A shining light of positivity amid fear and chaos: Families are fonder and bonding

The pandemic may have sent many to shelter-in-place at home, but a new survey from Life360 revealed respondents haven't found the coziness a huge inconvenience.

A shining light of positivity amid fear and chaos: Families are fonder and bonding

It's clearly a time of uncertainty and unrest; many are both anxious and afraid of the second wave of the coronavirus, as well as the protests—with both having significant effect in each of the 50 states. With little notice or preparation, families were suddenly hunkered down together, sheltered-at-home, 24/7. 

But a new study from Life360, the family safety and coordination app, revealed that the unprecedented new normal did not foster family resentments. In fact, families have grown closer and have bonded. They're also more fond and connected to each other, noted the report. Life360's mission is about protecting and connecting families with app features that range from location-sharing to driving safety and communication. 

"Many couples and families spent very little time together before the crisis, everyone had their after-school and after-work activities," said Daniel Stillman, author of "Good Talk."

Families "are forming new routines, which fortunately include a lot more family times," said Jessie Jiang, CEO of the online STEM and AI school Create & Learn.

No one will contest that older American houses are on the small side (despite how irrelevant size is to home prices in preferred US neighborhoods). An average home with the parents both working remotely while helping kids tackle e-learning (66%) can be justifiably chaotic. Online school has been a serious challenge for parents.

SEE: Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs  (TechRepublic)

If Facebook is to be believed, many a household argument was the result of frustrated parents intent on keeping kids on track. Moms are six times more likely to be responsible for homeschooling than dads. And while summer takes the online school pressure off, parents must now scramble to find appropriate and engaging keep-them-busy-at-home activities. "Parents need that break as much as kids need camp," Stillman said.

"Summer can already set a high bar for working parents, on top of finding something for kids to do all day, it needs to be "fun" and feel like summer," said Laura Hamill, Limeade chief people officer and chief science officer. "This summer there will be fewer resources and organized activities for parents to lean on making it that much harder."

Hamill added: "There are some fun things out there like virtual museums and zoo tours or concerts. Ultimately, though, we're all going to have to be creative. As parents, it's important to not put too much pressure on ourselves. Sometimes it's just about getting through the day and that's OK. Our situations aren't normal right now and it's important to acknowledge that."

The pandemic "has left people with more time together, and much more of it is unstructured," Stillman said. "it's not surprising that people will find more time to eat together and talk together."

Stillman noted that for some families, college age children also came home much earlier than expected, and added another dimension to the daily routine of parents' telecommuting, and siblings' online school.

Parent/child relationships have blossomed, with 33% of respondents saying it's improved amid the pandemic, and only 6% cite their parent/child relationship has "worsened."

Together time

They may be "forced" together, but many have chosen glass-half-full and  families are connecting with each other during the pandemic by

  • Watching TV and movies (73%)

  • Cooking (56%)

  • Outdoor activities (43%)

  • Crafting (34%)

Parents who might normally restrict their children's screen time are now putting no limits to screen time, despite citing "too much screen time" as the biggest source of stress. Less than 27% of families are actively limiting screen time.

Addressing all issues that "close quarters" entails can be stressful, and being lax can be dangerous to quarantine and the household's health. Families are taking "shelter-in-place" seriously, as a whopping 99% of respondents noted, while 40% were taking it "extremely seriously," 43% taking it "very seriously," and only 16% reported "somewhat seriously." 

Yet despite many factors that can easily turn too-much-time-together into stressful sedition, respondents didn't consider the significant and intensive time together a huge inconvenience, and 66% of families report sheltering-in-place has been moderately or slightly inconvenient, while only 26% report it being very or extremely inconvenient, and 9% revealed  it hasn't been inconvenient at all.

Virtually social

Families have not socially isolated themselves, and the vast majority (87%) have been socializing virtually with friends and family who don't live in the same household. And they socialize often, some daily (34%), others once or twice a week (44%). 

Common virtualizing platforms are

  • Text messaging (36%)

  • FaceTime (22%)

  • Zoom (14%)

Unease

Despite a significant number of stores and once-closed facilities beginning to open, 25% of families reported they will "still be uncomfortable" going back to their regular, pre-COVID-19 routines.

"Parents with children in high schools and colleges have realized that  it is unlikely they will get another chance to spend a big chunk of quality time with their children again and are very much treasuring this special time,"Jiang said. "We are very happy to hear the broader trend highlighted by this report."

Methodology

The Life360 survey queried 2,300 families.

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Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

By N.F. Mendoza

N.F. Mendoza is a writer at TechRepublic and based in Los Angeles. She has a BA in Broadcast Journalism and Cinema Critical Studies and a Master's of Professional Writing, both from USC. Nadine has more than 20 years experience as a journalist coveri...