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Childhood stolen by the epidemic

| Growing up in a pandemic |

  Until spring 2020, Rebecca Hanford’s two-year-old daughter, Edie, happily went out to play or eat three days a week under the care of her grandparents.
  Then came the first coronavirus lockdowns, and her world was shut down overnight. The Edie family lives in a small village on the border of Cheshire and Derbyshire in the north of England. Fortunately, the family has a garden for Edie to play, but Hanford complains that when he works from home, “TV does most of the childcare. responsibility”.
  Edie is an only child, and her long-term relationship with her parents during home isolation has made her language skills improve by leaps and bounds. But Hanford worries that her daughter is missing out on social skills. “If there’s a group of kids running around, she’s definitely not going to join them. When we go to the park, if there’s another kid on the slide, she’ll go first.” Play elsewhere until the slides
  are free.” After kindergarten, Edie became more confident, but she still preferred to play with adults. Like many parents, Hanford and her husband don’t know if the phenomenon is temporary or if the pandemic has shaped Edie’s character in some way.

Emily Knight and two sons

  Emily Knight and her husband had a similar problem. During the first lockdown, they worked remotely from their home in Grantham, Lincolnshire, while caring for a baby and a two-year-old. When lockdowns were lifted last summer, Knight found her children were overwhelmed in a noisy supermarket due to long periods of non-contact. “My youngest started screaming when they heard they were going to the pool,” she said. “They didn’t experience the things we normally let kids get used to. Now my four-year-old hears the store clerk say hello to him. I was scared back.”
  Many parents were initially concerned that preventive measures — such as frequent handwashing — could be psychologically taxing on their children, but Knight said her children were not at all concerned about that. “They always say, ‘Mom, don’t forget to wear a mask.’ This thing is normal for them. No matter where we go, they always reach out and take the initiative to take the disinfection gel.” Growing children, normal life in the eyes of adults is confusing.
  Many children under the age of five have only faint memories of life before masks and sanitizers. During the lockdown, pregnant women had to enter the maternity ward alone, while their partners waited helplessly in hospital car parks. Today, these children are almost two years old. In the past three years, the epidemic has always come back. It may be only now that researchers are beginning to understand the impact on these children of the chaos they experienced at the beginning of their lives.
  The public opinion survey network found that British parents are more worried about the impact of the epidemic on their children’s development than when their children are infected with the virus. 25% of the parents surveyed believe that the epidemic will hinder their children’s language development, and 50% of the parents surveyed are worried about their children’s development of emotional and social skills, such as learning to share, taking turns, and making friends. Parents are also concerned about whether growing up in an anxiety-ridden environment can affect their children’s mental health and whether they will fall behind other classmates when they go to school.
  However, the more important question is, can the “new crown babies” gradually forget this special experience as they grow up? Or is their generation somehow permanently labelled an “epidemic”?
| Anxiety and Resilience |

  A group of preschoolers wrapped in coats and pompom hats excitedly digging together on a bitter winter’s day. Near them, toddlers on children’s tricycles went on a rampage. The “Old Station” kindergarten in Faringdon, Oxfordshire, has encouraged children to play outside since the outbreak began. But the changes don’t stop there.
  The kindergarten, which closed briefly after the outbreak, threw away all cushions, rugs and fabrics when classes resumed in June 2020, for fear they might harbor the virus.
  For kindergarten workers, reopening until a vaccine for Covid-19 is available is a scary thing. “Everyone is saying ‘distancing,’ but how do you distance yourself from a little kid?” said Stephanie Dolin, a kindergarten administrator. She believes it is important to make up for what children have lost during the lockdown. “We felt we needed to fill the gaps in their lives that the pandemic had left, so we had a colourful themed week that summer,” she said. “We got all the kids involved, dressed them up, had a BBQ together, Take them to experience things they don’t have the chance to experience at home. If kindergarten is the only place they can come, then we’d better arrange more fun activities for them.”
  However, Dolin found that the children came back to the kindergarten after they were at home. Notable change, “It’s been especially hard to leave their parents. Some kids are quieter and less talkative than they used to be. Three- and four-year-olds are more anxious than they used to be, and you can tell they’re worried.” Also, most of the children were at home Screen time increased significantly during this period. “We’re hearing kids start to speak with an American accent because they watch too many YouTube videos,”
  Dolin said. Dolin believes that a year and a half after classes resume, most of the children in the kindergarten have been able to catch up with their teachers. , a small number of children fall behind only because of shyness. “They have no problems participating in activities, they just have a little lack of confidence. Children are more resilient than we thought.” But she also knows that children are not completely out of the woods.
  When I visited Dolling’s kindergarten in December 2021, the new coronavirus variant Omicron had just hit the headlines in the UK, but Dolling was bracing for the difficulties to come. During the epidemic, kindergartens are also front-line institutions that need to take care of their children so that their parents can work with peace of mind, and also need to provide early education for children who are too young to learn remotely.
  ”When kindergartens are not slack, they have been under enormous pressure since the outbreak of the epidemic.” What puzzles Doolin is that although people think that the early childhood is of great significance to the future of life – from birth to five years old is a person’s life. The most productive stages of learning — but there has been little public discussion about how the pandemic will shape the generation born during it.

