From the start of the pandemic, we’ve recognized the most vulnerable have been hit the hardest – the elderly, the socially isolated and those struggling with homelessness and poverty.
Though mRNA vaccines are likely to be approved for children from five to 12, preschool children are not likely to be vaccinated in the near future.
Though they have been less affected by the disease itself, young children, particularly those not yet in school, have silently suffered from the loss of socialization and early childhood education programs.
The effects of the pandemic on early childhood development have received little attention in the news but those effects can be devastating and long lasting.
Healthy early childhood development requires much more than a healthy diet, plenty of sleep and physical exercise. From birth to age five, young children learn to regulate their emotions, interact appropriately with others in and out of the home and set the foundations for learning, including language skills.
Parents play the most important role in fostering healthy development with daily activities together include reading, singing children’s songs, playing games and learning numbers and letters.
But parents have been stressed as well. Although the pandemic has brought many families closer together with more shared meals and free time together, stress and anxiety levels have been at an all-time high, with many parents struggling to make ends meet while providing childcare alone.
Parents with their first child may not be familiar with normal social and emotional development in the preschool years. They may bring their infants in to see their family physician for regular checkups or shots in the first two years of life but not realize the importance of annual growth and developmental checks during the toddler years.
This has been a special challenge during the first year of the pandemic when in person visits were limited.
Throughout the pandemic, many young children have missed out on the normally available community programs that support social and emotional development and early learning. This fall, many started kindergarten with a developmental disadvantage.
The Burnaby Early Childhood Development Table brings together members of the community who support families with children in the early years from birth to age 6. This committee provides important information and sets priorities for programs and services.
Check their website: https://kidsinburnaby.ca/who-we-are-2/
Nov. 20 is National Child Day. Let’s work together to ensure the wellbeing of all members of our community during the pandemic – including our vulnerable young children.
On Nov. 25, I’ll be speaking on Emotional Wellness, providing practical tips on managing stress and difficult emotions, including key emotional health skills that we all need to practice during the pandemic and throughout our lives, beginning in childhood.
To learn more and sign up for this free Zoom workshop, check out the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s website: https://divisionsbc.ca/burnaby/for-patients/empowering-patients
Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician. His Healthwise Column appears regularly in this paper. For more on achieving your positive potential in health, read his blog at davidicuswong.wordpress.com.