The novel coronavirus has swept rapidly across the world. For many people across the nation, this highly contagious virus seemed more like a nuisance beyond the way it emerged.  It was soon apparent that the coronavirus or COVID-19, was a common peril to health, economic stability, and education for individuals across the planet. As the virus hopscotched across the globe, it is causing widespread concern, stress, and uncertainty, all of which are normal reactions to the changing situation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently reports that the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is low for young children (2020). However, research on the effects of prior pandemics and disasters, makes it clear that children are more susceptible to the emotional impact of traumatic events that disrupt their daily lives (Shonkoff, 2019). The issue facing parents and families is how to manage and react to the stressful situation to reassure young children that they are okay and that things will get better.

Routines

Amidst the coronavirus outbreak, everyday life and routines have changed and will continue to change. Young children may struggle with making sudden adjustments to their daily routines. Young children may feel at a loss with their sense of structure, predictability, and having a sense of security. Infants, toddlers, and preschool-age children are keen observers of people and environments. Children will react to stress from observing how their parents, caregivers, peers, and community members respond to stress. Children with prior trauma or have special needs are at exceptionally high risk for developing significant social-emotional disturbances (Samuelsson, Wagner and Odegaard, 2020).  In addition to the physical safety of children during the pandemic, it is also vital to support and protect children’s social-emotional well-being. The American Academy of Pediatrics 2020, stresses the importance of maintaining bedtime and other routines during these uncertain times. All children benefit from having a predictable environment in place. However, with the disruption of regular routines, it is crucial to establish new daily schedules.

Communication

Due to how keen children are, the stress and trauma developed during the pandemic, are leaving children feeling insecure in their environments (Guest, 2020). Families should encourage their children to share how they are feeling openly. In other words, create an environment where young children feel safe to communicate what they’re feeling. It is also essential to acknowledge and validate children’s concerns they may be feeling about this pandemic (Guest, 2020). Research shows that sensitive and effective communication has considerable benefits for children’s social-emotional well-being (Yoshikawa, Wuermli, and Stein, 2020). Some children may need extra reassurance, hugs, and attention to support their social-emotional well-being.

Physical Activity

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that children’s physical activity that burns off adrenaline also releases endorphins for mood enhancement and helps children sleep better at night (Guest, 2020). Due to COVID-19, children’s sports and activities have been placed on the sidelines to stay within the social-distancing guidelines. Families will need to step in to provide this release for children. Bring a soccer ball to the park and kick the ball back and forth, go for a walk, music and dance in the living room or schedule a family outing to help children release any added stress and to help boost overall mood.

Family Matters

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to affect young children’s social-emotional well-being profoundly. It is with the hope that families strive to take coordinated action and shared responsibility to address the social-emotional impact of the pandemic has left on young children.  It is expected that children will exhibit emotional and behavioral changes during this pandemic as they try to navigate to a new sense of normal. However, if children show ongoing patterns of emotional or behavioral concerns such as nightmares, excessive anxiety, increased aggression, regressive behaviors, or self-harm, please seek professional help. Families can help children feel safe and secure through open communication, consistent routines, attention, and finding creative solutions for challenging problems to help children overcome adversity during these trying times. Families are essential to children’s social-emotional well-being!

Inclusion Services

Inclusion supports families through consultation regarding health, development, disabilities, and special needs concerns. Inclusion services connect parents and early learning providers to additional resources for children’s development. Additionally, if you have concerns about your child’s social-emotional state, the Early Learning Coalition of Orange County Inclusion Specialists can conduct observations, assessments, and family meetings virtually using video and technology despite the efforts of COVID-19. For more information, please email inclusionservices@elcoc.org.

 

References:

Keep Children Healthy during the COVID-19 Outbreak. (n.d.). Retrieved July 28, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/children.html 

Yoshikawa H;Wuermli AJ;Britto PR;Dreyer B;Leckman JF;Lye SJ;Ponguta LA;Richter LM;Stein A;. (n.d.). Effects of the Global Coronavirus Disease-2019 Pandemic on Early Childhood Development: Short- and Long-Term Risks and Mitigating Program and Policy Actions. Retrieved July 28, 2020, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32439312/

Samuelsson, I. P., Wagner, J. T., & Ødegaard, E. E. (2020). The Coronavirus Pandemic and Lessons Learned in Preschools in Norway, Sweden and the United States: OMEP Policy Forum. International Journal of Early Childhood. doi:10.1007/s13158-020-00267-3

Shonkoff, Jack P.  – Center Director. (2019, November 18). Retrieved July 28, 2020, from https://developingchild.harvard.edu/people/jack-shonkoff/

Guest. (n.d.). A Parent’s Guide to Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Your Child Roots and Wings (American Academy of Pediatrics) – PDF Free Download. Retrieved July 28, 2020, from https://epdf.pub/a-parents-guide-to-building-resilience-in-children-and-teens-giving-your-child-r.html