Time is a funny thing. You can use it, but you can’t own it. You can spend it, but you can’t keep it. And once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back. Amid the COVID-19 crisis, it may be tempting to think you’ve used it fruitlessly by spending it at home. Yet, 69% of dads say they are providing companionship to their children during COVID lockdown, and almost half say they will continue to do so after restrictions are lifted.
“You will never look back on life and think, ‘I spent too much time with my kids.’”Anonymous
These wise words about the importance of family time are emphatically underscored by a pair of new studies recently released as part of Canadian Men’s Health Week 2020 (June 15-21). Together, they reveal a COVID silver lining: many fathers are feeling closer to their kids during the pandemic, and want to create a “new normal” of closeness going forward. (Read our press release here.)
Wayne Hartrick, President of Canadian Men’s Health Foundation (CMHF), discusses the study findings with CTV News.
The silver linings of guidance and companionship
The CMHF study, conducted in May by Intensions Consulting, asked 1,019 Canadian fathers about the impact of the COVID lockdown on their roles as parents. Highlights include:
- 40% felt the lockdown has had a positive impact on their roles as fathers;
- 52% were more aware of their importance as a father;
- 60% felt closer to their children;
- 49% have decided to be more engaged as a father in the future;
- 61% have been providing companionship to their children more often, with almost half planning to continue doing so as restrictions are lifted, and;
- 56% have been providing guidance to their children more often, with almost half planning to continue doing that as well.
‘A golden opportunity’
Change can come with both positive and negative implications. We have heard a lot about the hardships of COVID-19, but there are some positive aspects.
“Even though families have faced stressors and challenges with COVID-19, we recognize that fathers have been granted a golden opportunity to take time to slow down and connect with their children,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix. “Many parents work full time and commute, and when that is taken away, they have more opportunities for togetherness, like a game of catch or going for a hike. Men’s health is impacted by their living situations, and getting a little more physical activity with their kids is a little thing that makes a big difference. We can learn from this pandemic in more ways than we think.”
Wayne Hartrick, the President of CMHF, says, “The good news is that our DontChangeMuch.ca website is full of easy ‘Dad Tips’ that highlight the importance of healthy family relationships and help fathers find a better balance.”
Out with the ‘old normal,’ in with the new
As a follow-up to the online survey, virtual focus groups with 45 fathers from across Canada were conducted by The Men’s Initiative (TMI). Many fathers described a hectic family dynamic before the pandemic, with long workdays, commuting, rushed meals, children’s extracurricular schedules, and social activities leading family members to live in parallel with each other.
Several of the fathers expressed concerns about shifting back to the “old normal” and enthusiasm for embracing the “new normal” of togetherness going forward. “We know the active and positive presence of fathers in their children’s lives has a positive effect on those children’s mental and physical wellbeing, and reduces the frequency of their negative behaviors,” notes Dr. David Kuhl, a UBC Professor of Medicine and TMI Cofounder.
Nick Black, Managing Partner at Intensions Consulting, says fathers’ increased engagement can take many forms. One tangible way the study sees dads engaging is that 64% are eating more meals with their children. “Sharing meals can provide an important opportunity for family connection,” says Black, “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.”
While it may be a challenge for many men to continue spending quality time with their families once the daily stresses of commuting and working long hours are reintroduced, “the COVID silver linings can still have lasting benefits if the COVID-19 lockdown accelerates the movement of dads to be more engaged with their children,” says Dr. Larry Goldenberg, the Founding Chair of CMHF.
The sentiment is echoed by Dal Watson, a Burnaby B.C. dad with two daughters. “I’ve been off work since March, and it’s been financially stressful, but the upside is I’ve been able to spend a lot more time with my daughters,” said Dal, “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 and want to continue spending time with them after going back to work.”
Support men to live healthy
For the last six years, Canadian Men’s Health Week has invited one and all to inspire men and their families to live healthier. Of course, there is one enormous difference this year: COVID-19. That’s why we’re celebrating the millions of dads across the country who are guiding their loved ones through the pandemic. Good thing Men’s Health Week culminates on Father’s Day!
On that inspiring note, it’s time to show your support and get involved. CMHF is a registered national charity. We rely on support from donors to help with our mission: inspiring men to live healthier. Your contribution will further men’s health research and programming, so we can help all the men you care about. Donate today!
About the Studies
The Canadian Men’s Health Foundation (CMHF) study, conducted by Intensions Consulting between May 8, 2020 and May 11, 2020, was an online survey resulting in a sample of 1,019 Canadian fathers, between the ages of 19 and 74 years, who have at least one child under the age of 19 years old. The sample was stratified to ensure that its composition reflected the underlying distribution of the Canadian population as determined by Census data. A traditional probability sample of comparable size would have produced results that were considered accurate within plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
For a copy of the detailed data tabulations, download the PDF here.
As a follow-up to the online survey, virtual focus groups with 45 fathers from across Canada were conducted by The Men’s Initiative. Like the online survey, the virtual focus groups consisted of Canadian fathers, between the ages of 19 and 74, who have at least one child under the age of 19.