Raising our kids throughout the pandemic has been a huge challenge. With restrictions and lockdowns, the world as we know it became a distinctive blur as everything shut down. We have worried about our children regressing, their education being disrupted and being utterly forgotten over the past 18 months.
Along with our older children and teenagers, there is also a consideration to be had for how the pandemic has affected babies and toddlers. As a direct result of a lack of hugs, interaction, and activity due to closures and measures, our toddlers have not had the same start in life. Babies have been born directly into a pandemic, toddlers have gone from being infants to pre-schoolers and both age groups have shown signs of pandemic stress as the world reopens.
Signs of stress in young children include excessive crying or irritable behaviour; regression; poor sleep habits; excessive worry, sadness, or fear; difficulty paying attention; and unexplained stomach aches or headaches.
How can we help our babies and toddlers cope with pandemic stress and enter a world that is technically alien to them?
Connect With Them
Encourage a strong connection by actively pursuing uninterrupted play on their level. Engage in what they love to do and urge close friends and family to do the same. Keep them connected with grandparents and relatives, emphasising how loved they are. Be honest with them and support them in talking about what is worrying them or scaring them. Expect a reluctance to participate in opportunities you may offer them. This is perfectly ok, and it is most certainly a slow and steady game. Gradually providing creative ways for them to interact with others will help ease any anxiety, stress, or fears.
Allow Them To Express Their Fears
We have to put ourselves in their shoes. As eager as we are to step back into the world and live as we used to remember our little ones have not had the same experience of living as we have. Whatever we did with them pre-pandemic is a forgotten memory for them now. Allow them to express their fears. Listen to them and validate their feelings. Children this age may not know how to express themselves so help them to put words to their emotions. Plenty of hugs are needed so they know they are loved.
Adjust To Their Pace
And, while you reintroduce them, do it at their pace. Let them assess the situation, the people, and stay on the sidelines if they wish. Allow them to slowly integrate with friends, with activities, and watch as they grow into their independence again. A lot of patience, understanding, and gentle exposure is all that’s needed.