Parents Speak: 2020 Survey Results
by Laura Malcolm
At the beginning of August, we launched an informal temperature check to understand if what we were feeling as educators and parents during this far-from-normal school experience was shared by others. Several hundred parents responded and the results were both compelling and validating: You are not alone. Parents across the country with kids of all ages are facing many of the same emotions and experiences.
We asked if you were concerned about academic progress? Yes! Social and emotional health? For sure! Keeping their children busy and productive? Oh, heck yes!
On a scale from “no concern” to “this keeps me up at night,” there is clearly a lot of lost sleep.
- 72% are highly concerned about academic progress
- 72% are highly concerned social and emotional health
- 80% are highly concerned keeping their child busy and productive this fall
- 26% are losing sleep over all three.
What did we learn from your responses?
When it comes to academic progress, parents communicated a range of challenges from keeping their children motivated, to meeting their child’s special learning needs, to a feeling that academic challenge has been abandoned. In addition, a fear expressed in many responses was that kids may lose their love of learning.
Spring was difficult and frankly not fun for students, parents, and teachers alike. As one parent stated, “My biggest concern is being able to navigate online learning- they did terribly in the spring and pretty much gave up.” The academic impact when all of this is done is unclear, but fall is a time to reset expectations and help your child navigate and improve upon last year’s experience.
The pandemic has also taken a social and emotional toll on children in particular. You expressed that you are concerned about “the impact of isolation, long hours of screen time, and a lack of quality social interactions.” Many expressed fears that in addition to not gaining ground academically, kids may be losing ground socially and not building the interpersonal skills they need. As one parent put it, “[my child] is a bright kid who loves school, loves to please her teachers, gets joy from her friends and athletics, and this really shut her down. I’m concerned that this feeds too much into her being an introvert and could stunt her socially and emotionally.” Many mentioned fears that the emotional toll may last longer than the academic one.
Finally, keeping children busy and productive is top of mind for parents. The challenge of “balancing work and giving children attention during virtual learning” was a big concern. You expressed feeling guilty for not assisting your kids — and when assisting your kids, you felt guilty for not working. Give yourself a break! The stress of keeping children on track while also keeping up with work is real, and much like that oxygen mask in an airplane, you won’t be able to help anyone if you aren’t being gentle on yourself first.
The key finding from this survey is that pretty much across the board, parents and educators are deeply worried about the same things. Where to begin? Know that you don’t need to solve all these things at once, or even today. Learning is a journey…for us and our kids. We are all doing the best we can and will continue to forge ahead, and we’ll be working in the coming weeks and months to help where we can.
To start, here are 5 quick tips for keeping our kids busy and productive without as much parental involvement:
- Look into supplemental adaptive learning apps. Many school districts and schools purchase these, but two-thirds go unused because most parents don’t know they are available. Check your school district website or talk to your teacher or administrator. Epic Reading, Dreambox Math, and IXL Reading and Math are just a few that may be available for free, depending on your district.
- Journaling allows kids to express their feelings and ideas while practicing their writing skills. Googling “journal prompts for kids” provides a wealth of ideas to spark creativity and develop their voice.
- Audio books, available for free through the public library, help kids with comprehension and listening skills and let them explore their own topics of interest.
- Drawing is an amazing way for children to explore their world and imagination. Projects don’t need to include expensive supplies, complicated instructions, and lots of parent involvement. A box of crayons or markers and paper is all that is needed. Just like for journaling, there are prompts you can use to inspire your child.
- Free resources to support social and emotional skills development, such as the “Self-Control Playbook” available at Character lab, provide guidance for kids and parents at a time when these skills are being tested in new ways.
Have you come across additional tips to aid in independent productivity, or to address additional concerns uncovered in our survey? Please share them! This community is here to support all of us as we navigate this strange new normal.