Rebecca Hanford with daughter Edie
| Home time has pros and cons |

  The Babylab project team at Oxford Brookes University must have been the first to know about the lasting impact of the new crown epidemic on child development. Typically, the project team, made up of researchers from five UK universities, recruits families of pre-school children to study child development, such as the benefits of naps and bilingual upbringing.
  After the outbreak, Babylab researchers wanted to explore how the experience might affect child development. Eighteen months ago, they started tracking the impact of social distancing on 600 children under three at the time, using games to assess their children’s skills.
  Preliminary research by Babylab confirms that the first lockdowns may have had an impact on children learning to speak. During the lockdown, some parents whose children still went to kindergarten at least two days a week picked up an average of 48 more new words than children who stayed home. Children who attended kindergarten five days a week showed nearly twice as many improvements in executive functions, such as concentrating or controlling their emotions, than their peers.
  Babylab is currently studying the performance of these children after kindergartens reopen, and the results could be released next spring. Alexandra Hendry, one of Babylab’s members, is more optimistic. “Everyone wants to know if we can see resilience and resilience in our children,” she said. “The first three years of life are very important, but hearing this, parents may think ‘If you don’t start developing early It’s not right to say it’s too late for a child, it’s not like a door closes at the right moment. It’s never too late for a child to receive early childhood education and experience a fulfilling life.”
  The British Education Standards Authority, which is responsible for education and children’s services, said in The annual report to be released in 2021 also confirms this conclusion. While nearly half of UK kindergartens believe children’s skills such as sharing toys or playing by the rules have regressed after the spring lockdown, they showed significant improvement in the autumn term, the report said. Some children even learned new skills during the lockdown or felt happier because of the increased time they spent with their parents.
  Humans’ desire to socialize is “one of the strongest and most resilient instincts,” Hendry said. Parents working from home during the lockdown don’t have to feel guilty for watching a lot of cartoons for their children.

Anna Waterman with daughter Meghan
| Parents also need care |

  Some parents worry that the epidemic has caused their children to miss educational activities, such as music lessons for young children. Hendry said young children should get the social interaction they need from the family, and it’s the tired parents who really need these lessons. “In a way, we should be paying more attention to parents, because if parents are unhappy, it can have a negative impact on the children,” she said.
  Hendry’s team found that family reunification can help if parents are in good shape. produce positive effects. However, the pandemic lockdown has widened the gap between families, with some families doing well and others struggling. The state of children during the epidemic actually reflects the state of their parents.
  For many new parents, raising a child during the pandemic remains an extremely lonely experience. A survey released last autumn found that many new parents struggled to see GPs and health inspectors during the pandemic. One-third of parents said that many clinics were completely closed during the epidemic; more than one-quarter said that they could only contact local health inspectors through the Internet and phone. Sally Hogg, one of the authors of the survey report, pointed out that the pediatricians surveyed were not only worried about missing major diseases, but also some of the details of parenting, such as spitting up milk and not sleeping. With no access to feedback during the lockdown, these parents were so anxious that they ended up sending their children to the emergency room.
  A parental advice line run by charity Action for Children has tripled the number of calls received during the pandemic. A survey conducted by the agency in the UK last autumn showed that half of parents felt anxious and one-third felt lonely or depressed, with parents of preschool children being the worst affected. “Many parents lack support and feel lonely,” said Joe Thurston, coordinator of the Parent Advice Line. “Parenting is a real chore in an environment of uncertainty.”
  The most common questions for children during the lockdown These include separation anxiety, disobedience, and developmental delays (such as speaking late). After the unblocking, the demand for referrals such as speech therapy surged, and the families of the children had to wait again and again. Whenever the NHS frantically deploys resources to deal with a new wave of outbreaks, families with children and disabled children worry that their children’s current treatment will be affected.
| It is difficult for children with special needs to seek medical treatment |

