A silver lining in the COVID-19 pandemic has been fathers spending more quality time with their children. But will those gains be retained as restrictions are lifted and busy lives resume?

Fathers enjoy more time with children during COVID-19 pandemic

New studies find dads are more engaged in their children’s lives. But will those gains stick?

Two new studies suggest COVID-19 has brought fathers closer to their children.

A online survey conducted in May by the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation (CMHF) reported 38 per cent of respondents feeling coronavirus restrictions have had a positive impact on their roles as fathers. Forty eight per cent said they are more aware of their importance as a father, 59 per cent felt closer to their children and 48 per cent have decided to be more engaged as a father in the future.

“I’ve been off work since March and it’s been stressful, but the upside is I’ve been able to spend a lot more time with my daughters,” said Dal Watson from Burnaby. “I’m a professional chef and I’ve been spending time in the kitchen at home teaching my kids how to cook. We’re also sitting down as a family and eating together, which was something that couldn’t happen very often when I was working.

“I’m grateful for the extra time I have with my family.”

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The study was conducted by Intensions Consulting. The company’s managing partner, Nick Black, said 62 per cent of men reported sitting down to more meals with their children.

“Sharing meals can provide an important opportunity for family connection,” Black noted. “There is considerable evidence that eating meals together can have a positive impact on kids’ mental health, nutritional choices, school performance, and can even reduce the incidence of drug and alcohol use.”

The Men’s Initiative at UBC followed up the first study with a series of virtual focus groups. When asked to describe their family dynamic before COVID-19, many fathers talked about long work days with commuting, eating on the run, children’s schedules – including sports, extracurricular and social activities – and family members experiencing lives lived parallel with each other.

The men worry they’ll be drawn back into that hectic existence as COVID-19 restrictions ease, and lose the gains they’ve made with their families.

“If the COVID-19 lockdown accelerates the movement of dads to be more engaged with their children, that could be a lasting benefit from a tragic public health crisis,” said Dr. Larry Goldenberg, Founding Chair of the CMHF. “It is clear, however, that men realize it will be a challenge to continue spending quality time with their families once the daily stresses of commuting and working long hours are reintroduced to their lives.”

For tips on how to retain a healthy balance between work and family, check out DontChangeMuch.ca


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