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Covid-19: How to Slow the Impact on Your Child's Development (Hint: We Can Help!)

If there's one thing we can all agree on, it's the fact that Covid has impacted all of our lives in one way or another. We have enjoyed the silver linings like more time with our families but have also seen the negative effects it has had on every age group. Here at Little Big and LOUD, we know this virus has impacted our youngest generation in a great way but that the effects can sometimes go unseen unless we know what we are looking for. Here are some things that you can do for your child if you think his/her development has been impacted by Covid.

Challenge: Masking With mask mandates coming and going in both school systems and the general public, our children have been real champions in wearing masks when necessary. Regardless of your opinion on masking, when children are still expected to learn from their teachers and peers while mouths are covered it can present many challenges. In the early years, children learn so much simply from facial expressions and often they will begin to learn that reading lips while listening can help them understand directions better. They learn to read emotions on the faces of their peers and this helps them develop multiple social and emotional skills.

Parent Solution: Look for delays in functional play skills, social interactions, or overall fine motor skill delays. If you suspect delays due to masks/Covid, call us for an occupational therapy evaluation or discuss it with your child's pediatrician.

Challenge: Social Distancing/Quarantine It's become very obvious during this pandemic that we aren't destined to spend our lives alone. Our children aren't supposed to either! Social interaction, spending time with friends, and unstructured play time are all so important in developing healthy children. While social distancing and quarantines have become the norm and are necessary at times, parents really need to increase social time for their kids when they can.

Parent Solution: Find a safe group of friends to engage with and make play dates with them to increase social interaction skills and play skills. Try to make it a routine so they have something to look forward to! Still not safe to play with others? Take time to engage in 1:1 child directed play at home.

Challenge: Varying School Schedules In person? Virtual? Combination? Homeschooled? School has looked so different for our kids over the past 18 months. This change is not easy for anyone and can really present learning difficulties with our kids who already struggle in one or more areas. We've all learned to roll with the punches of varied school schedules but if your child receives additional services at school, time away from school can have severe impacts on learning.

Parent Solution: Try to increase play with those "school items" while your child is away from school. This would include things like play-doh, water beads, sand box, etc. and really anything that encourages tactile play and the use of hand manipulatives (crayons, scissors, etc.) These things may not be being used at school due to sanitation requirements so any extra use at home will be helpful.

Challenge: Fear/Anxiety about Covid Let's face it. We've all been scared at one point during the pandemic and we've all felt anxiety whether mild or extreme during this time. Our kids are no exception. They are excellent at picking up on our anxieties as well as dealing with new rules/routines at school which can cause the stress levels of many kids to rise. The worst things we can do for our kids is ignore warning signs of stress or anxiety. Have you noticed a change in their sleep habits? Do they seem more irritable or withdrawn than usual? Are they complaining about school when they used to love it? These along with many others are red flags that our children may be dealing with anxiety.

Parent Solution: Start a discussion about emotions with your child. You can make a color coded chart including a red zone (anxious, angry), a green zone (feeling just right), and a blue zone (tired, sad). Start each day asking the child what color they are feeling and check in with them throughout the day. For some kids, it's much easier for them to say "I Feel Red" instead of identifying the specific emotion of anger. You can also change the colors to a character that your child likes! For instance, red can be Lightning McQueen, green can be Kermit the Frog and blue can be Superman!

In closing, the best thing you can do for your child during this time is to be AWARE. Look for those red flags, those delays or those things you feel just aren't quite right and take action! Reach out to your child's pediatrician and be an advocate for your child. There is no shame in identifying delays and asking for help. If you feel that your child's delays are beyond your expertise, reach out to us. We are the experts! The impacts of Covid-19 are great and they aren't going away any time soon, but we can help you combat the negative impacts and begin to steer your child back on the right course.

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