Concerned about COVID’s impact on toddlers? Doctors say not to worry

Coronavirus

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Although the pandemic has resulted in a regress in social development for many toddlers, doctors say parents should not worry.

“If your child is regressing, or if they’re having a few extra tantrums, just understand that that’s normal,” said Dr. Reshma Khatri, a pediatrician at Parkview Regional Medical Center & Affiliates. “Once the pandemic is over, most of those issues will go away because kids are very resilient… and they will bounce back completely and they’ll be fine.”

According to Dr. Khatri, children experience “a lot” of social development between ages one and two.

“They’re kind of realizing that they’re separate individuals from their parents,” said Dr. Khatri. “They also start imitating a lot of behavior. Mostly what they see at home so from parents, from siblings, and if you are going to a daycare center of course, this is the age when they start interacting a little bit with the other kids.”

Although she says parents shouldn’t be too worried, because of restrictions and lack of social interaction outside of their homes, Dr. Khatri says she’s observed toddlers experiencing more social isolation, stranger anxiety and separation anxiety.

“They’ve just been at home a lot more clingy behavior compared to another,” said Dr. Khatri. “You know, 18-month-olds or two-year-olds would be otherwise being outside you know being a daycare centers.”

She’s also observed a delay in development in the speech of children with special needs.

While social interaction outside of the house is necessary for child development, Dr. Khatri says a secure home environment is the most important thing. She explained how parental stress can cause differences in appetites and sleeping disruptions for kids.

“Make sure the intensity of your voice is not too high,” said Dr. Khatri. “They will understand that you’re stressed and that’s usually what stresses the kids out is because the parents are stressed so as long as you can keep that to a minimum toddlers do fine.

Dr. Khatri suggests parents establish an organized routine for their toddlers and don’t allow them to sit in front of a TV screen all day.

“You could have timings for reading to them, or games. Make sure you play time where they’re getting a little bit of physical activity based on their developmental abilities,” said Dr. Khatri.

Although social interaction becomes more important for children as they get older, she also recommends a small cohort of friends who follow the same social distancing rules for children to play with.

“If you can have maybe it was one friend, so maybe your sister’s kid or your best friend’s child coming over for at least once or twice a week,” said Dr. Khatri. “You can even have FaceTime with grandparents or a small cohort of friends so that way there’s a little bit of social interaction for your child and you don’t feel totally isolated from the world.”

If any parents feel that their child is regressing more than what they would expect to be “normal,” Dr. Khatri says they should reach out to their pediatrician.

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