July 31, 2020

Quarantine is Hard On Us… And Our Kids

How do you handle a global pandemic? And even more challenging, how do you handle a global pandemic as a parent with young children?

The answers to these questions have proved to be polarizing. They are all over the board – everywhere from “my family hasn’t left our home in four months” to “we’ve barely changed our lifestyle.” Regardless of where your personal views fall along this spectrum, we can all agree that the mass-closures and suspensions of many of our family staples, like schools, libraries, parks, extra-curriculars, summer camps, stores and restaurants have been challenging. And not being able to see friends and family (whether it was your choice, theirs or a mutual decision) is pretty catastrophic.

As many school systems release plans for completely (or at least partially) virtual school years, it becomes more and more real that our previous way of life with our families is still a long way off.

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The Psychological Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Children

If you’re wondering what the long-term effects of this anti-socialization and isolation on young children will be, you’re not alone. It can be hard to gage what your kids are thinking and feeling – especially if they are not quite conversational yet.

According to Dr. Pat Scully, associate professor of education and the coordinator of the Early Childhood Education Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and member of Kiddie Academy’s Curriculum Advisory Board, “young children thrive on routines and a well-paced day includes periods of time for listening to stories, creating art, using manipulatives designed to help children understand the foundations of mathematics, enjoying and creating music, and learning about the natural world through discovery. Few homes offer the sheer variety and quality of materials available to children in the early learning center.”

In addition to the importance of having a set routine for kids, experts are also concerned about the lack of socialization. Just last month, clinical associate professor of child and adolescent psychiatry Dr. Rebecca Rialon Berry told the Wall Street Journal, “there’s a key connection between having good peer interactions and social emotional well-being. In certain populations, we’re seeing that our depression and anxiety are heightening with continued quarantining. We have to start talking about the calculated risk and taking some more.”

Dr. Scully agrees. “It is most important for young children to develop friendships as this is a lifelong skill that is based on learning empathy, give and take, and suppressing one’s own needs for the good of another. Expressing feelings in words, taking turns, waiting, following group rules are just some of the many social and emotional skills that children need to learn in group settings. Going to elementary school without this foundation of socialization can set children back in their ability to adjust and thrive in more formal settings later.”

What Kids Need Most During the Pandemic

Those social connections take time and practice to make. Young children need lots of opportunities to learn how to act amongst their peers – what behaviors are welcomed vs. those that are inappropriate. It’s not something that translates well over Zoom in a virtual learning situation. “At home, children may have siblings but they don’t have the same opportunities to learn how to make friends and get along with all kinds of children,” says Dr. Scully.

The solution to keeping children on track for long-term development remains a touchy and complicated subject. Above all else, parents should feel empowered to make choices based on their families’ situation.

How Can Parents Help Their Kids Maintain Mental Wellness?

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For parents who need safe and reliable child care during the pandemic, Kiddie Academy locations around the country are at the ready. We’ve stepped up health and safety protocols, per our Health EssentialsSM recommended guidelines. Parents can also take solace in knowing that besides being primarily focused on providing a safe environment, their children will also be engaged in Kiddie Academy’s Life Essentials® curriculum and get plenty of healthy lessons in socialization.

“There is extensive evidence that quality preschool programs like Kiddie Academy have a lasting, positive effect on children’s academic growth and subsequent life-skill development,” says Dr. Scully. “And while parents may be able to meet some aspects of their children’s needs quite well, it is the rare parent indeed who would be able to replicate what an early learning school is able to accomplish on a daily basis.”

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