I asked my daughter what she wanted for her second birthday and she said “people”


“… it struck me how more important the human connection was to her than the freebies, especially given the lack of ‘people’ caused by the lockdown.” (Getty Images)

According to the results of a study conducted on children aged 3 months to 3 years, the cognitive development of young children has been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The observational study from Brown University in Rhode Island, United States, found that children born during the pandemic significantly reduced their overall verbal, motor and cognitive performance compared to those born before the pandemic.

Lead author of the study, Professor Sean Deoni, associate professor of pediatrics at the university, indicated that a lack of engagement with other children was in part to blame and that reduced interaction could inhibit the growth of neural connections that stimulate the development of the child.

This is an article in a series on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on ordinary South African families. Find the full series here: Behind the Mask

As mum Iva * and her family get on with it right now, she says, “Earlier this year when I asked my daughter what she wanted for her second birthday, she said ‘people’

“She was referring to a party with friends, but it struck me how more important the human connection was to her than the freebies, not least because of the lack of ‘people’ the lockdown caused,” he adds. she does.

Her toddler is not alone. International studies have shown that if children are not social enough at a young age, it can seriously affect their development.

SEE ALSO | Four ways social isolation affects children’s development and mental health

“Live the same day over and over again”

Iva and her husband, both in their late 30s, are not very social when it comes to hanging out with friends. But Iva says their family enjoys going out and spending time outdoors together. So when the Covid-19 lockdown was implemented, they had to find other ways to have fun and spend time together.

“My husband is a fantastic dad, but he was often in long meetings on Zoom so he was often not available to help me with our then 8 month old daughter during the lockdown,” she says.

As a teacher, Iva struggled with lockdown because she enjoyed working and going out.

“I got depressed and was bored because I couldn’t do this anymore,” she admits. “Instead, I had to clean, cook and take care of our little girl while my husband worked. It was like living the same day over and over again.”

Iva adds that she felt really guilty for not fully enjoying the extra time with her daughter. But he really missed work. And although her daughter had become clingy, it was age-appropriate behavior and it was difficult to tell if this was the result of the lockdown.

READ ALSO | What is it about parenting in the 21st century that makes us crack?

How different life could have been …

Dr Bev Evangelides, head of the Reddam House Waterfall Early Learning School, says this is a typical scenario.

With the disruptive impact of Covid-19, which has confined families to their homes, the life experience of under-3s has been dramatically reduced as caregivers attempt to balance work and childcare, often in a stressful environment at home and at work.

Ensuring that young children have a sanctuary during their early stages of learning, where their curious minds are stimulated to become creative and critical thinkers, and where they learn to grow up independently, will impact their optimal development more late in life, says Evangelides.

Since the pandemic-induced lockdown began, Iva admits: “I’m much less likely to kiss people I’m not very close to [to] because it is safer for everyone to reduce physical contact. My grandmother is 92, so I never hug her because I want to protect her, ”she explains.

Iva and her family have found other ways to connect now.

“I often video call people these days, instead of making a normal phone call. I used to want to see people’s faces when I talk to them. I phone my grandmother on the phone. WhatsApp so she can see my daughter, her grand-granddaughter. ”

When asked how life might have been different if the lockdown hadn’t happened, Iva replied, “I wouldn’t have had a nervous breakdown. I wouldn’t have been depressed.” But she added that “I am on anti-depressants and in therapy to learn how to better manage my anxiety.”

* Names have been changed.

Read the full series here: Behind the Mask


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