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Parents say Covid-19 means more family time

Parents say Covid-19 means more family time

START campaign encourages parents to add a healthy habit to family time

Parents say having more family time together one of the positives to emerge from Covid-19 

Thursday 12 November 2020: Spending more time together as a family has been one of the positives from Covid-19 restrictions, with recent research by Behaviour and Attitudes¹ finding that 86% of people value their family life more now since the pandemic began. The START campaign from safefood, the HSE and Healthy Ireland is encouraging parents to consider this increased family time as an opportunity to add a healthy habit. Recent research² for the START campaign also found that approximately half of parents reported finding it difficult to manage screen usage, treat consumption and physical activity during the pandemic.

The START campaign is encouraging parents to use their increased family time to begin a new healthy habit and start their children on the way to healthier life. This could include getting children more involved with preparing for meal times or helping with making healthy snacks with their parents; or putting down screens for more indoor play; or getting out and active together as a family.

Introducing the latest phase of the campaign, Dr Catherine Conlon, Director, Human Health & Nutrition, safefood said: “The START campaign is all about introducing small changes in your family. This could include more family meals, watching portion sizes, swapping the couch for the park or indoor games, or regular sleep routines. We know it’s been really hard for families with all the uncertainties that the pandemic has brought for parents and for their children. The one good thing that has come out of it is families have more time to spend together. Parents tell us that they appreciate this and want it to continue. We want to tap into that positivity and support parents in making the most of more time together by making small changes to build healthier habits for all the family. Big wins can start with small changes and the health benefits will add up over time. ”

Sarah O’Brien, HSE National Lead, Healthy Eating and Active Living Programme continued, “Since March we have been regularly checking in with people in relation to COVID-19, how they feel about it and how it affects their lives. The most recent results tell us that while re-opening of schools and childcare services has improved their lives, around half continue to report it challenging to manage children’s diet, physical activity and screen-time. Taking small steps to build changes into how we spend time either by cooking family meals together or putting on the rain coats and getting out to play with the children regardless of the weather can pave the way for spending less time on the couch in front of a TV or tablet screen. As part of the START campaign, we have really good help and useful resources for parents at”

Comedian and children’s author Jason Byrne continued,

“As a Dad of two, I know how difficult the last six months have been to juggle work, parenting and even home-schooling for some of it. I also know how kids are often glued to their screens and the measures you need to put in place to separate them! I am delighted to be working with the START campaign on this important campaign to inspire us all to find one daily win as part of family time that instils a healthier lifestyle for us all.”


For further information or to request an interview, please contact:

Clodagh Hogan / Sally McLoughlin Wilson Hartnell

Mob: +353 87 774 6128 (Clodagh Hogan) / +353 87 972 2549 (Sally McLoughlin)

Email: [email protected] / [email protected]


¹ Behaviour & Attitudes/RTE State of the Nation survey (October 2020) ² CORE HSE COVID-19 Tracker : Tracking the Nations Sentiments and Behaviours (Wave 6 – October 2020)

Editors Notes

The START campaign is a five-year public health awareness campaign from safefood, the HSE and Healthy Ireland. The campaign is encouraging families to take the first step towards a healthier lifestyle for their children by supporting them with one daily win and to persist with the changes. The campaign is also a key part of the Healthy Ireland ‘Keep Well’ campaign that aims to help build support, resilience and wellbeing during the Covid-19 pandemic. To find out more about the START campaign and ways to make a healthy, positive start visit

In identifying the positive starts that parents and families can take, the START campaign focuses on seven key lifestyle habits:

  • Minimise intake of foods high in fat, salt and sugar
  • Establish water and milk as routine drinks
  • Give appropriate child-sized portions to children
  • Include more fruit and vegetables across the week
  • Increase physical activity levels
  • Limit screen time

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