How Can I Protect My Child From The Psychological Effects Of Covid-19?

The Coronavirus pandemic had a huge impact on the whole world.

Everyone was vulnerable to some sort of consequence.

But what about our little ones? 

Early experiences are the foundation for children to hone their skills and knowledge.

In this article, we’ll cover the following:

  • How Coronavirus pandemic changed the children’s living environments
  • COVID-19 impact on children’s development
  • Pregnancy, delivery, and baby care during COVID-19
  • And more…

The impact of the pandemic is different among families and people!

It is not the same everywhere!

Let’s face it now and see what we should do to protect our kids…

Early Childhood Development During COVID-19

The first years of life are crucial in the development of children. They shape personal behaviors and skills throughout the course of life.

From a child’s birth, the immediate family occupies an important place for development.

Extended family, friends, neighborhood, and community services are also important settings. The economic and social contexts and public policy are likewise important.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its protocols transform the daily life of families everywhere.

This unusual situation affects the children and family’s mental health and well-being. 

Besides…

… experts see the negative effects of quarantine on the psychosocial development of children. 

Children’s experiences are inseparable from those of their families. Because of this, public health interventions must consider the family’s living environments.

Some experts predict that the consequences could last beyond the crisis.

So…

…It’s important to take these into account when planning long-term interventions. This shouldn’t be only during the period of deconfinement too.

A mother playing with her little boy at home

Besides the effects on the family unit, the current situation can also have an effect at a community level. The safety net around children who are socially and economically vulnerable weakens.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is not the same for everyone…

… and social inequalities in health risks are being accentuated.

Quarantine measures affect the most disadvantaged populations and neighborhoods.

These effects can be as a result of the closure of workplaces. There’s also the difficulty to apply individual protective measures. In some instances, parents also experience the inability to access financial aid.

The current crisis and measures put in place could induce these.

So…

… knowledge from similar situations set up interventions with families and children.

Changes in Living Environments of Young Children

The COVID-19 pandemic transformed children’s living environments. 

These transformations can have impacts on the living conditions of families. Likewise, it can affect the development of children and the well-being of families.

The exceptional context of COVID-19 causes changes in the children’s living environments.

Disturbed family context

Many parents have to deal with a whole new professional reality. Some lost their jobs while others see part of their professional activities cut off.

They had to suffer a loss of income..

For parents working from home, work-family balance can be demanding. 

Parents are different as they need a dedicated workspace and the ability to concentrate on the task to meet deadlines.

And employers’ flexibility and understanding of teleworking parents do vary. 

For parents who still go to their respective workplaces, working conditions are different.

Working hours may change – as well as the physical environment, for example.

There’s also an increase in COVID-19 exposure.

Stressed mom working from home

Besides… 

…the physical space of the family (home) is not always adapted to the quarantine situation. These many situations can generate toxic stress. Likewise, they can have repercussions on the family and children.

Reduced Accessibility To Other Living Environments

Families may be cut off from their usual living environments.

In particular, there’s a loss of contact – mainly physical – with families not living under one roof. Their absence makes it more difficult for them to support the family. 

Interruptions in Continuous Care or Learning on Physical and Mental Health

Closure of daycare services and schools leads to a decrease in children’s social contact. It reduces opportunities for free play – an important factor for child development.

Many families have to deal with the stoppage of certain prescribed services. The majority of these services are now provided by telephone or videoconferences.

COVID-19 Impact On Children 0-5 years

Exposure To Unusual Experiences

During the pandemic, some children expose themselves to difficult situations. These could be illness or the death of a loved one. They tend to react depending on their age.

A parent may be absent due to geographic location, employment status, and health conditions!

When parents or caregivers experience grief, young children may also face emotional challenges

It’s important to talk about grief with children because it’s a normal response to loss. 

For prelingual children, reading books about emotions can help them in expressing emotions.

Not only that…

… celebrating life events in different ways can also help.

The social context of COVID-19 can contribute to its share of discrimination. Discrimination may be toward certain communities of the population identified as “at-risk” or “responsible” for the spread.

Miss Important Life Events

Keeping a physical distance may make you feel that your family life has stopped. In fact, the time has passed by. 

Among important family events are birthdays, vacation plans, and funerals. These are often missed during the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Social distancing, stay-at-home orders, and limited gatherings affect face-to-face families’ and friends’ gatherings.

COVID-19 Living Conditions Impacts on Children’s Development

The transformations of living environments lead to a change in family living conditions.

These changes could be positive and act as facilitators of toddler development. But, others may have a negative impact on it, as well as on the mental health and well-being of families. 

Moreover…

… these troubles may cause the appearance of unusual child behaviors. Children may also experience the exacerbation of pre-existing problems.

Time Spent With Family

The increase in time spent with family has a positive impact on some children. This may particularly affect families for whom quarantine measures increase family time.

