14 SES 06 A, COVID-19 and Challenges (1)
Since February 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic made childcare a major challenge for parents globally, both in the short and longer term. Families’ everyday life was seriously affected while spaces and times that structure parents’ and children’s days strongly changed. Also the demands placed on children’s education (Biffi, 2020) started to be addressed to families when schooling was carried out in virtual environments, highlighting new tensions and challenges. In this context, the well-being and mental health of caregivers themselves are critical (Brooks, 2020). Still, without adequate support, parents can deal with stressing factors, increasing children's vulnerability (Gromada, Richardson, Rees, 2020; Dulieu & Burgess, 2020).
The paper will present the research that was carried out during the first lockdown (March-May 2020) within the Erasmus+ KA2 Project DEPCIP (Digitized Education Of Parents For Children Protection, 2019-1-TR01-K204-077577), dedicated to the development of training proposals for parents for the promotion of children's rights and for the prevention of violence against children (Miller, 1979; 1980; Biffi & Macinai, 2020) in five countries: Turkey (leading partner), Greece, Italy, Lithuania, and Spain. The project has promoted specific research aimed at listening to the voice of parents. The family ecosystem was investigated, exploring individual dimensions and parental aspects in the relationship with children during the lockdown period. Furthermore, the study investigated the relations with domestic and public spaces, showing how lockdown elicited a redefinition of families’ “geographies of home” (Blunt, Varley 2004).
The research reached about a thousand parents in lockdown from the five countries involved in the project. Some transversal challenges have emerged in all partner countries: difficulties in managing family life during COVID-19, the impact of stress levels, emotional states, the dimension of aggression, punishment, communication with children. The contribution will present the Italian perspective on parents’ emotional experience and their relations with domestic and public spaces during the lockdown.
Parents declared the need to be supported in building a positive relationship with their children, especially in the most difficult situations. Understanding the impact that a prolonged period of confinement has had on the family environment is of particular interest to promote parenting practices that are respectful and aware of the rights of children and adolescents (Schleicher, 2020).
The contribution is based on a qualitative-quantitative research (Teddlie, Tasshakori, 2006), conducted through Semi-structured Computer Assisted Web Interview (CAWI). A convenience sampling was used (Emerson, 2015) and the inclusion criteria for the present study were as follows: having a child under the age of 18; having spent at least four weeks in lockdown; being in Italy during the lockdown. The survey period was approximately two weeks between April and May 2020. The research involved about 400 parents in Italy (mainly in Lombardy), 93% mothers (mean age 41.9, children mean age 8.2), with a rather high educational level. The interview was structured to cover different domains: 1) demographic information, 2) daily life during COVID-19, 3) physical and psychological space, 4) parenting during COVID-19, 5) the future.
The data show how parents, while feeling ready to face the emergency (70% of the interviewees), went through intense emotions, like worry and anxiety (39.2% named only negative emotions and 32% negative emotions as prevalent). On the other hand, also positive emotional states emerged, such as hope, serenity and joy (7.8% indicated only positive emotions and 9.5% positive emotions as prevalent). Emotion management emerged as a key area affecting parents’ way of coping with daily life during the strict lockdown. Results on the association between perceived emotions and some well-being related dimensions revealed that those who named mainly positive emotions showed levels of perceived well-being and readiness higher than those who named negative emotions as prevalent. Parents’ perceived positive emotions have proved to be important resources linked to a higher level of personal well-being and the perception of being adequately equipped to deal with an emergency. Moreover, the perceived level of adequacy relating to living spaces was also linked to both emotions and perceived well-being: greater adequacy of spaces is associated with positive emotions and a higher level of perceived well-being. Furthermore, the analysis of the relations with domestic and public spaces shows how lockdown elicited a redefinition of spaces, meanings and practices. When asked about any changes in the way they live common spaces in condominiums, a significant 18% indicated the lockdown as an opportunity to rethink their relationship with these spaces. As for the places that were missed the most during the lockdown, the idea of public space as a relationship emerges: 30% of parents indicated places where something is done with others and most of the respondents did not refer so much to places but to actions and ways of experiencing space together with others.
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