my children during lockdown have been stressful."

Response % Number of people
Strongly agree 12.05% 64
Agree 37.66% 200
Neither agree nor disagree 23.54% 125
Disagree 20.72% 110
Strongly disagree 6.03% 32


"My relationship with my children will be improved by our experiences during the lockdown."

Response % Number of people
Strongly agree 17.89% 95
Agree 44.82% 238
Neither agree nor disagree 32.96% 175
Disagree 4.33% 23
Strongly disagree 0.00% 0


"I am keen for my relationship with my children to return to how things were before the lockdown."

Response % Number of people
Strongly agree 7.53% 40
Agree 21.85% 116
Neither agree nor disagree 44.44% 236
Disagree 21.09% 112
Strongly disagree 5.08% 27

 

 

 

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