Pencils Ready: How Parents Are Navigating the 2023 Back-to-School Season

August, 2023

Three years after COVID sent students home, how are parents doing as we approach another start to the school year? 

While remote learning is no longer up for debate, there is plenty impacting today’s parents – inflation has led to 50% of Americans spending more on groceries* since the pandemic, the scramble for childcare has resumed as employers enforce return-to-office and federal support ends, polarization around education policy and school curricula makes the news, and students may still be suffering from learning losses left over from COVID.

With all this, how are parents approaching the 2023/24 school year? Are they feeling excitement or are they tinged with worry? How are they approaching the inevitable change in routine and the financial burden of purchasing school supplies? And what does this mean for brands?

What we found:

Parents are more positive despite obstacles 

Compared to 2021, positive emotions (such as happiness and fun) are way up and 86% of parents try to get kids enthused for school. Despite looming concerns, fall is a restart: Parents see this time as an opportunity to refocus on mental, physical, and emotional wellness. This presents an opportunity for brands to tap into the positive energy leading into the new school year.

Parents are most concerned with children’s physical and emotional well-being 

Although a quarter of parents care about hot button topics such as critical race theory and book bans, these concerns fall well below more fundamental issues. Events largely out of parents’ control, encompassing physical and emotional health, outweigh any concerns around academics. It’s no surprise given headlines around school shootings, bullying, and stressed-out students. 

Parents are left to pick up the slack from an educational system they believe underdelivers 

More than 40% of parents feel the current education system has a long way to go, and that they themselves are ultimately responsible for fixing it. Adding to their existing tasks of schedule juggling and school supply lists, more than 40% have spent additional money to catch students up on COVID learning loss, likely through tutoring. 

For the full report, click ‘Download PDF’ below.

*Source: Horizon Media Inflation Nation: One Year Later

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