As the childcare industry attempts to return to some form of normality after the pandemic, I am concerned that nobody is talking about the impact on child development and mental health wellbeing after the past two years.
Not only do we have the impacts of stress during pregnancy to consider (see my other blogs), but we also have the extended periods of isolation, the lack of parental knowledge and expertise to encourage development, the impact of the associated family stress on the child, their environment and relationships, the lack of nature interaction, the consequential paths missed and the increased screen time and so on.
All of the above will have had a monumental impact on the development, the mental health, wellbeing and behaviour of children, all children, but in particular the early years.
Why is no one in the childcare sector highlighting this and addressing it? This is the biggest crisis facing the childcare sector in decades. The workforce itself is predominantly young and the training level is a concern that has been highlighted for years and certainly won’t have prepared them for dealing with this. Will staff know how to recognise the signs of mental health concerns, stress levels and developmental delays leading to increased behavioural concerns. Will they know how to reduce the impacts of these delays, how to create an environment to support the children through this, how to bridge the gaps in learning and development? Many of the so called development programmes may think they are promoting natural learning and development but elements they include are actually actively working against it. For example, a ‘varying shades of brown’ approach to the environment of one approach in particular is actually promoting dis-interest, children to be timid and shy, avoiding interaction and a sense of insecurity! As someone who has worked within sensory elements including colour psychology for decades I actively shudder when I look at these environment targeted to children when they clearly do not understand the impact of their actions.It will make the situation worse.
The impact of stress during the pandemic needs addressing now!’
There are many things that nurseries can do to reduce the impact of stress and nurture the developmental delays, so all is not lost. However, it is vital that we begin these discussions now, that we formulate a plan to support staff, parents and of course the children, and don’t let the past two years become a lasting legacy for the industry and children.