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Lockdown, Parenting Stress and Children’s Emotional Regulation

With heightened focus on the mental health consequences of the pandemic and government resources directed to addressing this, it is interesting to read a research paper exploring parenting stress and the socioeconomic and environmental risk factors and implications for children’s emotion regulation.

Spinelli et al (2020) collected data in the first month after lockdown and the picture reflects ‘a population not particularly different from the average means of previous studies conducted before the pandemic’, suggesting the pandemic was not the main variable. However, they did note a wide range of responses with parents living in more chaotic and less organized homes finding the relationships with children more stressful and less enjoyable. While the size of the residence and a garden or terrace do not relate to parental stress, organization of familiar routines and activities foster good parent-child interactions. In addition, parental stress is directly related to increased reports of more emotion regulation problems and poorer adjustment in children. While lockdown gives more time and opportunity to be together, stressed parents were not as engaged, paid less attention, and were less interested in the child’s emotional well being which in turn impacted emotion regulation. This effect was stronger for SES at risk families who may also be impacted by the economic circumstances.

This research provides valuable insights for working with distressed families during lockdown with practical suggestions including asking how a child feels, sharing enjoyable time, doing activities together and listening to a child’s ideas as ways to improve strained relationships.

Spinelli, M., Leonetti, F., Setti, A., Fasolo, M. Parenting Stress During the COVID-19 Outbreak: Socioeconomic and Environmental Risk Factors and Implications for Children Emotion Regulation Process Fam Proc x:1–15, 2020 (early view)

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