Supporting Our Youngest
Author: Martha Nesslinger
From the moment a child is brought into the world, social interactions influence their development. Learning social cues, communication, verbal and nonverbal skills, play, sharing, and attachment all are formed in different ways by socializing with others. We, as humans, thrive with some level of social interaction. In times of stress, we often lean on those in our social circle, whether it be family, friends, educators, doctors or other community support.
This kind of support was limited during the Covid-19 pandemic, with social distancing being encouraged for health and safety. We have witnessed an increase in mental health issues surrounding adults as well as adolescents, but what about the children? How has Covid-19 affected our young children in regard to their social and emotional development?
While children have been protected from many of the Covid-19 stressors, the stressful experiences of the adults in a child’s life still have an effect. These stressors can be influenced or protected due to many different variables. Poverty, accessibility and changing roles in the workforce all play a role in how a child experienced the societal changes of Covid-19. Childcare centers across the nation had to adapt to changes caused by the pandemic. These changes have taken a toll not only on parents and children, but also on early childhood educators.
Pandemic Babies/Toddlers is a term that is being used by parents on social media. This term refers to children who do not have the same social skills, emotional development, or peer interactions as older kids have shown. This is not something that just parents are talking about, but a much bigger issue that is being researched 1.
Key social learning happens during ages 0-5. If a child has not been given access to early childhood education or social interactions, it creates a delay in how they process and learn 2. Pediatricians are reporting developmental delays as well, showing that this is not just something we are seeing in the education setting 3. Some of these delays will just be temporary setbacks for children, but many may have longer-term effects.
As early childhood educators, there may be an increase in recognizing developmental delays, social delays, and even some delays in foundational motor and fine motor skills. What may be noticed even more is behavioral responses showing that a child is struggling to adapt or signs of anxiety and fear. This is where we want to step in and help. If you are concerned about a child in your care/classroom, we would love to sit down and help you plan on how to best support that child and their family to minimize negative outcomes later in life. Children are resilient, and we would love to help you find the best solution to supporting the children you teach as we all adapt to the world we now live in.
1. Child development during the COVID‐19 pandemic through a life course theory lens. AD Benner, RS Mistry - Child Development Perspectives, 2020
2. Snapshot of the COVID crisis impact on working families. E Ananat & A Gassman-Pines. 2020, March 30. Medford, MA: Econofact, The Fletcher School, Tufts University.
3. Pandemic Burnout: The Toll of COVID-19 on Health Care Workers and Children. A Flores. PHR communications. May 21, 2021