Over the past few weeks, pediatricians have been trying to raise awareness about the steep decline in vaccination rates that we have been seeing as parents cancel well checks and babies go months without being seen by a physician.
But there is an equally alarming problem, one that also goes unseen and has remained largely under the radar while the news focuses on the more sensational COVID-19 headlines. The changes that have occurred in the lives of young children have been vast, and we really have no idea what the long-term outcomes will be.
Children of all ages have been asked to adjust to a completely different way of schooling, while still being expected to advance academically and developmentally as if nothing had changed. For young children in particular, the social isolation and loss of the loving and calming presence of adults in their lives, including teachers, caregivers and grandparents, may have consequences we are only beginning to understand.
Mental health professionals statewide and across the country are reporting an increase in stress, depression, anxiety and of course fear. It is critical that we recognize the mental health toll this disruption is taking on our children and protect their emotional well-being as much as possible. Children need a strong socioemotional foundation if they are going to succeed cognitively and developmentally.
We all must do our part to support the children in our lives to navigate this new world in a way that supports and nourishes them and helps build resiliency, and to do what we can to prevent adverse childhood experiences from occurring. This will require deliberate attention, time and investment to provide the supports and services that will ensure children can successfully navigate and even thrive during this pandemic. Even in these times of economic uncertainty, we cannot afford to decrease our investment in children.