Child Development Post Pandemic
By: Dr. Stacie Herrera
There is no denying that the last two years have taken a toll on child development. As a global community, we have changed how we interact with others to maintain our health and safety. Children have taken notice, and they may have developed fears of illness or making others sick along the way.
The world may be opening up again, but these developed fears are still very present for our young ones. If you had a death in the family due to COVID, your child’s behaviors around illness and wanting to keep others healthy might be concerning. Your children may be especially hesitant to visit, hug, or interact with elderly or immunocompromised relatives. They may want to wear their masks or refuse to go near their grandparents. There may even be changes in appetite, withdrawal, or noticeable changes in behavior such as regression in toileting or sleeping habits. When these behaviors start to appear, or any development delay, the question often becomes what to do and when to reach out for help.
What To Do: Child Development Post Pandemic
If you notice slight changes in your child’s behavior, or extreme resistance to interacting with loving relatives, it may be time to have a new conversation about health and safety. It will be especially important to model the level of care you wish your children to exhibit. Children watch caregivers closely for cues on how to behave. I don’t know about you, but I’m not always clear on how to maintain health and safety, given the confusing information and expectations happening every day. Take the time to communicate your expectations with your children. Let them know how the immune system works in a developmentally appropriate way. Be very clear about hugs and interactions with elderly and immunocompromised relatives. It may be necessary to teach your children to ask: “Are you accepting hugs?”
Actively teach your child about worry thoughts and strategies to manage big emotions. Model those strategies. Create a time of day to openly discuss worries. Be sure to validate their worries, “that does sound scary,” but not minimize their feelings. Provide reassurance and ask your child to identify how they feel when they are worried. If you find that your child’s fears are contributing to emotional meltdowns or uncharacteristic behaviors, please reach out to a therapist, psychologist, or social worker. Your child does not have to be in an active crisis to reach out to a professional. Your child may benefit from as little as a few sessions to learn strategies to manage big emotions.
Child Development Updates from the CDC
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated the checklists for development milestones for infant and young children’s development for the first time in over 20 years. You may be wondering what this means for your child. The guidelines are meant to eliminate confusion and alarm while ensuring children who need additional resources are identified earlier. Some of the changes to the guidelines include:
- Removing vague language like “may” or “begins” when referring to certain milestones
- Removing duplicate milestones
- Revising and expanding tips and activities to promote child development
- Identifying new social and emotional milestones
There is no perfect way to identify if your child is experiencing development problems
(pandemic related or not). My best advice is to trust your own gut instinct and knowledge about your child. You know best what brings them joy, what overstimulates them, and when they are overtaken by fear or grief. If you are looking for resources, don’t be afraid to reach out to the local experts in your area. The earlier our little ones get help for developmental delays, the better the outcome will be.
2143 South Tamiami Trail
Osprey, FL 34229 (813) 395-9049 HerreraPsychology.com