Kids’ behavioural issues main concern of Kiwi parents amid lockdown

Kids’ behavioural issues main concern of Kiwi parents amid lockdown | Insurance Business New Zealand

Kids’ behavioural issues main concern of Kiwi parents amid lockdown

nib New Zealand has released its second State of the Nation Parenting Survey, which looked at the various concerns that have been top of mind for Kiwi parents during one of the most challenging years in recent history.

According to the insurer-led survey, behavioural issues are the number one health concern for parents regarding their children, cited by more than a third (34%) of respondents, up 13% from 2019. Last year’s biggest health-related concern, sleep, still features prominently, as do stress levels and diet and exercise. 

During the lockdown, the number of respondents reporting sustained episodes of negative behaviour from their children (lasting two weeks or longer) grew significantly. nib expressed concern that the increase was mostly sustained since the lockdown ended.

Parents of younger children reported prolonged episodes of irritability, anger and short-temperedness as their biggest concern, while among parents of high schoolers, the sharpest increase came in levels of concern around changes to children’s motivation.

“Lockdown saw most families dealing with added stress as they adapted to new and novel experiences,” said Nathan Wallis, parenting expert at nib. “Toddlers may, in many ways, have felt this most acutely as they are already in a very emotional stage of development – it’s called ‘Terrible Twos’ for a reason. Toddlers are also just beginning to learn how to manage their emotions, so it’s mum and dad who have to do most of it for them. This was understandably compounded by lockdown, so many parents of toddlers had it quite hard.

“Motivation is located in the same part of the brain as movement, so the sudden restriction of space and movement for teens during lockdown had an equal impact on their motivation levels. Teens who continued physical training and movement during lockdown would have felt less of a slump in their motivation.”

According to nib, the findings demonstrate the toll 2020 has taken on parents themselves. Lockdown saw sharp increases in the number of respondents suffering from decreased motivation, decreased energy levels, a sense of feeling overwhelmed, and declining performance at work. Any subsequent reduction since lockdown ended has been limited to just one or two percentage points.

The biggest source of stress reported by parents this year was financial uncertainty, impacting 39% of respondents – followed closely by the impact of COVID-19 on the world, general job-related stress and the economy. Fewer than one in 10 respondents (8%) reported not feeling any particular level of stress over this period.

Furthermore, 42% of respondents said their financial situations worsened due to COVID-19, and the impact of this was reflected in general stress levels, as well as quality of sleep and relationships.

While it’s been a tough year, nib’s findings weren’t all bad news. When asked about the outlook for their family, 70% of respondents reported feeling positive about the future and 67% believe lockdown strengthened their family unit, with many reporting a greater sense of happiness, and better communication as a result.