Note: This is part six of our ongoing series on the Parents of Young Adults Spring 2021 Survey results. One hundred and twenty-two parents responded to the survey. Read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, and part 5.
COVID-19 and the Delta variant are proving to be an additional strain on parents and young adults at the launching stage. As parents in the survey reflect on the continuing impact of COVID-19/Delta, these are some of the negative words they shared: isolation, loneliness, virtual classes, too much closeness, anxiety, depression, frustration, and stress. At the same time, parents in the survey described the experience of the pandemic in favorable terms: more time to talk and do things together. Read on to find out whether parents of the study experienced the pandemic positively or negatively and their reflections. In this survey, we will report both quantitative and qualitative findings on two COVID-19 related questions. At the time of the study, vaccines had been available for three to four months, but parents were not asked if they were vaccinated.
Q 35: COVID-19 has had an adverse impact on my letting go and launching my young adult?
The responses were somewhat bimodal in that most responses landed in the agree or disagree categories. Thirty-seven percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the above statement. Forty-four percent of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with the Q35 statement above. Given this distribution and the fact that eighteen percent landed in the neutral response category, one would expect that the comments would fall somewhat evenly between the agree and disagree groups. What I found was that only one response was positive. The rest were critical such as:
- “Social isolation.”
- “Has not had positive interactions with peers.”
- “Loneliness and anxiety from social isolation.”
- “Social network of my child is severely damaged.”
- “Stress and loneliness.”
- “Disconnection that comes from this covid life.”
- “Struggles with virtual classes.”
- “Inability to get a job.”
- “Moved back home due to COVID.”
- “Symptoms of mental health issues have gotten worse.”
COVID-19 interfered with, if not delayed, the young people considered in this survey from moving forward on critical developmental tasks of identity, independence, intimacy, and intention (purpose). Those who had to move back home likely experienced a regression in their progress toward self-sufficiency and independence. The singular most significant toll of the young adults is that of social isolation. Such isolation affects their development of friendships and finding an intimate partner. Imagine dating in the digital world.
Q 36: My relationship with my young adult has become closer and stronger since the pandemic.
On this question, the distribution of scores was much different than in the previous question. The largest percentage of responses fell into the neutral or “neither agree nor disagree” category – forty percent. Twenty-one percent disagreed with the statement, and thirty-nine percent agreed. Close to nineteen percent more parents saw the impact of COVID-19 as positive than negative. The open-ended comments supported this tendency. Only one comment in seventy was negative. It is likely that a large percentage of those who checked “neither” agree nor disagree made positive comments. Here are some typical comments:
- “We are together all the time and forced to deal with issues.”
- “He’s continued to mature.”
- “Talk more often.”
- “The range of things we talk about has changed.”
- “We have more meals (together) and communicate with each other.”
- “We spend more time together as a family.”
- “More time to bond.”
- “We do more things together as a family.”
- “…we had some local trips for hiking and activities.”
- “…have time to talk, play games together and watch Netflix.”
Perhaps the most positive statement by a parent is:
- “We learned to hug more, forgive and give space for conversations in an honest and respectful way.”
David Brooks, writer for the New York Times and author, stated that specific experiences such as World War II where a common enemy brings people together, but pandemics tend to be divisive. In the case of the parent respondents to this survey, the pandemic has had a mixed impact. Although over a third of the respondents experienced the pandemic as disruptive and damaging to the letting go and launch process, forty percent found they had become closer to their young adult. Furthermore, comments on Q 36 were almost exclusively positive about the impact of the pandemic on parent-young adult relationships. Parents and young adults got closer despite the launch process being impeded.
In one of the earliest blogs related to the pandemic, I challenged parents to find a meaning or purpose and opportunity for growth in family relationships instead of just gutting it out. That challenge continues to be true. Finding meaning in the pandemic along with an experience of being loved, supported, and emotional closeness is critical to the letting go process for both parties- see Love to Let Go. However, even though the pandemic may draw parents and young adults closer, it’s essential to foster opportunities for greater independence.