As the last age group without access to vaccines, under-fives have been deprived of normal social interactions as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many parents worry if this will impede the social development of their little ones. However, whether this experience impacts development is dependent on each family’s unique circumstances.
The scaling back of social interaction is a precaution that many have chosen to take to minimise the likelihood of contracting Covid-19. Many parents are worried about their little ones missing out on normal life experiences such as playing with their peers at the playground, and rightfully so. Over the past 2 years, under-fives did not get much opportunities to engage in cooperative play or socialise with peers around their age. Cognitive development happens during interactive play which equips them with the social skills they require as they grow older.
The pandemic likely has lower social impact on under-twos who may have actually benefited from the extra interaction with caregivers at home, especially if their caregivers are responsive to their needs and engage in high-quality serve-and-return interactions. These children are able to practice basic social skills with their caregivers. In any case, before age two, children mostly play independently or in parallel. Studies have shown promising outcomes for little ones aged six to thirty six months old, whereby there were no differences found in social development (Imboden, Sobczak & Griffin, 2022).
Toddlers Above Two
As they grow older, children need to pick up crucial social skills for negotiating intricate social relationships through interactions such as turn-taking, sharing, being sensitive to other’s feelings, and resolving conflicts. One study noted that there may be some signs of disrupted social development among some children who have just turned three to six,after nearly two years of the pandemic. Some developmental delays were not diagnosed due to wellness appointments being rescheduled amidst the pandemic.
A strong relationship with a consistent caregiver within a safe environment is able to provide a secure base for social development. School is also a great resource, especially for families with difficult circumstances, with teachers looking out for the developmental milestones appropriate for their age.
We have some tips on what you can do to support your child’s socio-emotional development:
- Routines as a stabilising force in the lives of your little ones - The Covid-19 pandemic may have disrupted school in one way or another, i.e., when a classmate or teacher tests positive. Try to stick as much as possible to routines to give your little ones a sense of safety and stability.
- Providing support to your little ones - Resilience is built on relationships and as parents, you can provide a platform for your little ones’ social development in the absence of opportunities for social interaction between your little ones and peers their age. For instance, practice taking turns and using language to express themselves, or engage in pretend play, which teaches different points of view.
- Explaining why things may be different - With many changes since the pandemic and now coming into an endemic,, children are bound to have many questions. As a parent, you can explain why and how things are different to reassure them.
- Making good use of the extra time you get with your little ones - With many of you spending more time at home, there are more opportunities for you to spend time with your children. A good way to spend time with your little ones while boosting their learning would be using our Home Starter Packs. Get your child to speak more Mandarin by simply allowing them to scan, speak and learn!
- Help them understand their emotions - Put a name to their feelings and give them a few acceptable ways to express strong emotions, e.g., hitting a pillow
While the pandemic has disrupted our lives, kids tend to be resilient and have shown that they can adapt to big changes in life such as separation, loss, etc., with our support.
Guynup, S. (2022, February 11). How pandemic isolation is affecting young kids' developing minds. Science. Retrieved May 29, 2022, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/how-pandemic-isolation-is-affecting-young-kids-developing-minds
Imboden, A., Sobczak, B. K., & Griffin, V. (2021). The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Infant and Toddler Development. Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, 34(3), 509–519. https://doi.org/10.1097/jxx.0000000000000653
Mum, P. byC. C. (2021, February 13). Impact of social distancing on development. Crash Course Mum. Retrieved May 29, 2022, from https://crashcoursemum.wordpress.com/2020/10/15/impact-of-social-distancing-on-development/
UNICEF. (n.d.). Retrieved May 29, 2022, from https://www.unicef.org/india/media/3401/file/PSS-COVID19-Manual-ChildLine.pdf