When it comes to children there is no doubt that a steady routine is vital to their well-being, mentally and physically. This is true from infancy into toddlers and even later with school-age children. However, given the unpredictable events of the last few years with the pandemic, children’s lives and day-to-day routines have changed. From in-person school to virtual learning, absence of some school sports, changing school closure guidelines with a positive case, and now most recently, NJ will be dropping its mask mandate on 3/7/2022 in schools.
As a pediatrician, I know that this pandemic has widened the digital divide, increased the gap in socioeconomic statuses as some parents are unable to work from home, cannot virtually school due to limited resources, and also limited members of a child’s safe, stable, nurturing relationship and environment (SSNRE).
Safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments (SSNREs) are so important for children as they allow a safe space for a child to thrive, and SSNREs are vital in protecting children from adverse childhood events (ACEs). We know the pandemic itself is not an ACE, but it has given plenty of opportunities for ACEs to arise with increasing home stressors and mental health obstacles for children and their caregivers.
Data has already suggested that children learned much less in months where schools were shut down and learning was virtual; however, frequent changes to their learning routine surely must have a similar impact on the quality of their education as well. We have come a long way from the virtual learning days of March 2020, but we know virtual learning is inferior to in-person learning. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly advocates for keeping children in school safely.
That means until a vaccine is out for children under 5 years of age who can also gain antibody protection, decreasing risk of severe COVID, hospitalizations, long COVID, and MIS-C, I am recommending my young patients continue to mask if possible. If you’re unsure of how to best help your child in these trying times, please be sure to reach out to your pediatrician for help.