Many Parents Worry Their Children Have Fallen Behind in School During Pandemic

ITASCA Ill. — The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted school for millions of students, forcing many families to juggle online learning, and many parents are concerned that their children have fallen behind at school, according to a new survey. These concerns can result in increased household stress, but they also may open opportunities to create positive family experiences as parents support children in their learning.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Prevent Child Abuse America (PCA America), and Tufts Medical Center, surveyed 3,000 parents and caregivers of children under age 18 in November 2020, March 2021, and July 2021. The survey measured the impact of the pandemic on family life, adverse childhood experiences, and positive childhood experiences. A new Family Snapshot report asked parents in March for their thoughts concerning their youngest school-aged child’s education.

Just over half of all the parents surveyed were concerned that their youngest school-aged child had fallen behind in school, especially parents whose child’s school arrangement was blended or fully remote. For those with children 5 to 9 years old, 51% of the respondents were concerned; at 10 to 14 years of age, it was 58%; and at 15 years or older, 53% of parents said they were concerned.

“The pandemic quickly turned people’s lives upside down, including as it pertains to education, forcing parents of school-aged children and teachers alike to alter well-established routines and search for new, and sometimes unconventional, ways for children to learn effectively,” said Dr. Melissa Merrick, president and CEO of PCA America. “This survey reinforces the need to equip adults — at home and at school — with resources to provide the safe, stable, and nurturing relationships and environments that children need to succeed academically, socially, and emotionally throughout life.”

Parents who reported certain household problems, including negative financial impact, no daily routines for their children, and intimate partner violence, were concerned that their child was falling behind in school at a higher rate than those not experiencing these problems. Pediatricians and pediatric health care providers may want to consider finding out about other household challenges when addressing parents’ concerns about their child’s education.

Parental concern about their youngest school-aged child falling behind in school was associated with spanking and feeling angry at their children. Pediatricians and pediatric health care providers might inquire about how parents view their children’s education, discuss how parents are dealing with concerns, and connect families with relevant resources.