Learning from COVID-19 lockdown
Birthright Canterbury coordinated a survey of parents asking them to share their experiences of support during COVID-19 lockdown. Thirty five parents responded to the survey. Here is a summary of what they said.
What strengths did you see in yourself that helped your family most during lockdown?
Resilience – many parents described characteristics related to resilience such as courage, adaptability, perseverance, being organised, knowing when to reach out for help and having a positive mindset. Parents described these traits as coming from the experience of being a sole parent.
“I’m usually alone and independent so able to be in isolation so easily”
Calmness - Being ‘calm’ came up as a word that often described the strengths that parents brought to the situation. A number of parents attributed ‘calmness’ to living in a world that was less pressured and demanding.
“I saw myself calmer as I wasn’t always in a rush to get to different places”
Spending quality time with the children – many parents described lockdown as an opportunity to strengthen their connections with their children through organised activities which they generally engaged in to keep the children busy. An unexpected outcome was a realisation that the activities benefited their mental well-being and their children’s.
“I saw how much I enjoyed spending quality time with my children after being so busy working”
Is there anything you will do differently as a family in the future because of your experience of lockdown? What is it?
Reassessing my life’s priorities – The comments were almost entirely related to maintaining the connections that they strengthened with their children with an emphasis on reassessing their lifestyle in order to achieve this. Parents spoke of a new appreciation for a healthier, more connected lifestyle with family and friends. This involved such things as managing busy lives more efficiently to allow for quality time, as well as reconsidering how their children are spending their time, eg limiting time on devices and increase of physical activity. Parents described a new appreciation for what we had during lockdown and an increased enjoyment of life.
“Spend more time together off devices, do more outside activities. More cooking as a family”
“Yup. Enjoy life as we are only here once”
Being prepared and planning ahead
“Should have brought items in the 2 days when it was announced. Needed to have a supply of clothing for changing seasons in advance and stored food because of nothing on special like nappies”
What have you found most challenging during the COVID-19 lockdown?
Respite time – living in social isolation presented the challenge of not being connected to the usual social supports. Having the children with you 24 / 7 meant that there was very little time for parents to refresh and recover which had an impact on self-care and mental well-being.
This was compounded by the children also missing their social connections and routines which had consequences for their well-being as well. Having increased responsibility over children’s formal learning added another layer of responsibility and stress to the situation
“Being needed all the time, never getting a break or time for me. The boys’ needs sky-rocketed and I had less help than usual which is practically none anyway”
Financial stress – parents were worried about money and the stress of paying bills, especially when income was reduced. Parents also noticed that there were fewer sales on, especially at the supermarkets.
“Providing enough food, paying extra power and lack of child-free time to do my chores”
Accessing help when needed – accessing day-to-day needs such as supermarkets was challenging as it required parents to take their children with them, often resulting in them feeling judged by people in their community. Parents also commented on the challenges of accessing more specialised help such as doctors, IRD and Work and Income.
“Going to town and getting shopping, people were more aware of you and made me feel rubbish as they were all staring or watching what you were doing”
“The most challenging thing was the nature of uncertainty of lockdown and it was extremely hard to contact IRD or Work and Income while at the same time have to do full time caring of the kids”
How has Birthright been of help and support during the COVID-19 lockdown?
Providing a connection – most parents described an appreciation of having someone who checked in with them on a regular basis, through text or phone calls. The sentiment was that just knowing that someone cared enough to stay in touch made them feel they mattered and made them feel less alone.
“Letting us know we’re not alone and checking in to see how we’re doing, trying to keep us together. Even though they have their own families and problems, they still took the time to care”
“Gloria was amazing. If it hadn’t been for her phone calls regularly, I don’t think I would have done so well”
“I have the best Birthright lady. She is amazing. She always brings wee puzzles and books. Often clothes and milk but mostly I like when she came just to chat…well, mostly listen”
Practical help – there was a great appreciation for the offers of food, clothing and birthday gifts for the children, all of which addressed some very challenging demands that may not otherwise have been met during lockdown. It was especially appreciated that help often came along without having to ask – parents indicated how hard it is to reach out and ask for help.
“Has helped with food and was asked nicely if I needed help when I didn’t know how to ask”
“Amazing! With the food support to us in our community means so much to us. We are forever grateful for the love that has been shown to us”
“I just about cried when a Pak ‘n Save voucher showed up with a hand-written note. I hadn’t asked for it, it just showed up and showed someone was thinking of me. It was before the wage subsidy was approved for me and I was worried about financial stuff”
Navigation – some parents described the benefits of having someone who could provide immediate information and assistance with accessing help when it was needed. This included advice and contact phone numbers for organisations who could provide help with food and other practical supports.
“Birthright also keeps checking on the needs of the families and providing immediate support”
As we move into level 2 and 1, what support and help do you and your family most need?
Practical help – families most frequently described the need for help with supermarket vouchers for essentials such as nappies, food and children’s clothing, especially with winter approaching and children growing so quickly.
“Agencies I approached for nappies etc never delivered them. MSD declined my food grant saying I was in deficit so had no balance to consider”
Support for well-being – parents are looking for a continuation of the support and connection that they received from Birthright during lockdown. They described their struggles to transition to normal life again, post lockdown.
“I think provide supports to keep mental health of sole parents as well as tamariki and whanau is very important as some people may have anxiety to do transition from level 3 to 2”
“Sometimes just a listening ear coffee group”
“I actually have no idea what support we need but still having contact regularly with Gloria would be a huge help. She is wonderful”