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Though the COVID-19 public health emergency has ended, the effects of the pandemic continue to affect many children and families.
The AAP, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Prevent Child Abuse America and Tufts Medical Center, surveyed more than 9,000 families in November 2020, March 2021 and July 2021 on how the pandemic affected family life, adverse childhood experiences and positive childhood experiences.
Results of the three surveys, called Family Snapshots: Life During the Pandemic, were used to create resources to help pediatricians and home visitors support families in navigating continuing stressors from the pandemic. Survey results, resources and a list of AAP recommendations are available at www.aap.org/familysnapshots.
About 50% of survey respondents reported a change in employment status. Many caregivers worked fewer hours so they could care for children, with twice as many women as men cutting back on work. Reduced hours led to financially stressed households, which changed children’s lives.
Disruptions in children’s lives and education led to increased tension in households. More than 20% of adults, including both men and women, reported experiencing physical and psychological intimate partner violence (IPV). Children who witness IPV are at increased risk for mental, physical and behavioral health problems.
Families and caregivers of youths with special health care needs experienced persistent challenges during the pandemic. They reported high rates of disruption in child care, health care and employment, as well as loss of technological and therapeutic supports. While parents said they felt overwhelmed, many also reported feeling close or extremely close to their children.
More than 50% of caregivers worried their youngest school-age child fell behind in school. This was especially true of children in hybrid or fully remote schools. Parents in households with financial challenges, no daily routines for the children and IPV were especially concerned that their children were falling behind. These concerns were associated with parents spanking their children and feeling angry with them.
Amid these challenges, pediatricians and pediatric health care providers can support children and families by modeling safe, stable and nurturing relationships and talking about the importance of household routines and positive discipline strategies.
Health care providers can ask families about specific concerns and offer support and/or resources for food, shelter and domestic violence agencies.
Resources developed to help pediatric health care professionals support children and families during the pandemic recovery include:
- A video case vignette series demonstrating ways in which pediatricians can talk with families about stressors that may have been exacerbated by the pandemic and opportunities to promote positive childhood experiences.
- An infographic series highlighting key findings on child discipline and family relationships, school and child care closures and economic stress.
- Project summaries and lessons learned from AAP chapters related to fostering partnerships with Healthy Families America sites and Prevent Child Abuse America chapters.