The pandemic affects the family’s resources and capacities. Thus, there may be a decrease in opportunities for stimulation.

The “isolation” context of time spent with family can lead to unwanted child behavior. 

Combined with parental anxiety, these situations increase excessive or aggressive parental response tendencies. Thus, might lead to a greater incidence of neglect or family violence.

Some parents see several stressors added to each other.

These relate to changing working conditions and job loss. Apart from those, there’s also the loss of usual support network. There may also be health problems, unsanitary and overcrowded housing, etc.

All these stressors can undermine parents’ confidence in caring for their children.

Take the 2003 SARS crisis for example. Fear of transmission and infection is higher among parents than the general population.

In addition…

… many factors increase the risk of exposing children to toxic stress. These could have long-term effects on physical and psychosocial health.

Routines

Children’s routines prove to be critical for learning, feeding, and social development. It’s also an important coping mechanism for children with behavioral issues.

Creating and maintaining a new family routine during a pandemic is quite a heavy task. Children need a structure favorable to their development.

Lifestyle

Children’s lifestyles are essential to their healthy development. The quarantine and loss of contact with other living environments have modified them.

In fact…

… some children spend more time playing with their parents and going outside. Some also enjoy cooked meals. These family situations predispose children to a decrease in physical activity.

There may also be a lack of healthy eating and a regular sleep routine.

Supporting Adults through Mental Health Services and Other Living Environments

Children exposed to difficult situations count on the presence of concerned adults.

These situations include physical separation or social distancing from COVID-infected parents or guardians. The same could be true of immuno-compromised family members.

Otherwise…

… they’re more vulnerable to depression, toxic stress, anxiety, avoidance behaviors, and post-traumatic shock. 

Studies on the 2003 SARS crisis reveal that post-traumatic stress was four times higher among quarantined young children than those who weren’t.

Support and essential advice from other living environments should also be considered.

kids playing with their mom's laptop

Many families consider daycare services and preschools more than places of learning. Through them, families have access to a set of services essential to their well-being.

These are meals, health services, and social and mental health services. Others may get respite from dealing with a disabled or elderly family member.

In addition…

… this loss of contact with formal networks reduces the natural checks for worrying developmental signs.

The disruption of routine follow-ups could also affect children’s health.

A supportive neighborhood with frequent virtual contacts among extended families is likewise important. These could fill in the vigilance otherwise provided by the network form.

The Talk Around COVID-19

Finally, racism and discrimination from the pandemic could generate a stigma!

A stigma directed towards certain communities and groups of the population. This could make those affected reluctant to consult health services when needed.

For some young children, their healthy development could be compromised. Children may also experience bullying or bullying other children.

Promoting an inclusive discourse that avoids targeting certain groups could reduce the stigma.

Social Inequalities In Health During COVID-19

The current health crisis indicates social inequalities in health. It demonstrates that individuals and communities aren’t equal in the face of a pandemic.

Many studies shed light on the vulnerability factors about the risk of COVID-19.

The repercussions on vulnerable populations will be seen in months to come. Studies measuring inequalities in health access suggest that the government must take into account different family realities.

Changes in the family environment can harm families living in precarious conditions.

patient in a hospital

US studies claim minority ethnic and cultural community families need special attention. These families are greatly affected by COVID-19 as mortality rates are much higher.

The same can be said for families with low socioeconomic status and are affected by the pandemic.

There are no available food, health, and stimulation services from preschools and daycares. Thus, their well-being is at risk

The Parents Role To Mitigate COVID-19 Impact On Their Kids

There’s an urgent need to mobilize because COVID-19 doesn’t spare toddlers and their families.

Think of the temporary stoppage of early childhood education services and the impact of the mask on learning. There’s also the stress that affects mental health alongside financial insecurity. There may be tendencies of social support erosion and work reconciliation.

Families find teleworking stressful.

Pregnant women experience extraordinary stress during pregnancy. Some women had to give birth alone without a spouse.

There’s also a postponement of care by the health network. There’s even an increase in cases of mistreatment. Families experience this alongside possible housing and food insecurity problems.

Confinement and cancellation of activities weakened the essence of moving up to kindergarten. These activities usually brought the community together.

These are all collateral damage that impacts the well-being of toddlers. Unfortunately, the consequences of the pandemic worsen for young children in vulnerable situations.

In this context, how can we promote toddler development amidst the pandemic?

We go back to the basics, to the sources, to our primary instinct – we protect our little ones.

“How?” or “What?”

By offering them the social safety net, they need to better grow and flourish. We all have a role to play with toddlers from 0 to 5 years old.

a toddler girl wearing face mask

We’re, of course, talking about parents. But, we mustn’t neglect the importance of educators, grandparents, neighbors, and decision-makers.

Also…

… all committed citizens who can take concrete action and who have the right to do so can make a difference.

