The Loneliest Childhood: Toddlers Have No Covid Playmates

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Such is the case of Erinn and Craig Sheppard, parents of 15-month-old Rhys who live in Santa Monica, California. They are extra careful because they live near the little boy’s grandmother, who is in her eighties. Ms. Sheppard said Rhys has played with “zero” children since the pandemic began.

“We come to the park, we Clorox the swing and he gets in and he has a great time and loves being outside and he points to other kids and other parents like a toddler would,” she said. But they don’t get involved.

One night Rhys was being carried to bed when he started waving. Mrs. Sheppard noticed that he was looking at the calendar on the wall that had babies on it. It happens regularly now. “He waves to the babies on the wall calendar,” said Ms. Sheppard.

Child development experts said it would be useful to research this generation of children to learn more about the effects of relative isolation. There is a distant precedent: A study was published in 1974 that tracked down children experiencing another earth-shattering moment, the Great Depression. The study gives reason for hope.

“Unexpectedly, the Great Depression Childhood study followed a path of resilience into the middle years of life,” wrote Glen Elder, the author of the research.

Brenda Volling, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan and an expert on social and emotional development, said that the best-off children from the Depression era came from families that had more easily overcome the economic consequences and, as a result, were less hostile , angry and depressed.

To that end, infants, toddlers, and other children growing up in the Covid era most need stable, nurturing, and loving interactions with their parents now, said Dr. Volling.

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