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Fathers feeling closer to children thanks to COVID-19 restrictions: research

How COVID-19 is bringing Canadian dads and kids closer together
WATCH ABOVE: The COVID-19 pandemic has presented Canadians with a lot of obstacles — but for some working fathers, the mandate to stay home has created a precious opportunity. Laurel Gregory explains.

As a hockey instructor for an Edmonton high school, Ryan Faulkner is accustomed to spending summers with his children six-year-old Paige and three-year-old Rhett. He isn’t, however, used to being in close quarters with them consistently for 13 weeks.

“Even during the summers I have chances to go out on my own and stuff,” Faulkner said. “Here — being on lockdown, so to speak — it’s been a lot of time one-on-one in the house and in the backyard. It gets a little bit trying but there’s a lot of good things that come out of it as well.”

Faulkner has enjoyed watching his daughter learn and grow as she completes Grade 1 Spanish immersion from home. He’s also savored the solo time he gets with each one of his children and the closer connection.

“So roles kind of transition when dad leaves the house now,” Faulkner said.

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“Now I’m usually the one getting the big hugs and kisses and, ‘Don’t leave,’ ‘When are you gonna be home?'”

Other Canadian fathers are reporting a similar strengthened bond, according to research from the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation.

The foundation asked 1,019 Canadian dads in May about the affect COVID-19 restrictions — specifically the directive to stay home — had on their family lives. In the survey, 60 per cent of respondents reported feeling closer to their children, 52 per cent were more aware of their importance as a father and 49 per cent planned to be a more engaged father moving forward.

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The Men’s Initiative at UBC researched the same topic in virtual focus groups involving 45 fathers of children under the age of 19. According to founder Dr. John Izzo, those fathers reported feeling closer to their children. They also noticed their kids came to them when they needed something more often.

“Many of them said that family life during COVID was like what they imagined family life to be like before becoming a father: having meals together, mutual decision-making, not just everyone in parallel directions,” Izzo said.

“A lot of fathers talked about the tensions: ‘On the one hand I want to go back to playing hockey and doing the things I enjoy and get my kids into their activities, but I don’t want to lose having time as a family.'”

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Izzo said some of the fathers were reluctant to hurry back to pre-pandemic schedules and showed an interest in prioritizing family time differently.

“A lot of them described their pre-COVID life as kind of everyone in parallel directions running around taking the kids there, here and there, and not a lot of time actually as a family; but a lot of parallel time. A lot of the fathers have enjoyed the fact that they have actually been together as a family for meals, negotiating what to do.”

Faulkner plans on continuing to spend more one-on-one time with his children moving forward, even once he’s back to work this fall.

“It’s been really fun being with my dad,” his daughter said.

Faulkner responds, “Ya, it’s been pretty fun, hasn’t it?”