Pandemic bringing us closer

Words: Alanah Frost, Herald Sun

Photography: Alex Coppel, Herald Sun

Families are closer and kids are reading and playing games more as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

They’re also staying connected with friends and family and embracing learning from home.

The findings are part of The Royal Children’s Hospital National Child Health Poll, which surveyed more than 2000 parents who care for 3408 kids.

The poll found 66 per cent of Australian families had developed new positive habits during the COVID-19 period, including cooking together and playing games.

Most parents had tried harder to prepare healthy foods, with 70 per cent saying they made a conscious effort to do so for their children.

RCH paediatrician and poll director Anthea Rhodes said families had overwhelmingly embraced the tough times.

“We definitely saw quite a lot of positives in the way families were living their lives,” Dr Rhodes said.

“The majority of families said their family had become closer and almost half said they had become more connected with their child.

“They reported things like having time to read with their child, having time to cook and prepare food and eating meals together — so there were some silver linings.”

Mental health and physical activity were the most heavily affected, with both parents and children feeling stress and loneliness. Nine in 10 children were not getting enough daily exercise and 25 per cent ate more unhealthy foods.

Mum-of-two Fiona Garrivan said she and husband Patrick had enjoyed slowing down and spending time with their kids, Maeve, 12, and Ronan, 9.

“For us it was a bit of a welcome change of pace and it gave us time to really slow things down, which we’ve never done before,” she said.

“We definitely take the opportunity to play board games and Uno and we have a dog so we go for walks and bike rides.

“I think the mindset is that it really is a moment in history and there has been a few gifts that have come out of it to be thankful for.”

The survey also found a drop in the number of children receiving medical care, with a third of parents delaying or avoiding seeking help.

This was largely due to fears of catching COVID-19.

Dr Rhodes reminded families not to put too much pressure on themselves.

To learn more about the findings from the latest RCH poll or to explore past polls, please visit the RCH National Child Health Poll website.

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