The good, the bad and the lonely: how coronavirus changed Australian family life




Megan Carroll, Australian Institute of Family Studies; Diana Warren, Australian Institute of Family Studies; Jennifer A. Baxter, Australian Institute of Family Studies, and Kelly Hand, Australian Institute of Family Studies

COVID-19 has brought about big changes in Australia and across the world, with much attention focused on the way governments are responding to the health and economic challenges of the pandemic.

Interactions with family and friends have been the focus of many of the public health restrictions and have been identified as a source of spreading infection. Less attention has been paid to the role families and social networks have played in supporting each other through a difficult year.

Findings from the first wave of the Families in Australia Survey have highlighted that Australians still turn to family for support in times of crisis.

The survey of 7,306 respondents, by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, ran from May 1 to June 9 2020, when most Australians were subject to multiple restrictions due to COVID. These forced them to spend more time with some family members, while separating them from others. The survey aimed to provide a better understanding of how Australian families adjusted during the pandemic.




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Lonely in lockdown? You’re not alone. 1 in 2 Australians feel more lonely since coronavirus


New ways to connect

While limitations were placed on how families could meet in person, most people talked to family living elsewhere at least as often as before. A good proportion (44%) talked to them more than before. We heard stories of people connecting through new technologies, such as using video calls to share meals, or through more traditional means of sending care packages through the post.

In addition to social connections, family members living elsewhere were the primary source of help
for those who needed extra assistance. This help included practical assistance with groceries, errands and other care-giving, as well as financial and emotional support.

Experiences of connection to family living elsewhere were mixed, with similar numbers reporting feeling more and less connected. For many, sharing lockdown led to an increased level of connection with those in their immediate household.

Changes to family life

This increase in connection is likely driven, at least in part, by spending more time together. When asked about time spent with children, many parents reported an increase in quality time, playing games, reading to their children and having meaningful conversations.

However, it wasn’t all quality time. Many families had to negotiate shared work spaces and juggling childcare while working from home.

Financial support from families

The financial impacts of the pandemic have hit some families hard. One in six survey respondents said their family income had reduced a little. Almost a quarter said it had been reduced a lot.

For many families, this resulted in cutting back on non-essential expenses such as take-away meals. While some dipped into savings to make up the shortfall, others reported cutting down on essential expenses like groceries or pausing rent and mortgage payments. More people asked for financial support from family and friends than from welfare or community organisations.

Among those who had not experienced a drop in income, many reported saving money, as they spent less on things like childcare and petrol. While some said they made changes to their savings and investments, financial actions taken as a result of COVID-19 were commonly aimed at helping family members who had a drop in income, and supporting their community by spending more at local businesses.

When asked about their level of concern about their family’s current financial situation, three out of five respondents said they were at least “a little concerned”. Those whose income had reduced as a result of COVID-19 expressed higher levels of concern. Over 70% of respondents said they were at least a little concerned about their family’s future financial situation.

Comments by respondents show their concern was not just for themselves and their partners. They included the financial situation of adult children living at home and family members living elsewhere. While some felt lucky not to have been affected financially by the pandemic, others worried about those who lost their jobs or income, businesses or investments.




Read more:
We asked over 2,000 Australian parents how they fared in lockdown. Here’s what they said


Towards COVID normal

With Australia now negotiating “COVID normal”, we need to know more about what types of supports families need, and how to support those who may not have a family they can rely on.

The second wave of the Families in Australia Survey aims to do just that.

If you would like to share your experiences, please go to towardscovidnormal.com.auThe Conversation

Megan Carroll, Senior research officer, Australian Institute of Family Studies; Diana Warren, Research Fellow, Australian Institute of Family Studies; Jennifer A. Baxter, Senior research fellow, Australian Institute of Family Studies, and Kelly Hand, Deputy Director, Research, Australian Institute of Family Studies

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

To safeguard children’s mental health during COVID-19, parents must look after their own



Shutterstock

Sarah Whittle, University of Melbourne and Kate Bray, University of Melbourne

The negative mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are clear, but there is particular concern children will be most affected in the long run.