Don’t forget community organizations and local services either. They’re essential to the social safety net promoting the connection of these stakeholders. 

The expertise is there – on the ground – but the needs have increased because of the pandemic. 

We have to invest more and invest in it a little more, everyone!

Our little ones are the adults of tomorrow. Because of this, each of them must have an equal chance to achieve their full potential. Later on, they may become fulfilled and engaged adults.

And it’s together that we’ll be able to achieve this.

Early childhood measures reduce the costs of health, social, and early childhood education services. They also reduce the count of those dropping out of school.

The period from pregnancy to school entry is crucial for toddler development.

We can’t stress this enough! 

The actions taken now can contribute to the child’s development of solid foundations. He/She can carry this to adulthood.

It’s a global challenge…

Let’s put toddlers at the heart of our priorities and become an example to follow when it comes to early childhood. We can offer children a better future by mobilizing in the name of the well-being of these toddlers.

Here are some of the main issues to help our little ones cope with this critical period:

Identify and Resolve Fear and Stress Issues

Anxiety and nervousness among adults may cause emotional distress to children. These children could be aging 0 to 2.

Children aged 3 to 5 may worry that they or their loved ones may be infected with COVID-19. 

There are a lot of signs that point to nervousness among young children. These are excessive worry, sadness, unhealthy eating or sleeping habits, and difficulty concentrating.

parents cuddling with their toddler - girl

These signs appear with stress, chronic health problems, or mental health decline. The increase in tobacco and alcohol and substance use are also contributors.

Anxiety and nervousness among adults can affect their ability to care for work. They should seek mental health services or spiritual guidance. 

Adults know how to maintain stability and help children cope. 

Parents can support positive coping styles by playing together and talking about emotions. 

For example…

… parents should allow children to choose a comfortable space on the floor. Likewise, they can talk about the different things they see adults do. These can provide children with an opportunity to express their fears in a safe place. 

Children ought to have a sense of control and security in these situations. In doing so, parents should engage in conversations with them. These could be about becoming a part of the community.

Children may be encouraged to keep a 6-foot distance. They should be made to wear a mask while standing, too, to protect families and neighbors.

Let these changes become a part of the daily behavior of the interesting new family.

Teach and strengthen daily preventive measures

We can take some action to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Adults need to be good role models. They have to set an example through frequent washing of hands. Likewise, they need to keep at least 6 feet away from other people and wear masks in public places.

Your kids are most likely to follow in your footsteps.

Try to adjust your little ones to the new norms as much as you can.

Help keep children healthy

Early stay-at-home orders pressure parents to avoid seeking healthcare services. They may also continue to do so out of fear of contracting COVID-19. 

However, child health checkups and immunizations are very important to keep children healthy. 

Closing down social service agencies affects children’s access to other treatment services…

… such as language and occupational health.

toddler reading a book

It’s important to ensure that children receive continuous health care. These include checking on their development during the children’s health checkup.

They need to continue receiving language, mental health, and occupational health treatment. Children need to receive measles, flu, whooping cough, etc. too.

Vaccination against disease and developmental milestones is important.

Arrange health checkups and immunizations for children when possible. Seek ongoing mental health and occupational healthcare.

Help children stay in social contact

We’re all ready to get together with our family and friends again.

But here’s the kicker…

… eliminating most social activities – especially family reunions – are still demanding. Maintaining social distancing includes reducing close contact with people outside your family.

That said…

… the safest way to keep in touch with family members is to use virtual methods.

Try to stay connected with friends and family via phone or video chat. Write cards or letters to your family from far-off places, too, if you can!

Pregnancy, Delivery, and Babycare During COVID-19

Parents must take good care of their little ones – even before they’re born.

If you’re pregnant or have just given birth, you may be curious to know how COVID-19 affects you and your little one. 

Until now, researchers are still studying the impact of Coronavirus on pregnant women.

However, 

The following information will help you work with your healthcare team. It can help you be safe before, during, and after giving birth.

Pregnancy

Pregnancy during the COVID-19 pandemic can be stressful. It’s natural to worry about the effects of the virus on your pregnancy and your unborn baby.

Coronavirus disease is a new disease.

We’re still determining its effects on pregnant women. 

There’s no evidence suggesting pregnant women are at risk of contracting COVID-19. Likewise, if they contract the virus, there’s no guarantee of the development of severe diseases.

Besides…

… there’s insufficient evidence of COVID-19 transmission between mother and child during pregnancy.

Pregnant women must take the following precautions to protect themselves from the disease:

  • Stay home as much as possible, except for important medical appointments and. If possible, work from home;
  • Talk to your doctor, obstetrician, or midwife. Consider the possibility of replacing appointments with phone calls or video conferences;
  • Avoid letting visitors into your home, except for medical purposes;
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.  If there’s no soap or water – use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
  • Practice physical distancing by keeping at least two meters between yourself and others;
  • Avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes;
  • Avoid touching “frequently touched” surfaces in public places;
  • Avoid crowded places and rush hours – only go to the store for essential purchases; and
  • Avoid public transport.

