‘Sara laid in bed that night and did not feel like a hero at all. She felt upset. She wanted to go to school but her school was closed. She wanted to see her friends but it was not safe. Sara wanted the coronavirus to stop scaring her world.’[i] (Excerpt from ‘My Hero is You: How kids can fight COVID-19’)
At one point or another in the past four months, we have all felt like Sara. We have had days where we struggled to complete our work tasks because we just couldn’t manage to attend to the work in front of us. We have struggled to find the energy to engage in activities that once brought us joy and meaning, such as exercise or cooking. We have struggled to cope with the feelings of loneliness due to regulations put in place that limit our engagement with people that we once saw regularly. These experiences are sadly not limited to us as adults. Our children experience them too.
A report compiled by the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) examined evidence that toxic stress or adversity disrupts children’s learning, behaviour as well as their physical and mental well-being.[i] In their report, they define Toxic Stress as a frequent or prolonged activation of our stress response system. That is exactly what the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light in most of our lives, “prolonged activation of our stress response” to the uncertainty of our future health, financial stability and general well-being. The AAP report goes on to propose that this prolonged stress response can result in the disruption of brain function and metabolic systems which may result in learning and behavioural impairments later in life.
New research is emerging on the effect that the COVID-19 pandemic has on the development of children as well as the proposed long term effects that this pandemic may have on the lives of our children. An article published in The Journal of Paediatrics on the effects of Covid-19 on early childhood development attributed the proposed changes in learning and behaviour to reduced social interaction, inability to attend stimulation centres such as day-cares or preschools as well as the chain reaction that the stress parents are experiencing is having on children during this pandemic.[i]
So what can we do about it?
Ensure that you take care of your own physical and mental health. Caregivers cannot offer a supportive, nurturing and safe environment if they are burned-out, stressed or physically ill. Participate in self-care activities such as meaningful hobbies, exercise, social engagement (as permitted) as well as sufficient sleep and relaxation.
Ensure Continued Stimulation
Many preschools and care centres remain closed during this time and one, therefore, has to ensure that your child is still being exposed to as stimulating an environment as possible. The following activities can be adjusted to your child depending on their age:
- Outside and physical play activities.
- Language activities such as reading, story-telling, conversations with your child and singing songs.
- Constructive play activities such as posting, stacking, building or arts and crafts.
Be A Buffer
As a parent, we have a great influence on the environment our children find themselves in. Try and limit the effects of lockdown regulations on your child by implementing the following:
- Stick to a routine (even if your child has not returned to school yet).
- Find alternative activities to the extra-mural or stimulation classes that your child attended before lockdown such as hikes, dog parks or even just walks around the block.
- It is very difficult to completely avoid screen time as various stimulation classes, school classes and even therapy sessions have begun to make use of video or online classes. Try to mediate this by reducing additional screen time and replace it with other more physically engaging activities.
These are unprecedented times and we are all trying to adjust as best we can. Don’t be too hard on yourself as a parent.
“The very fact that you worry about being a good parent means that you already are one”. –Jodi Picoult
If you have any concerns regarding your child’s current development, please do not hesitate to contact us at the Baby Therapy Centre.
For the full, printable PDF of ‘My Hero is You: How kids can fight COVID-19’ follow the link below:
 American Academy of Paediatrics. The Lifelong Effects of Early Childhood Adversity and Toxic Stress. Paediatrics. Vol.129. No.1. 01/01/2012. pp. e232-e246.
 Yoshikawa H, Wuermli AJ, Britto PR, Dreyer B, Leckman JF, Lye SJ, Ponguta LA, Richter LM, Stein A. Effects of the Global COVID-19 Pandemic on Early Childhood Development: Short- and Long-Term Risks and Mitigating Program and Policy Actions. The Journal of Paediatrics 2020.