Have lockdowns affected my child's physical and mental health?

Have lockdowns affected my child's physical and mental health?

BBC News
Have lockdowns affected my child's physical and mental health?
By Paul Kerley
Coronavirus pandemic
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For children under the age of five, Covid restrictions have been in place for a big chunk of their lives. For the very youngest, daily life has never been Covid-free.
What should parents and carers of young children be concerned about? Five experts offer advice and support.
Should I worry my child hasn't been able to socialise?
For most families with a new baby, there's no need to worry, Alison Morton, of the Institute of Health Visiting, says.
"In those first few months, parents are babies' most favourite things," she says.
"Sitting on your lap, taking turns, mimicking - they're very happy with just that."
Sally Hogg, from the Parent-Infant Foundation, which supports teams working with new parents, agrees.
"You don't go to a parent-and-baby group with a three-month-old because baby needs to learn to sing," she says.
"It's because you need the company and positive baby-friendly ideas.
"To get those things in lockdown, you might chat on the phone with friends, family and other parents or join groups online."
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As older babies become more aware of the world around them, Alison says, they remember someone or something exists, such as a parent, even when they can't see them.
"As a result, babies experience separation anxiety and may get upset if they're left with unfamiliar people.
"This is totally normal and nothing to do with any lack of socialisation because of Covid."
Once they're more inquisitive and confident, toddlers want to play with other youngsters.
"If your child has no older siblings, then clearly - because of Covid - those contacts will be restricted," Alison says.
"But studies of children with restricted play - like those in hospital long-term - found youngsters adapted and found other ways to play."
Most children should recover long-term, even though the pandemic has changed play, she says.
And if you're a single parent, or know one, you can always "bubble" with them.
How can I help my child at home?
Use your daily home routine to help your child develop.
Learning through play
"Be imaginative," paediatric registrar Dr Rakhee Shah, at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, says.
"Make laundry-folding into a game
"Get them to pick out specific colours or items.
"Young children love to copy and mimic family life."
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Through domestic role-play children learn to:
share
"Not everyone needs to be labelled with a mental-health problem," Alison says.
"Parents often just lack confidence."
"I've worked with hundreds of new mums who've had a wobble and needed ideas or a bit of extra support.
"Everything's soon back to normal."
Don't be afraid to ask
Speak to your partner, family or friends first if you can.
But professional advice is available.
Health visitors would rather hear from people early, Alison says, before more serious conditions, such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and post-natal depression, develop.
Will my child suffer long-term?
In an Ofsted survey of 208 nurseries in England , most reported children returning after the spring 2020 lockdown had fallen behind in personal, social and emotional development.
Some returned less confident, while others were using nappies and dummies at an older age than nursery staff would expect.
But Paul offers words of reassurance.
"There are very few developmental goals which most children won't be able to catch up with," he says.
Vulnerable children
Our experts agree youngsters with special needs or living in poverty or homes where there's conflict or abuse could have longer-term issues and need more support.
In the first lockdown, babies and toddlers from disadvantaged backgrounds, according to university researchers in Oxford , missed out on activities to support their development, compared with those with more highly educated and well paid parents.
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