The Pandemic Is a ‘Mental Health Crisis’ for Parents

New studies show caregivers with young children are stressed, with no signs of relief on the horizon.

By Jessica Grose

Paige Posladek is pregnant, and stressed. She has two children, ages 2 and 4, works part time as a copywriter, and has seen a therapist on and off for several years to help her deal with the loneliness and loss of identity that can come with being a new mom.

Before the pandemic, Posladek, who lives in Kansas City, Mo., felt she had figured out ways to support her mental health: participating in group exercise classes, or meeting up with friends and getting her kids outside. But those mundane joys disappeared when the shutdown started in March. “There’s already so much pressure on parents, even pre-pandemic, to make the right choices for our children,” Posladek, 30, said.

To now be in a situation where she doesn’t know what the right choices are for her children’s health and education has only exacerbated her anxiety. She still has virtual sessions with a therapist, but it’s not as helpful when her kids are popping in and out of frame. “Even therapy has been tainted a little in its ability to provide relief,” Posladek said. “How are we going to help grow and nurture them in this environment, when we’re not even nurturing ourselves?”

As we slouch into Month 7 of the pandemic, the mental health impact on parents remains significant and shows no signs of abating. Though the pandemic has certainly affected the mental health of all demographics, research from the American Psychological Association showed that in April and May, parents with children at home under 18 were markedly more stressed than non-parents.

More recent data from the University of Oregon’s RAPID-EC survey, which polled 1,000 nationally representative parents with children under 5 every week through the end of July, and will survey some of the same parents, as well as cumulative groups, every other week from August to December, shows that parents of young children are particularly stressed.

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