Four Seasons Pediatrics

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Social Issues for Children during COVID-19

I started this newsletter to address the loss of socialization that children have been facing.  Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, children have been left in a social void that places the vulnerable at risk.  We are fortunate that children are largely optimistic, very adaptable and can rise to the occasion more than we can possible imagine.  At the same time, there is a substantial number of children with existing psychological conditions, as well as children whose psychological well being has been challenged by the many changes of the past few months.   So many people have lost their jobs or have had their jobs on hold.  Many households have both parents working from home and holding a home classroom.  As I was pondering this newsletter on social issues, now we are adding to that burden as we see the vivid videos of police violence and racism triggering protests.  Mixed into the legitimate and needed voices of frustration are those who have used the tragedy to agitate with violence and destruction.  As pediatricians, we advocate for the peaceful protest of violence against citizens.  We also advocate against violence as part of a strategy for needed changes.  This is a lot for adults to process, let alone children.  How do we insulate children from so many stressors?

First we should take inventory in our own values, words and actions.  Children take their cues from within their home.  Our verbal and non-verbal actions instruct our children.  How we teach and approach cultural diversity, bigotry, pandemics, illnesses and stress, instructs children.   When we proceed with confidence and love, children add a hard protective shell to their incredible adaptability and resilience, and it gives them the permission and ability to be humble, kind, loving and accepting. 

What else do children need to know during a time with so much uncertainty and change?  Children of all ages want to know if they are safe, that you (parents) are safe and finally how things will affect them.   It is important we continue to let our children know that they and you are safe.  They need information that is enough to answer their questions, without being overwhelming.

With all that said as a premise, how can we preserve some of the socialization that children crave and want?   Let’s look at some ideas to consider:  

Maintain a routine that can adapt to the phases of re-opening.  Children (and adults) crave routine.  Creating a routine in your home helps reduce anxiety.   Continue to have a predictable schedule.  Consider printing out a schedule.   Have your children participate in making the schedule.  If there is a day that you are going to support a local restaurant, have your children help pick which restaurant needs some support.  

Screen time should be moderated for games and videos, but can be liberalized for video chatting with friends, grandparents and others who want to connect (e.g. teachers).  If you have the ability, project the call to your television to make it more life like.   

Get outside as a family.  Work on a home project.  Walk with others in the neighborhood.  You can still do it with social distancing.   

Dance together – try a free app like GoNoodle, which has dance routines you can share.  

While these are challenging times, they represent an opportunity to get closer to our family.  It is an opportunity to do more together than perhaps any other time in our lives.   Again, please remember, parental responses to stress insulate children prone to anxiety as well as children who are well adjusted.  

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