Want to learn how to minimize the effects of SARS-CoV-2 pandemic on your children? Stay tuned and I’ll give you my perspective.
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Mark Twain, the great American humorist, was a keen observer of humans and society. He noticed things over a hundred years ago that are relevant today. He observed, and I quote, “The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog.” ~ Mark Twain Well, I am beginning to agree with him. Just watching as things unfold during the Pandemic of 2020, convinces me that Twain was right. Humans aren’t guided by facts and rational arguments, but instead, seem to follow their preconceived notions of reality, regardless of what the facts on the ground present. The stress of the pandemic has further galvanized people to take up arms for their cause. Some people fear that global interests are usurping their freedoms. Other individuals feel that the tech world is taking away all their privacy, warning of dire consequences of using private information while tracing cases of Covid-19. And let’s not forget those who resent being forced to use vaccines to improve public health. They have used the pandemic to step up their attack on vaccines by spreading disinformation about vaccine safety. As if we weren’t a little crazy before Covid-19… the pandemic seems to have heightened our fears. As you see, Mark Twain knew what he was talking about! Humans are very susceptible to irrational thinking and actions, something that canines lack. Maybe that is why pet ownership has skyrocketed and the animal shelters have been emptied in recent days by people seeking the steadiness of a dog’s love and companionship. America, of recent, has literally gone to the dogs.
Pandemic Challenges that Have Solutions
Which brings me to the topic of this pedcast…a few of the challenges that the pandemic has presented for children and their families. I have talked previously of some of the advantages and positive lessons that children can learn from our current global crisis so in today’s pedcast we are going to take a look at a few of the negative effects it is having on children-specifically negative effects over which parents can exert some degree of control. As I alluded to in the introduction, vaccine administration among children in America have plummeted since Covid-19 crisis began. According the the CDC, 2.5 million fewer doses of childhood vaccines were administered in April 2020 than have been historically given. I can understand families fearing travel to health care facilities because they fear exposure to illness, but we can’t let that deprive children of the healthy life that vaccines can provide. Fear screams at us stay home! I understand that, but common sense says, American parents, put on those masks and get out that hand gel, socially distance, and get your children to their pediatricians for their shots. Ignore the chatter on social media and just do it. It’s important and may be life saving for your children. Believe me, you do not want your children living in a world without vaccines. That is a very ugly place. Just ask grandma.
And what about the lack of preventative care that children have missed out on during the lock down. Think that is not important? Think again. Your children may have missed a lot of valuable measuring, weighing, screening, examining, and discussing, all of which can greatly benefit their chances of living a long healthy life. Remember, pediatrics is all about prevention but catching things to prevent requires a periodic looking. If the pandemic forced you to get behind on your children’s checkups, make a mental note to catch up on preventative healthcare your children missed in the past few months.
Now onto the impact of having children home, away from their teachers and classroom for all these months. The totality of this is hard to predict. My guess is that your children’s fact and skill learning has decreased compared to their full-time school day. But, in my mind, this can more than be offset if parents use your children’s increased downtime time to read to them, to take them out and stimulate their curiosity, to build things with them, to play games them, to story tell, and…just explore together. A desire to learn and explore is more important than committing a few more facts and figures to memory in my humble opinion. If all that free time your kids have had during the lock down translates into a hunger for them to think, read, learn, and explore… it will have been time well spent. On the other hand, if all it means is more time with video games and electronic media, then opportunity missed.
And finally, we can’t ignore the emotional damage that the pandemic potentially can inflict on your children. Their routines have been severely disrupted. Their families often have undergone job loss, income loss, and major stress. Many children may have witnessed domestic violence, had some level of abuse, and all have had their social networks dismantled by not being in school. In fact, the negative impact of the current pandemic on the mental health of children has already been documented. Researchers looking at a large group of children living in China during their pandemic, established an increase in the number of children exhibiting anxiety, depression, lethargy, impaired social interaction, and reduced appetite. So, what are you to do to ensure your children don’t experience serious anxiety and depression from the current pandemic? Do what is known to work…listen, talk, hug, and reassure. Children are no different than anyone else. None of us likes uncertainty that the pandemic has thrust upon us and this is especially true for children. Being a child means being dependent and vulnerable. Even if your children can’t express this, your children are certainly feeling these emotions at some level. And this is true for children of all ages-young and older. Reduce these negative feeling with hugs, by talking about what your children are feeling, by being understanding, and probably most of all, by listening, listening listening. You’ve probably heard people say, “Listening is twice as important as talking, that is why we have two ears and only one mouth.” Tons of wisdom in that statement. I’ll even snag that one as Doc Smo pearl. To learn more about how to listen to your children, I recommend you check out the book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids will Talk.
You as a parent, are tasked with being a strong advocate for your children. Let’s not let this pandemic allow you to lose sight of some of your most important responsibilities-getting your children vaccinated, getting them regular routine preventative healthcare, stimulating their curiosity and hunger for knowledge, and attending to their emotional needs, especially in this time of crisis. I know you are up to the task.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this pedcast. This is post number 502 representing 10 years of podcasting. If you find the information you get here valuable, consider taking a minute to like and share episodes you have enjoyed. Reviews on Apple Podcasts are particularly valuable and greatly increase our visibility. Postings there would be greatly appreciated. This is your host, pediatrician Dr. Paul Smolen, arguing the case, of what is important for you to do while, you and your children , shelter in place. Until next time.