Online study examines how parents are talking to kids about COVID-19

A Brock University researcher wants to hear from parents or guardians of children about how they are talking about the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Angela Evans, Associate Professor in Brock’s Department of Psychology, is part of a research team led by Lindsay Malloy of Ontario Tech University that has quickly mobilized to investigate how parents are helping children understand the novel coronavirus outbreak in a study entitled, “Coronavirus: Parent-Child Conversations and Children’s Reactions to the Pandemic.”

“We are examining how parents talk to their children about coronavirus and how parents and children are thinking, feeling and behaving in relation to it,” says Evans,

Using an online survey that takes about 30 minutes to complete, parents are asked to report how they are talking to their children about COVID-19, as well as their own thoughts and feelings about the pandemic.

Parents are, as Evans points out, “important sources of information and emotional support for children,” especially when schools are closed and both children and parents are encouraged to stay at home.

However, facing a situation unlike anything they have previously experienced, families are in uncharted waters as they determine how best to help children process information.

“This first survey will give us insights into how parents are initially discussing the pandemic with children,” says Evans, who credits support from Brock’s Research Ethics Board staff and from Ontario Tech University with enabling the team to mount the study so quickly while conversations are still happening.

Families who participate in the initial online survey will also be asked to complete some weekly surveys and an additional survey in six months. Once the pandemic has run its course and physical distancing is no longer required, some families will be invited to Evans’s Social Cognitive lab at Brock or the Development, Context and Communication Lab at Ontario Tech so  the research team can hear from children directly.

Parents of children between the ages of five and 17 interested in participating should complete the first survey by Friday, March 27. The first 1,000 participants will receive a $5 Amazon gift card, and all participants will be entered into a draw for a $100 Amazon gift card.

The research team, which broadly focuses on how youth report their experiences and the influence of parents and caregivers, is eager to capture data now to help inform parents in similar situations in the future.

“We realize this is a challenging time for many, but we hope that people may feel like they are contributing in a positive way by completing this 30-minute survey,” says Evans.

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