A recent poll of 2,000 parents found that the extra time we are spending at home because of coronavirus is bringing families closer together by giving parents and children more of an opportunity to bond and spend time together. This includes bringing us closer to extended family even if we cannot physically see them. I can vouch for this as I have three sisters, two of whom live abroad with their families. Before the virus, we could go for weeks without speaking and only see each other’s children on a yearly basis. Now we have 6pm Sunday Zoom quiz evenings and it has been fantastic to get together as an extended family, having fun, bringing us all closer together, emotionally, even though we cannot meet physically.
The poll highlighted that around 62 per cent of parents believe the crisis has made their children more 'community minded', with 53 per cent going out of their way to help friends and neighbours. 73 per cent have picked up groceries for vulnerable people and 53 per cent have collected vital medication for frail neighbours. Over 50 per cent of people polled have phoned someone in isolation to provide mental health support.
A few years ago, some of you might remember Jeremy Hunt MP suggesting that the public and families should take more responsibility for looking after elderly neighbours and relatives. His suggestion was met with some derision. But, when you consider all the amazing work that our local families and volunteers are doing during this pandemic to look after, and look out for, our elderly neighbours and relatives, I doubt many, post-Covid-19, will hold the same derision.
The lockdown has forced many families to spend time together in quarantine and has given us the opportunity to consider what is really important in life; our children, our parents and the community we live in – a community we are part of. The family is the most important unit in society – the bedrock. The family is where children should be shown and taught love, basic and moral values in human life, cultural and spiritual heritage, empathy, tolerance, sharing, as well as manners – how to use the lavatory, eat with a knife and fork, et cetera.
Modern parents are busy juggling so many roles, cook, cleaner, driver, employer/employee. Spending time with our families, sitting down to eat together, setting time aside to spend time with our children - whether going for a walk, playing card or board games, talking about their school day is so important.
Spending ‘quality’ time together tells our children that we care about them, fosters communication within the family and is proven to be beneficial to their feelings of self-worth, their development and their happiness. Children who spend quality time with their parents are less likely to have behaviour issues within the family and at school. Quality time spent helps strengthen children’s emotional and mental health; children need love and attention on a regular basis to become mentally and emotionally strong. If parents spend time helping their children with schoolwork or reading together, it can help their children’s academic performance.
Time spent with our families costs virtually nothing but is priceless in its value. This natural catastrophe, and all the restrictions that we are enduring, has made us take stock and shown how we can do things differently; many of us can work from home, which means more time spent with our families. Lockdown has strengthened our families and helped us to appreciate the small things in life; things that have no monetary value. We can see that our stronger families are promoting social responsibility, a feeling for community and ultimately a strong, compassionate and giving society.
Sally-Ann Hart MP