The global spread of COVID-19 has caused disruptions in many aspects of our lives. Education systems worldwide have changed dramatically. Numerous countries have encouraged schools to shift to e-learning and, as a result, parental involvement in their children's education has changed. This study focused on parental involvement in children's education during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study applied a qualitative phenomenological approach following a constructive social framework, whereby the researcher pursued an understanding of the world in which she lives and works. The primary tool employed to collect relevant data was in-depth interviews with six parents who voluntarily participated in the study in the western province of Saudi Arabia. Thematic analysis is applied to analyse the collected data. The study found that parental involvement in children's schooling has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the interviews revealed that parents would prefer to keep to their chosen role rather than fulfil the teaching role imposed on them by COVID-19. This paper contributes to the application of Hoover-Dempsey and Sandler's model of parental involvement in children's schooling, illustrating that an external force drives parental involvement. More specifically, many parents have been forced to change the form of their participation due to the unforeseen shift to e-learning. © The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V. 2021.