Importance of the Parent/Caregiver-Child Relationship

Caregivers are the most significant people in our lives.

Whether kids like it or not, caregivers are often the most significant people in their lives. Most caregivers, at the basic minimum, provide children with food, a roof over their head, and the basic necessities they need to survive. It is because of this bond that caregivers have a big influence on their children. Caregivers shape their childrens’ views, political and social. They influence the people in children’s social circles, and play a role in determining the type of people they become. Caregivers are constants in childrens’ ever changing, evolving lives. As such, caregivers are uniquely positioned to either buffer against the stressful things in children’s lives, or potentially create stress that is particularly potent for children.37 For these reasons, caregivers play highly important roles in the lives of children during Covid-19.

Covid-19 related stress took a toll on caregivers which, in some cases, negatively translated to children. The results of one study on the effects of Covid-19 found that children of highly distressed caregivers experienced more negative mental health outcomes than those whose caregivers did not experience negative mental health outcomes from the pandemic. 25 Just think about it for a second. If your parents are constantly stressed, depressed, or anxious wouldn’t you feel the same? For most children, parents are the ones they look to for support and comfort. When parents themselves were compromised and bewildered by the pandemic, children may not have received the guidance and care needed to help them through the global disaster.

Indeed, one reason why there might be a correlation between parent and child mental health is because parents’ mental health can have a severe impact on their parenting ability. Parents may not be as attentive or considerate towards their children, possibly even ignoring the red flags in their children’s mental health, which has also been impacted by the pandemic. One particular research paper even found that parents who reported higher levels of depression and anxiety in their sample also reported higher stress in their children.25 In addition to this, extensive research shows that fear can be contagious and children are extremely sensitive to the emotional state of the adults around them, who are their essential source of security and emotional well-being.5

A recent study indicates that even when children report lower disaster exposure than their parents, they experienced distress similar to that of their parents.26 In contrast, supportive parenting, confidence in safety, and discussions about the disaster buffered against children’s subsequent mental health symptoms, thus indicating that positive, responsive parenting can play important protective roles in the development of children’s stress-related symptoms.27