The COVID-19 pandemic has presented new challenges in navigating parenthood. With schools across the country going online and limited social activities available for children, many parents are concerned about the potential long-term impacts of keeping their kids at home for long periods of time, and eventually returning to school. Dr. Marvi Montano-Ip, MD, a pediatrician with Dignity Health Mercy Medical Group, shared common concerns from patient families and addressed ways parents can navigate these unprecedented challenges.
Watching out for developmental delays.
Spending time at home – especially while managing homeschool – means parents are able to watch their child’s learning behavior more closely. Much like a teacher would normally do in a classroom setting, parents are now seeing behaviors that may not have been as noticeable at home. Dr. Montano notes that not all children can focus easily when it comes to schoolwork and shared that some parents have expressed concerns about early developmental delays or learning loss.
While parents may worry about identifying and addressing these concerns, Dr. Montano explained that being able to closely monitor learning behaviors is a helpful side effect of spending more time at home with your kids. She encouraged parents to pay attention and raise any concerns with their child’s physician.
Addressing lack of socialization.
Parents are also concerned about how a lack of socialization may affect their kids. Playtime among children is a critical outlet for creativity and skills building. However, parents can help maintain that sense of stimulation at home by making a concerted effort to incorporate interactive playtime with their children. Dr. Montano underscored that this is especially important in single-child households. Reading books and playing with toys together can create bonding and socialization that is both educational and fun for the whole family.
Dr. Montano also shared that while not getting enough socialization is cause for concern, the risk of contracting COVID-19 far outweighs those concerns. “Children are adaptable and any socialization issues that develop can be addressed safely down the road,” said Dr. Montano.
Talking about COVID-19 with your kids.
There is a lot of uncertainty that comes with living through a pandemic and parents certainly don’t know all the answers. Initiating the conversation with your kids on questions or concerns helps them manage their anxiety and express their feelings. Checking in to see how they are coping with the “new normal” will also help them feel safer and can strengthen that trust that is so important between parent and child. Start with the facts and expand on what the virus is, how it spreads and what is being done to keep people safe.
Dr. Montano recognizes these are stressful times for parents, as well, and recommends parents take time to care for themselves, too. It helps to maintain healthy habits such as, getting enough sleep, maintaining a nutritious diet and seeking out resources for managing the entire family’s mental and physical health as necessary.
Many Dignity Health Medical Group clinics offer pediatric and mental health services that can help parents address any of these concerns. To find a local provider near you, visit www.dignityhealth.org/ourdoctors.