Lost year: Parents heartbroken kids are celebrating milestones without family due to COVID


Nearly half of Americans say coronavirus pandemic has been the longest they’ve ever gone without seeing single extended family member in person.


NEW YORK — From birthdays to graduations, 2020 has put a damper on many big moments around the world. For children, COVID-19 restrictions have forced them to celebrate some of life’s biggest achievements in virtual silence. A new survey finds four in five parents say their kids are going through milestone moments during quarantine and are heartbroken their loved ones can’t be around for them.

The OnePoll study of 2,000 Americans with children under six years-old examined how parents are attempting to keep their families connected with relatives during isolation. Two-thirds (67%) are reluctantly maintaining their distance from loved ones during the pandemic.

Family COVID social distancing
(Credit: SWNS)

Nearly half of respondents said this is the longest they’ve ever gone without seeing a single extended family member in person. Forty-five percent estimate their children will go the rest of the year without spending in-person quality time with an extended family member.

The survey, commissioned by the photo-sharing app FamilyAlbum, also revealed who is most commonly absent from a child’s life in 2020. Kids are often having to go without seeing their grandmothers and grandfathers (42%), aunts and uncles (35%), and cousins (32%).

Missed moments

Parents lament the fact their children are passing exciting milestones with nobody around to witness them. Seventeen percent of parents have seen their child’s first steps without another loved one present.

One in five children (19%) said their first word and 18 percent learned to roll over on their own without an audience. Another 39 percent have celebrated a birthday without their family this year. Other key moments parents have witnessed their children achieve alone since March include learning the alphabet, learning to read, and mastering how to ride a bike.

With the pandemic still surging in the United States, parents are thinking of new ways to celebrate these exciting accomplishments without family present. One in two immediately took to video calls to share the big news and 46 percent tried to make as big a deal as they could with just the family at home. Four in five (83%) have sent photos or videos of milestone moments to loved ones.

“The study showed that parents want to celebrate their children’s milestones with extended family, and while the pandemic has prevented them from doing that in person, that hasn’t stopped families from connecting in new ways. Celebrating life’s milestones and sharing everyday moments are more important than ever to keep people’s spirits up,” a spokesperson for FamilyAlbum says in a statement.

More families are giving digital updates

Family COVID video chat
(Credit: SWNS)

Although they haven’t seen them in person in ages, almost seven in ten (69%) say they’re keeping in touch with extended family in the pandemic now more than ever. Two in three admit it’s taken some real ingenuity to keep their family feeling connected emotionally. Three in five parents said they started video calling relatives during the pandemic as a way of staying in touch. Forty-five percent have kicked started family-wide group texts and a quarter are playing mobile games since an in-person game night isn’t an option.

Over half of respondents are keeping in touch with family via phone calls and video chats more than ever before. Another three in five parents are sharing more photos and videos with family members, a larger increase than both phone calls or video chatting in 2020.

For those who like to share photos and videos, 40 percent said it was because they could share little moments that loved ones might not otherwise see. Nearly the same number think photo or video-sharing is a quick way to keep everyone updated on family news.

“This study emphasized the importance of sharing photos not only to keep loved ones updated but also to connect the more isolated family members with their beloved relatives. According to this research, one in five parents are using FamilyAlbum as a tool to bring moments to loved ones even when they can’t be together in person,” the FamilyAlbum spokesperson adds.

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