  Three-year-old Sam was born with Pallister-Killian syndrome. He has limited vision, requires assistive hearing devices, and has hypotonia – meaning he cannot walk or speak independently. Before Covid-19, he needed physical therapy three times a week to help him walk. After the outbreak, his physiotherapist was transferred to the Covid-19 ward, and a charity program that had previously helped Sam’s family was halted.

  The state of children during the epidemic actually reflects the state of their parents.

  Sam’s father Matt, a civil servant, said: “The biggest difficulty for families with children with special needs is that once the damage is done, it may not be compensated. Walking is closely related to longevity – if you can’t walk, the body’s organs are lost. Can’t develop healthy. I try to be objective, but we’ll never know how many opportunities we’re missing. Could his life have been longer? How many windows did he miss as he develops?
  ” It also brings new problems for the family – Sam’s two sisters may bring the virus home when they go out to see friends, but Sam’s immunity is very fragile. “We ultimately decided to take precautions but not to isolate the kids because then we really couldn’t survive,” Matt said.
  For families struggling to survive the lockdown, the prospect of another lockdown in the future is especially dire. Before the March 2020 lockdown, Anna Waterman’s daughter, Meghan, who had just turned five, was a “very happy, carefree little girl who never had social problems or anxiety”. Waterman lives in London and runs a tourism agency. The family survived the first lockdown without incident, but the second, in January 2021, is very different. Meghan was overwhelmed and panicked by the sheer volume of remote classes every day. “There was no way for such a young child to learn phonics through an online class. She started to hate screens. The remote class of 30 kids was so loud, she didn’t want to say a word or turn on the camera,” Waterman said.
  Spring 2021, Schools are open, but the epidemic has recurred, and children have repeatedly returned to their homes for isolation. This uncertainty makes Meghan distressed, “You can’t go to the library to read, because the library is closed, and you can’t play with other children, because they belong to another isolation circle.” One day, Meghan She came home from school and said, “Mom, thousands of children are dead, you know?” In July of that year, she started refusing to eat food that required chewing. “She felt like the food was going to get stuck in her throat and she choked to death,” Waterman said. “She ate less and less and ended up eating nothing. I didn’t know what to do.”
  Meghan was referred to Children’s Mental Health Services, but they were told in August 2021 that they would not see a doctor until January of the following year, Waterman said. Later, Megan didn’t even dare to drink water, and the Waterman family decided to seek help from a personal doctor. But Waterman also knew that for many families, that was not the way to go.
  Meghan returned to school in the fall of 2021 and is doing fine, though she has been brooding over the virus. “She asked me, is the new coronavirus gone?” Waterman said. “We tried to explain to her that it hasn’t gone away, and it’s still mutating. We have to learn to live with it.
  ” Man was only thinking about how to make his daughter eat at every meal. It was only after her daughter recovered that she realized what had happened, which gave her an idea: let other families who have encountered difficulties during the epidemic know that they are not alone.
  ”As a parent of children, you might feel like you’re the only one suffering,” Waterman said. “But whenever I talk to other parents who have been through a similar experience and tell them about our experiences, I see A look of relief flashed across their faces—it wasn’t their fault, but unforeseen circumstances. Looking back at the past, you think, ‘Oh my God, we got through this!’ “

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