By the end of March school closures were impacting 91% of the world’s student population and are still affecting more than 60%. These closures limit children’s opportunities for important social interactions, which can harm their mental health.

In particular, home confinement, fears of infection, family stress and financial loss may have negative effects on the mental health of young people. And research carried out earlier in the pandemic suggested these effects may be most pronounced for children with pre-existing mental health problems.

Which children are most at risk?

Parents have an important role to play in safeguarding children’s mental health during COVID-19.

Research shows family relationships are more influential during situations that cause stress over an extended period of time than during acute periods of stress. This means family factors are likely to be even more important to childrens’ mental health during COVID-19 than during more fleeting traumatic experiences such as exposure to a natural disaster.

Parents and their child sitting on a park bench, wearing masks.
The family is most influential during situations that cause stress over an extended period of time.
Shutterstock

In our recent study, we found 81% of children aged 5-17 had experienced at least one trauma symptom during the early phase of COVID-19. For instance, some children had trouble sleeping alone, or acted unusually young or old for their age.

Our unpublished research relied on reports from parents from Australia and the United Kingdom. We also found increases in emotional problems were common. For instance, according to their parents 29% of children were more unhappy than they were before COVID-19.

Importantly, our study found several parent and family factors that were important in predicting changes in children’s mental health problems.

Here are four of our main findings.




Read more:
Number of Australia’s vulnerable children is set to double as COVID-19 takes its toll


1. Parents’ distress matters

Increased personal distress reported by parents was related to increases in their child’s mental health problems during COVID-19. This distress refers to both general stress in addition to COVID-specific worry and distress. It also includes anxiety related to problems that existed before COVID-19.

For this reason it’s important parents look after their own mental health and stress levels. Seeking psychological help is a good option for parents who are struggling to cope.

Through a GP referral, Australians can receive ten sessions of psychological care per year through Medicare. Victorians who are currently subjected to further restrictions can now receive up to 20 sessions.

A woman with her head in her hand while her children jump on a couch.
If you’re a parent struggling during the pandemic, there’s help available. Though Medicare you can receive 10 sessions of psychological care, or 20 sessions is you’re a Victorian.
Shutterstock

2. Good family relationships help

Higher levels of parental warmth and family cohesion were associated with fewer trauma symptoms in children. “Parental warmth” refers to being interested in what your child does, or encouraging them to talk to you about what they think; “family cohesion” relates to family members helping and supporting each other.

In other research these factors have consistently been found to relate to children’s adjustment to stress and trauma.




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Fortunately, there is a range of resources parents can use to help improve relationships with their children.

Some parents may also find taking part in a parenting course helpful. Partners in Parenting, Triple P and Tuning into Kids are available online.

3. Parents’ optimism can be contagious

Daughter and mother smiling at each other
Children observe their parent’s behaviour – if you can try to see the silver lining your children might too.
Shutterstock

While COVID-19 is having many negative impacts, some parents in our study also identified unexpected positive impacts, such as being able to spend more time with family. Children of these parents were less likely to experience an increase in some problems – particularly problems with peers such as being bullied.

Children observe parents’ behaviours and emotions for cues on how to manage their own emotions during difficult times. Trying to stay positive, or focus on the bright side as much as possible is likely to benefit children.




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Want to see a therapist but don’t know where to start? Here’s how to get a mental health plan


4. Some effects are greatest for vulnerable families

We found parents’ behaviour was particularly influential in lower socioeconomic backgrounds and single-parent families. In poorer families, parental warmth was particularly important in buffering children’s trauma symptoms. And in single-parent families, parental stress was more likely to predict behavioural problems in children.

This may be because poorer and single-parent families already face more stress, which can negatively impact children. Parental warmth can counteract the effects of these stresses, whereas high parental stress levels can increase them.

Research has already shown the pandemic will have greater negative impacts on those who have less resources available to them. This points to a need for extra psychological and financial support for these families. Governments and other organisations will need to take this into account when targeting their support packages.




Read more:
8 tips on what to tell your kids about coronavirus


It’s important to keep in mind child-parent relationships are a two-way street. Our research examined relationships at only one point in time, so we don’t know the extent to which our findings reflect a) parents causing changes in their children’s mental health, or b) changes in children’s mental health impacting parents, or the way a family functions. Research needs to follow children and their families over time to tease apart these possibilities.

