Parents are under pressure, and we can’t just blame the pandemic
19 December, 2022
One of the best gifts parents can give their children this Christmas is to take some time to look after themselves.
This is the message from the Parenting Research Centre as its new research shows that parents are struggling with their mental health, feeling fatigued and under pressure.
The latest Parenting Today in Victoria survey results, released by the Parenting Research Centre today, reveals that almost half of all parents reported experiencing psychological distress, with 7% indicating very high distress (up from 4% in the survey conducted in 2016).
The survey of 2600 Victorian parents conducted this year records a unique and unprecedented moment in time as caregivers navigated living with COVID-19 after more than two years of extended lockdowns.
However, it’s likely the strain on parents is not only a consequence of steering their families through the COVID-19 pandemic – the rate of those reporting mental distress has been climbing steadily since the Parenting Today in Victoria survey was first conducted in 2016.
Parenting Research Centre CEO Warren Cann said the survey results indicate that many parents are under pressure and feel tired and stretched. Three in five parents reported that they did nothing to relax and re-energise, and nearly half felt they did not have enough time to get everything done. Two in three feel they don’t get enough sleep, and one in five find parenting to be very or extremely frustrating.
“Our research found that more than a third of parents feel they are too hard on themselves about their parenting, almost half find it hard to forgive themselves when they make parenting mistakes, and about one in six struggles with feelings of guilt or shame about their parenting,” Mr Cann said.
“It’s not surprising that parents find it hard to exercise self-compassion when they are exhausted and live in a society where they are exposed to unrealistic parenting models, feel under constant scrutiny and face high levels of criticism.
“Self-care might seem like a luxury to parents, but evidence shows that it is crucial to the wellbeing of children. If you are not regularly recharging, it is much more difficult to be sensitive and responsive to children’s needs.”
Mr Cann said that despite the pressures of parenting, nine out of ten parents surveyed reported that they found parenting rewarding.
Raising Children Network Director Derek McCormack said the challenges parents face reveal how important it is for them to have easy access to reliable and trusted parenting advice online.
“The survey showed that more than 85 per cent of parents seek parenting information online, which reinforces the need for quality, evidence-based advice to be available via the internet,” Mr McCormack said.
“The digital parenting support space – both on the internet and through social media – is very busy with so many individuals, organisations and companies offering parents advice of varying reliability.
“raisingchildren.net.au has been publishing evidence-based parenting tips and advice for more than 15 years – content that subject matter experts constantly review. We give parents and carers a trusted place to find answers to all their parenting questions and point them in the right direction when they need further support.”
About Parenting Today in Victoria
The 2022 Parenting Today in Victoria survey is funded by the Victorian Government. It is the third time the Parenting Research Centre has conducted this survey since 2016. It is a comprehensive check-in with parents to learn how families are faring and to identify trends in parenting.
Key findings of 2022 survey
- Most (around 4 in 5) are confident in their parenting
- Between 2016 and 2022 the number of parents reporting very high psychological distress has increased from 4% to 7%, and nearly half are experiencing at least moderate psychological distress
- 3 in 5 parents don’t do anything to relax and re-energise
- 2 in 3 feel they don’t get enough sleep – on average, parents estimated they achieved less than seven hours of sleep each night
- 2 in 5 feel tiredness gets in the way of being the kind of parent they want to be
- 9 in 10 parents find parenting rewarding, while 1 in 5 find parenting to be very or extremely frustrating
- Nearly half feel they do not have enough time to get everything done
- 1 in 4 say work gets in the way of quality family time
- Parents of children with complex needs, such as a learning difficulty or chronic health issue, find parenting more demanding and report higher levels of psychological distress than parents of children without complex needs. They also are less likely to do things to relax and re-energise.
Who we surveyed
- 2,602 primary caregivers of children under 19 years old
- 43% were men
- 57% were women
- Aged between 21-89 years
- 2% identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
- 74% were from urban areas
- 26% from regional and remote areas
- 97% were the child’s biological mother or father
- Parents were interviewed in English or one of five community languages
- Contact PRC’s media team: Phyllis Sakinofsky/Belinda Howe on 0407 925 523 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Parenting Today in Victoria website
- Parenting Today in Victoria: a comprehensive survey