Chicago Parents Are Still Dealing with Stress From the Ongoing Pandemic
During the past two years, Chicago parents and families have faced new challenges and heightened levels of unpredictability due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America Survey of March 2021, 1 nearly half of parents (48%) said the level of stress in their life has increased compared with before the pandemic. Another study revealed 70% of mothers and 54% of fathers felt overwhelmed in the past two weeks due to the pandemic.
In this month’s Voices of Child Health in Chicago Report, we provide insight on parental stress during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We asked 1,142 Chicago parents from all 77 community areas in the city about their stress levels, their children’s mental health and other COVID-19-related concerns.
- Over half of Chicago parents reported their stress had increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Parents whose child(ren) experienced worsening mental health symptoms were more likely to report their own stress had increased.
- Over half of parents remain concerned about COVID-19 issues such as new variants of coronavirus leading to a worsening of the pandemic, their children and families getting sick from new variants and the possibility of school returning to remote learning for their children.
Stress among Chicago parents
We found that over half of Chicago parents (51%) reported that their stress had increased since the start of the pandemic, while 37% said their stress level remained the same and 12% said their stress decreased. However, there were key differences between mothers and fathers. Mothers were more likely to say that their stress had increased (56%) compared with fathers (43%). Correspondingly, mothers were less likely (32%) to say that their stress remained the same than fathers (45%). Mothers and fathers were equally likely to say their stress had decreased (both 12%). Regarding emotional support, 37% of mothers and fathers alike reported that they could have used more support than they received during the pandemic so far.
How is parent stress connected to child mental health?
Parents who had at least one child who exhibited worsening mental health symptoms over the last six months (e.g., anxiety, difficulty focusing) were significantly more likely to report their own stress had increased (59%) than parents whose child(ren) did not exhibit worsening mental health symptoms (41% had increased stress). Conversely, while a small proportion of parents reported that their stress decreased; this proportion was significantly higher among parents who did not have a child with worsening mental health symptoms (19% reported decreased stress) compared with parents who had a child with worsening mental health symptoms (7% reported decreased stress).
Parents’ continuing concerns about COVID-19
We also asked parents about their concerns about multiple COVID-19 issues, and for each issue over half of parents said they were either extremely or very concerned. For instance, 65% were extremely or very concerned that a new variant of the coronavirus would lead to a worsening of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States and in Chicago. Additionally, parents were extremely or very concerned about people getting sick from new variants of the coronavirus: 63% of parents were concerned their child might get sick, 61% were concerned that another family member or friend would get sick and 51% were concerned they would get sick themselves. Finally, 52% of parents were extremely or very concerned that a worsening of the pandemic would result in a return to remote learning for their child.
Across all COVID-19 issues, there was a consistent trend that the highest proportions of parents reporting that they were extremely or very concerned were those with lower household income, lower education or who identified as Black or Latinx — groups that have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. There were no differences in concern about pandemic-related issues by parent gender, parent age or the ages of children in the household.
Resources for Parents
- CDC COVID-19 Parental Resources Kit: https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/stress-coping/parental-resources/index.html
- Tips from psychologists about how parents can cope with stress from the COVID-19 pandemic: https://www.apa.org/topics/covid-19/parenting-during-pandemic
- NBC Chicago’s list of mental health resources for families: https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/kids-and-mentalhealth-online-resources/2436134/
- Chicago Public Schools Parent University: https://www.cps.edu/services-and-supports/parent-engagement/parent-university
- Crisis Text Line: Free 24/7 support, Text HOME to 741741 https://www.crisistextline.org