While a lot is being said about the degree of economic disruption caused by COVID-19, there is very little being thought about our most valuable assets, “Our Children”. So, with this article, let us understand how the pandemic is affecting their development.
With the Preschools, Anganwadis, and child care centers closed due to the pandemic and only Online Learning platforms available, many toddlers are missing out on opportunities for holistic development. Children are not getting the cognitive and social stimulation that they would normally get outside their home in a kindergarten set-up.
Experts have noted delays in speech and language amongst toddlers. With childcare programs closed and social distancing measures in place, many children are facing trouble sharing and being in groups. Paediatricians are noting developmental delays as well as potential long-term health consequences. Issues like ADHD, OCD, Anxiety are at an all-time high. During the lockdown average Screen time has gone up manifold, children are glued to screens which is again causing grave concern for the next generation.
Children have lost access to critical resources that are likely to help support not only their cognitive development but also their mastery of basic foundational academic skills, as well as key social-emotional learning that we know happens in early childcare programs and spaces. And that’s not to say that parents can’t and don’t do a lot of that support at home, but with the work from home culture, there is a lot of work-life balance required.
For young children, a delay in social skills may not be the only consequence of the pandemic. With many parents undergoing financial stress, children face higher rates of housing and emotional insecurity. And others are subject to rising rates of neglect and household dysfunction – all of which can affect a child’s trajectory into adulthood.
So far, data suggest very few COVID-19 cases have been reported amongst children globally, with relatively few deaths compared to other age groups and usually mild disease and shorter recovery period. However, the restrictions caused during the pandemic are going to have long-lasting impacts on the mental health of society’s youngest members. It’s high time that we start reconsidering the idea of re-opening Kindergartens and Daycare Centres. Let us honestly answer this question “Are we not taking our children to markets, malls, weddings, parties, parks etc; then why deprive them of a beautiful experience called Schooling?”
With a responsible approach from both parents and school end, we can lift these self-imposed restrictions which are ripping off happiness & hope from the lives of our kids.
Vijeta Bhateja Dixit is an Entrepreneur, Philanthropist and Early Childhood Educator. She was also the 2nd Runner up of Mrs Chandigarh- A Woman of Substance 2019.