Reaching your emotional and financial breaking point because of COVID-19? Turns out you're not alone—but why isn't it being treated like the emergency it is?

By Melissa Mills
December 15, 2020
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It's been almost one year since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. That's the bulk of 2020 spent quarantining, disinfecting, wearing a mask, remote learning, working from home, Zooming, finding ways to make up lost wages, and trying to make ends meet. More than 300,000 Americans have lost their lives due to COVID-19 and many more have lost their livelihood. Even with a newly approved coronavirus vaccine, families are struggling more and more every day—and they're losing hope as cases are surging and the light at the end of the tunnel still appears to be months away.

The fact is that the majority of American families are hurting right now and, according to a new survey from national nonprofit ParentsTogether, things are getting worse each month. Sure, we're all feeling that COVID fatigue and spirits are low as the holidays come and go and get-togethers are canceled, but the pain, anxiety, and fear that families are facing goes beyond just normal end-of-year burnout.

Here's the Reality of Many Parents Right Now

In a survey of 650 parents, ParentsTogether found that 37 percent of families are worse off financially now than they were just one month ago. And a whopping 62 percent of families are concerned about “their family’s ability to make it through the winter, mentally / emotionally.”

This is what parents are dealing with financially:

  • 73 percent of families are struggling (this is up from 70 percent in June, 61 percent in April, and 58 percent in March)
  • More than half of parents are "having to trade off between paying for basics like rent or utilities or health care or food due to loss of income"
  • 61 percent of parents report they’ve lost income since the start of the pandemic
  • 34 percent are behind on rent or mortgage payments
  • Nearly half of those surveyed are "somewhat or very worried about losing their home"

And this is the toll that stress is taking on families' mental health:

  • Over half of those surveyed have a household member who's struggling mentally or emotionally
  • 60 percent of parents said their "mental health has gotten worse, or much worse, since the summer" and 47 percent said their kids' mental health was declining
  • 66 percent of parents reported feeling exhausted regularly, while 47 percent felt sad or depressed very often

“Families across the United States are at their breaking point— financially and emotionally—and if the U.S. government does not step up, our country and our kids may never recover,” said Justin Ruben, executive director of ParentsTogether. “Congress’ failure to act has made a national crisis into a catastrophe—with millions now facing hunger, eviction, and financial ruin on top of a mental health crisis as we head into what is supposed to be one of the happiest times of the year. Make no mistake, many American families will not last through this long, dark winter without immediate support.”

How to Help Families in Need

Check in on your loved ones

Have you asked your kids, family, and friends if they're OK recently? Now's the time. A simple check-in to see what your loved ones need could drastically change someone's day.

Ask your mom friend who got laid off if she needs a hand with groceries this week. Offer your partner an hour away from the kids to read a book or take a bath. Drop off cookies and art made by the kids to grandma. One small good deed could be just the thing to put a little pep back into someone's step.

And, by the way, it's more than OK to ask for help if you need it, too. You're not alone. Don't wait for assistance to come to you; reach out to a friend, neighbor, or even a teacher in your life and start the conversation to get what you need.

Donate or volunteer

Some families need more than just a check-in; they need real assistance as funds run low. You can always donate your time or money to local food banks—or directly to someone you know could use the help—but these organizations also need your support:

Are you seeking aid for your family? You can find your local food bank right here, find out if you qualify for mortgage or rental relief or food assistance here, and get help with other essentials here.

Share mental health resources

The stress of COVID-19—paired with everyday worries over things like work, finances, and child care—is causing a spike in fear and anxiety across the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends taking care of your emotional health and reducing stress through hobbies and unwinding, exercising and eating well, and taking a break from social media and the news. But don't hesitate to seek more help or treatment—from places like the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline—if necessary.

Contact your representatives

If the government doesn't act soon, millions of Americans will lose funds and unemployment benefits before the year is up. Call your local representatives and urge them to provide COVID-19 relief now.

Comments (3)

Anonymous
December 25, 2020
True and sad.
Anonymous
December 25, 2020
True and sad.
Anonymous
December 25, 2020
True and sad.