What is the effect of the pandemic on kids? How is the pandemic and lockdown affecting my baby or toddler?

The pandemic has created a new normal for everyone but for babies and toddlers it’s all they’ve known. What is the effect of the pandemic on kids? We asked Emily Tredget, Co-founder of Happity, to share her thoughts on what parents can do. So we can help young children be prepared for social interaction at the end of lockdown…

A recent viral video shows a toddler walking down the street, stopping at every lamp post and object and pretending to apply hand sanitiser. 

The girl looks delighted, ‘cleaning her hands’, demonstrating how little ones mimic their parents and role models into their play. However, the video taps into one of the biggest worries new parents face right now. Just how much growing up in a pandemic is affecting children’s mental health and development. What is the effect of the pandemic on kids?

Our childrens’ new normal

Babies born in lockdown alongside toddlers and young children who have grown up during the pandemic have experienced a new normal. One where they keep their distance from everyone they meet. Writing for The BBC News, Nick Triggle counts the devastating toll of the pandemic on children, saying:

‘the absence of baby and parent groups, and the friendships that naturally develop from them, has meant the babies of the pandemic have not benefited from the stimulus of social contact that is vital to their development.’

Consequently, Alison Morton, head of the Institute of Health Visiting, says this has been an “invisible” cost of the pandemic.’

Love and resilience will get them through

As parents it’s natural to worry how this much impact this will have on our children. Parents can be reassured by the fact that babies and young children are pretty resilient.

Dr Zara Rahemtulla, a Clinical Psychologist for Gentle Journeys says:

“As a professional working with babies and toddlers, the main issue we are seeing at the moment is that children are showing more tricky behaviours. Children are trying to manage so much change at the moment too.”

She goes on to say that “ these changes are very normal and expected in the current situation. They are all examples of how the current changes are having an impact on them.”

Fear of strangers – and how you can help

Lisa Thomson from Team Happity is a mum to Jack, aged 2 and had noticed that her son was becoming wary of strangers. Lisa was worried and decided she needed to put some things in pace to reassure her son. Here are her top tips (to help your children’s mental health and development):

Top tips to help your child in lockdown

  • When you walk down the street smile and say ‘Hello’ to everyone you meet. More often than not this elicits a hello, wave or smile back. Say to your child how friendly the person seemed and how lovely it was that they responded to your greeting. As a result they will quickly learn to greet and meet people you see and welcome them as part of their day to day lives.
  • Welcome everyone who knocks on your door with a big smile. Talk to your child about who they are and why they have come to your door – whether they are delivering the post, supermarket deliveries etc. Let your toddler say hello from a safe distance.
  • Show your child photos of their extended family who they might not be able to meet or see right now. Involve them in Zoom calls. Talk about them often and encourage your child to post photos or messages to their grandparents or aunts and uncles and see their faces light up as they get post back!
  • Talk to your child about people they see on TV and relate it back to the different people that we see in our day to day lives. Always emphasising how friendly they are. 
  • Join in online classes. They’re really engaging and interactive. Your child will love dancing or singing along; experiencing baby massage or learning new signs. They’re the next best thing to face to face baby & toddler classes. In small Zoom classes the provider makes sure your child is welcomed and talked to by their name and feels part of the group. You’ll love watching how your child joins in. Find online interactive classes on Happity and book your place at the click of a button.

The effect of the pandemic on kids in manageable

We care about our children’s mental health. The effects of the pandemic on kids aren’t entirely known, but be reassured that your child will thrive on the interaction you give them as parents. When lockdown restrictions lift they can head out into the wider world and gain confidence to meet and play with other children. Right now, Dr Zara suggests that you be kind to yourself, as well as some great top tips for 0-5s on this Happity blog. Hold onto the fact that things are going to get better. As long as children’s needs are met and they get loads of love they will come out of this unscathed. 

If you’re interested on more about your children’s mental health, check out our guide on improving your child’s mental health. Or if you want to make sure the internet is safe for them, check out our tips here.

You’ve got this! 

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