Pregnant women are the ones at high risk of developing COVID-19 complications. These include women with lung or heart disease, weakened immune systems, or diabetes.

So, they should take increased precautionary measures, including:

Request family members, a neighbor, or a friend to do essential groceries for you; and

Talk to healthcare professionals. Ask them how to best protect yourself and make sure you have enough medical supplies.

Delivery

“Giving birth during the COVID-19 pandemic can be stressful.” It’s normal to feel pain, fear, or confusion. 

There’s currently insufficient evidence that a mother transmits COVID-19 to her child during birth.

a mother with her newborn baby in the delivery room

It’s important to discuss possible COVID-19 effects with your healthcare provider. This may affect your birth plan and family after birth:

Plan on whether you’ll give birth in a hospital or birthing center. Discuss your birth plan with your healthcare provider. Plan for any changes due to COVID-19;

Learn about COVID-19 policies on support persons and visitors;

If you plan to give birth at home, talk to your midwife. This allows you to find out if home births are still a permitted option in your province or territory.

Apart from that, you can also learn about the precautions you can take to make sure your home is safe; and

If you have contracted COVID-19, talk to your doctor about how it might affect childbirth.

Your healthcare provider may see other specialists for you or your baby if necessary.

Baby Care

If possible, you and your baby shouldn’t be outside the house except for medical reasons. 

After birth, a baby can contract COVID-19 from other people.

Thus, it’s important to put measures in place to prevent the spread of the infection.

If you have or think you have contracted COVID-19, you should self-isolate at home. We’re talking about using physical distancing in your home, except for your baby.

You can practice skin-to-skin and stay in the same room if you wish. Do this during the initiation of breastfeeding and bonding formation.

If you have even the mildest symptoms, take precautions to avoid passing on the virus to your baby:

Wash your hands often. Do this before and after touching your baby or other children;

Furthermore, practice proper respiratory etiquette!

Wear a non-medical mask or face cover when near your baby (within two meters). These should be the ones made to completely cover the nose and mouth and are snug to the face. Hold them in place with ties behind the ears or cords behind the neck; and

Most importantly,

Make sure you have a clean environment. Disinfect using an approved hard surface disinfectant.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends breastfeeding when possible. It offers many health benefits. It also reduces the risk of infection and illness in your baby during infancy and early childhood. 

The virus that causes COVID-19 hasn’t been found in breastmilk.

Breastfeeding can ensure food security for your baby.”

According to the World Health Organization, below are precautions you need to follow if you have contracted COVID-19 or think you have it. This is especially for when you’re feeding your baby.

Parents should also consider the following:

If you’re using a nursing pillow, place a clean towel on the pillow every time you feed your baby;

If you use a breast pump, sterilize the equipment before and after each use. Clean the pump and bottles after each use with liquid soap (e.g., dish detergent and lukewarm water). Rinse with hot water for 10 to 15 seconds; and

A rule of thumb: Avoid sharing bottles or breast pumps.

If you’re too sick to breastfeed or care for the baby, you should have a healthy adult to feed and take care of the baby. 

Since COVID-19 is present in the home, this person should wear a non-medical mask or face covering. Likewise, it’s important to wash hands when caring for the baby.

Visitors After Birth

After your baby is born, your friends and family might want to visit you and see your baby. 

Refuse visitors except for medical purposes.

It can be very difficult, but it’s important to protect your family. You can celebrate the birth of your baby with virtual dating and using online tools. 

Sooner or later, your family and friends will be able to visit, hold, and kiss your baby in person. 

Try to remember that this situation is only temporary. Physical distancing is currently the best way to protect your family from COVID-19.

Conclusion

Environmental constraints and opportunities actualize child development.

A favorable, stimulating, and reassuring environment promotes child development. Having such allows the child to reach his full potential. 

On the contrary…

… development is at risk when exposed to a hostile or unstable environment. Socio-emotional disorders in children can also be increased. 

In early childhood, experiences come from the family.

The influence of more distal environments shouldn’t be overlooked. This is especially because of their direct or indirect contribution to child development. 

It’s important to support individuals and the different living environments they operate in.

Expert observations on the current situation tell us something important. It is the fact that the exceptional measures enforced contribute to the risk.

They should also adopt the interventions intended for young children and their families.

This is so they can respond to this unusual situation. At the same time, conditions favorable to their optimal impact need to be respected.

Disclaimer:

This article does not include a comprehensive literature review of the developmental impacts of COVID-19 in children aged 0 to 5 years, nor a review of evaluations of intervention programs.

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