The pandemic has surely taken a toll on most parents, but what many do not grasp yet is that the pandemic has greatly affected the little ones too.
For babies and toddlers, their childhood memories are of wearing masks, sanitising their hands and learning words such as “coronavirus” and “safe distancing”. Instead of spending their time playing games with their friends, they were told to stay away from playgrounds, have fewer playdates and have smaller birthday parties, if there is any.
How has the pandemic affected the little ones?
98% of organisations working with families believe babies and toddlers have been affected by high parental stress and anxiety, according to a project in Britain that tracks children who grew up amidst the pandemic, mostly children under the age of two.
Parents are experiencing intense pressure having to take care of their children while managing their own work. They need to oversee their children’s schoolwork, manage their finances, work out any financial loss, deal with social isolation and many more, according to a January report by a group called First 1,001 Days Movement.
This pressure faced by parents has unintentionally affected the parent-child relationship, with 9 in 10 service providers observing that babies were less active as their primary caregiver has little to no time to spend playing with them.
Just last year, charity Focus on the Family Singapore conducted a local survey of about 1,000 mothers and they have found that the pandemic and circuit breaker from April to June has added to the physical and mental load mothers already have at home.
On a scale of one to 10, 60% of mothers reported stress levels of seven, which is 52% higher than a similar study done in 2019.
Another study of about 260 parents of young children aged 12 and below was also done from April to May last year and had found that the pandemic had greatly affected the parents and their parenting skills.
The study has shown that parents who were consumed by stress due to the pandemic—be it from poor finances or poorer mental well-being—indicated that they were fiercer with their little ones and resorted to more caning, spanking, yelling and using harsh words.
The poll was conducted when Singapore was having its circuit breaker and full home-based learning. During this time, parents felt that they were not as close to their children as they were before the pandemic.
The study was published online last September in the Journal of Family Violence, and it reported that many parents struggle with having to balance work and parenting duties, seeing how parenting under typical circumstances is difficult.
During lockdowns, parents are expected to perform multiple tasks with few resources and less support. If before the pandemic, they receive help from schools, churches, neighbours and other family members, during the pandemic, they did not have access to any of these due to the lockdown.
Unsurprisingly, the situation has caused significant stress for some parents, especially those who lost their job or are experiencing wage reduction. This study was conducted by social work researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the National University of Singapore.
Paediatricians have also noted that the reduction in social interaction in the past year may also contribute to toddlers having increased stranger anxiety. In the first two to three years of a child’s life, that is when speech development takes place rapidly. In order to identify emotions and learn how to express themselves, visual cues are important for children.
However, due to mask-wearing, children need to rely on other cues, such as body language and tone of voice. Luckily, preschools have found ways to work around this. They resolved to have teachers wear face shields instead of face masks or wear masks that have a transparent portion around the mouth whenever they are reading a book or teaching phonics.
Teachers are also starting to pay more attention to children’s non-verbal cues such as body languages and gestures.
More quality time
Looking at the bright side, the pandemic has provided many opportunities for families to recharge and reconnect with each other. Some may start to share hobbies or routines such as gardening or playing board games.
Seven in 10 kids said that they become closer to their parents during the pandemic, according to a survey done by Focus on the Family Singapore towards 1,052 children aged 10 to 15 last year.
The new work-from-home arrangement has allowed fathers to step up at home and the charity’s poll of 1,000 mothers found that those who receive support from their spouse reported less stress.
Another finding from a separate poll of 2,400 fathers also showed that eight in 10 fathers connected with their children last year.
However, if you ever found yourself in a tough spot and require aid or support, here is a list of helplines that may be of help.
- National Care Hotline: 1800-202-6868
- Fei Yue’s Online Counselling Service: eC2.sg
- Institute of Mental Health’s Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222
- Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444
- Silver Ribbon Singapore: 6385-3714
- Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788
Marital And Parenting Issues
- Community Psychology Hub’s online counselling platform: CPHOnlineCounselling.sg
- TOUCHline: 1800-377-2252
- Care Corner Counselling Centre: 1800-353-5800
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Source: The Straits Times