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Parents, Caregivers Leaving Their Jobs to Manage Their Kids’ Behavioral Health Needs

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The coronavirus pandemic has negatively impacted many adults’ mental health and kids’ behavioral health. Disruptions in a child’s everyday life — from remote learning and heightened safety protocols to family financial hardships, isolation and challenges in health care access — can feel like a perfect storm leading to behavioral health issues.

According to a recent survey from Brightline — a Palo Alto, Calif.-based virtual platform that provides behavioral health support to kids and their families — adults are so engulfed by the behavioral needs of their children that 21% of parents and caregivers report either quitting their jobs in the past year or planning to do so in the next year to better tend to their kids’ needs. In particular, 31% of parents or caregivers whose kids have exhibited behavioral health issues in the past five years have done or say they plan to do the same.

Kids’ struggles with behavioral issues in the past and present

More than two-thirds (69%) of parents and caregivers say their kids have struggled with a behavioral health issue in the past five years. Of this group, 66% are worried about their children’s needs over the upcoming year.

The top issues weighing on parents’ minds are:

  • Sleep issues (25%)
  • Anxiety (24%)
  • Lack of focus (23%)
  • Tantrums (16%)
  • Aggression (13%)

These parents and caregivers are trying to get sufficient professional help — but while most adults (92%) sought support for their children, less than half (47%) got the help they needed. Another 12% say their efforts proved futile and they didn’t receive any support.

A ripple effect: Parents’ mental health impacted

As parents stress about juggling their kids’ behavioral health issues, work and other responsibilities, it’s taken a toll on their mental health — nearly 6 in 10 (59%) report mental health challenges of their own. Among those parents and caregivers whose kids have experienced behavioral health issues in the past five years, that percentage spikes to 85%.

Overall, 11% of parents and caregivers have been diagnosed with a mental health issue from that stress; that percentage is greater (16%) for parents and caregivers with kids who have had behavioral health issues in the past five years.

Parents spend time daily managing kids’ behavioral health needs

Parents and caregivers spend a significant amount of time tending to their kids’ and teens’ behavioral issues. In fact, 54% express needing to carve out time every day to do so — and almost 1 in 5 (18%) spend, on average, five hours or more daily devoted to this.

Specifically among parents and caregivers whose kids have had behavioral health issues in the past five years, more than three-quarters (78%) report that they devote time to this daily, with more than a third (36%) saying they spend at least five hours a day on it.

As one might expect, 61% of employed parents and caregivers with kids who’ve shown behavioral health issues in the past five years agree that working in an office instead of at home will negatively impact their ability to tend to their kids’ behavioral health needs amid a return to school.

Parents considering leaving their jobs to support their kids might need to make sure their financial ducks are in a row before making such a move. To avoid digging a debt hole, they should make sure to have emergency savings stashed away. If necessary, a small personal loan could potentially tide them over until they find a job with a more flexible work arrangement.

Methodology: Brightline commissioned The Harris Poll to survey 596 U.S. parents of children younger than 18, fielded between July 27 and July 29, 2021. Of the 596 respondents, 403 had children who experienced behavioral health issues in the past five years.