The challenges faced by students and teachers adapting to online learning has been in the spotlight since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, but many parents also find it difficult to adapt to the new normal in education. According to the latest survey conducted by Save the Children Hong Kong, 75% of the responding parents said they have felt an increase in stress levels having their children learning online during the pandemic. The situation is particularly worse for low-income families, with nearly 89% saying that they felt more stressed.

Parents identified two main types of anxiety that they have experienced. On the one hand, parents worry that online classes may go wrong and they do not know what to do. 30% of the responding parents said they lacked the technical skills required to support their children’s online learning, and about 1/3 (36%) said support from schools was insufficient. On the other hand, nearly half of the parents (49%) said they have struggled with supporting their children’s learning while simultaneously handling personal and work responsibilities. This situation is more challenging for low-income families with 58% saying they have struggled. Overall, parents with younger children appear to feel more stressed. 77% and 80% of the parents who have children in kindergarten and primary school respectively said they felt stressed during the pandemic, as compared to 60% of parents whose children are in high school.

Conducted by Save the Children Hong Kong in March 2021, the online survey collected responses from 255 parents in Hong Kong who shared their firsthand experiences with their children’s online learning during the pandemic. According to the survey, parents are also concerned about the effectiveness of online learning. Nearly half of them (47%) felt their children were learning only “a little” or “nothing at all” during school closures, while 46% suggested that schools should either omit grades from transcripts or offer pass or fail option for the period of online learning.

COVID-19 has brought some benefits, however, as families are spending more time together at home now more than ever before. Almost all respondents (98%) indicated that they have seen positive changes in their relationship with their children. Nonetheless, almost a third of them admitted that they have become less patient with their children (30%), and more worryingly, almost 1 in 10 parents (9%) revealed they now resort to yelling and physical punishment “too often”.

Carol Szeto, CEO of Save the Children Hong Kong, said: “When it comes to online learning, the first thing we would think of is the direct impact on students. But let us not forget the challenges and enormous stress that parents also face, in particular for those from low-income families. We need to address parents’ emotional needs also during the pandemic, as this is essential for family wellbeing which greatly impacts children’s development. Happy parents bring up happy children.”

Save the Children Hong Kong has been supporting parent-child communication and relationships through our signature Heart to Heart Parent-Child Programme, while helping to ensure that the physical and mental health needs of children are being addressed through our Mental Wellbeing Programmes.

For detailed survey results, please click here.