Given prevention is always better than cure, parents and families should seek help early to build the right foundations to safeguard the mental health of their children.The Conversation

Sarah Whittle, Associate Professor in Psychiatry, University of Melbourne and Kate Bray, PhD Candidate, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why family violence leave should be paid


Kate Farhall, RMIT University

Five days unpaid family violence leave is a significant improvement over no guaranteed leave at all. But research shows that finances and domestic violence are inextricably linked.

Access to a steady income can mitigate the effects of violence and provide avenues out of abuse. Paid family violence leave is one tool to achieve this.




Read more:
Infographic: A snapshot of domestic violence in Australia


Research shows leaving an abusive relationship can be costly. This includes the cost of relocation (such as breaking a lease or finding alternative housing), medical and counselling bills, increased transportation costs due to moving house or loss of access to a car, as well as lost earnings – among other financial burdens.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions places the total figure at around A$18,000.

Given this, financial hardship can bind women to abusive relationships. As such, the economic backing that ongoing employment supplies can be a critical factor in supporting women to leave abusive relationships. Continued employment can also serve to psychologically bolster victims.

The impact of violence on earnings and employment

Family violence can significantly impact lifetime earnings. This has flow-on effects for victims’ ability to live safe and healthy lives.

In Australia, approximately two-thirds of women experiencing domestic violence are in paid employment.

Research shows a significant correlation between the experience of domestic violence and reduced lifetime earnings. Some studies in the United States show a 25% loss in income associated with abuse.

Victims of domestic violence also experience higher rates of part-time and casual work, lower retirement savings and a lack of job stability. Many lose their jobs as a direct result of violence.

The effects of violence are not only felt while the abuse is ongoing, but can reverberate for at least afurther three years after the violence has stopped.

This also has substantial consequences for career progression and therefore potential future earnings.




Read more:
Paid domestic violence leave: how do other countries do it?


Victims of domestic violence are also more likely to experience food insecurity, to struggle to find affordable housing and cover the basic essentials like utility bills.

Domestic violence victims are also more likely to experience anxiety over their ability to support their children, even as compared to others on a low income. In fact, all of this is intensified for low-income women.

As Adrienne Adams and her colleagues explain, “whether it is a few hours out of a day, a few days out of a week, or a few months out of the year, missed employment opportunities translate into lost income”.

Providing paid family violence leave means we’re not asking victims to choose between forgoing necessary support for the sake of financial security.

It also means that victims may be better able to weather the storm of domestic and family violence and may be more productive at work (although more research is required to assess this).

Providing family violence leave – and ensuring that it is paid – is a fundamental aspect of workplace support for victims.

Research also shows a symbiotic relationship between financial stress and rates of domestic violence. What people think about their own economic insecurity is closely associated with higher rates of domestic violence, according to one comprehensive study in the United States.

By failing to provide family violence leave we risk re-entrenching existing forms of disadvantage and failing to address a potential contributing factor to the persistent gender pay gap in this country.




Read more:
Out of the shadows: the rise of domestic violence in Australia


Paid domestic and family violence leave only represents one aspect of a comprehensive response that workplaces can provide, yet it is a substantial one.

The ConversationThe argument that paid domestic violence leave will negatively impact employers fails to take into account actual patterns of usage, so the potential benefits seem to far outweigh the costs.

Kate Farhall, Postdoctoral research fellow, RMIT University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Article: Child Pornography and the Internet


I came across this article and thought it was worth posting on the Blog, as a helpful piece for parents and others regarding child pornography and the Internet.

For more visit:
http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/unfortunate-truths-about-child-pornography-and-the-internet-feature/

Article: Pastor Guilty of Child Abuse Crimes


The following article reports on a pastor found guilty of child abuse crimes – what do you think? Was he right or was he wrong? Is he indeed guilty of a crime?

http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/crime_and_courts/black-earth-pastor-found-guilty-in-child-abuse-case/article_6ce4663e-7395-11e1-8bf4-001871e3ce6c.html