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New survey reveals high level of back-to-school anxiety for parents amid the pandemic

How to reduce the cost of back-to-school child care

There is a high level of anxiety and unease for U.S. families as the new school year approaches, according to new data from the 2020 Back-to-School Survey. The survey, which was sent out to better understand how parents are feeling about school plans in their communities and how the guidelines put in place influence their fall planning, reveals that parents are not only worried about the health and safety of their families but also about child care and their kids’ education and socialization.

What parents do and don’t know about the 2020-21 school year

Survey data indicates that 84% of parents are worried and uncomfortable about their child going back to school, and the majority (74%) say they are not satisfied with or don’t know their local government’s back-to-school plan. 

While 33% of parents surveyed report that their children are going back to in-person learning in the fall, 26% say their kids are not going back in-person. That means even though school is due to start across the country within a matter of weeks, almost 40% of families still don’t know how school will look this fall.

What concerns parents most about heading into the school year

The uncertainty of the school year ahead is creating tons of anxiety; however, the survey data does highlight some very specific worries for parents.

1. Health and safety of their children and others

The health and welfare of their children, families and community members is the most prominent stressor for parents, with the following being shared as their top concerns should kids have to return to traditional in-person schooling:

  • 66% of parents worry their child will contract COVID-19.

  • 51% are afraid their child could be a carrier of COVID-19 and get someone sick.

  • 49% worry about their children not socially distancing.

  • 48% express fear around lack of knowledge on how the virus affects children.

2. Child care availability and affordability 

While their children’s health and safety may be top of mind for parents, 43% of parents also say finding child care is a chief concern, and 90% of parents say their child’s virtual or distance learning at home has impacted their work life. Among their child care concerns:

  • 65% of parents anticipate needing more child care this back-to-school season than they currently have, with 20% of the same group stating they can’t afford more care.

  • 64% of parents are not sure how they will handle the hours after school, in terms of activities or child care.

3. Challenges around education and socialization

For parents of children who are heading back to virtual or distance learning, there is definitely apprehension around education and socialization as well. Here’s what parents shared:

  • Only 17% of parents feel prepared for virtual or distance learning and believe their children will receive a proper education this fall.

  • 45% say their child not receiving enough social interaction or emotional learning has been the most challenging aspect of virtual or distance learning.

  • 39% of parents rank math as the toughest subject to help their children with (followed by science, English, social studies and foreign language).

  • 20% anticipate needing more academically specialized care, like a tutor or teaching nanny, so their children don’t fall behind in school.

The start of a new school year is always a good time to make sure you are doing what you can to mitigate the cost of care.

Back-to-School Survey methodology

The 2020 Back-to-School Survey is a new survey to measure American parents’ attitudes and behaviors towards COVID-19’s impact on the back-to-school season. The 2020 Back-to-School Survey captured responses from 2,019 parents in the United States during the month of July 2020. Respondents were recruited from


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Previous surveys

The COVID-19 Child Care Survey

The 2020 Work + Life Report

The Cost of Child Care Survey: 2020 Report

The Cost of Child Care Survey: 2019 Report