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Should parents worry about pandemic’s long-term effects on kids?

Published: Apr. 15, 2021 at 4:58 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Will your young child suffer long-term impacts from the pandemic? Experts say parents have no need to worry.

“On their first day back, we all had smocks on, we had gloves, we had goggles, we had our masks. We were ready for a lot of tears coming out of cars and the children were practically jumping out of their cars, ready to get back to school, ready to be with each other,” said Vicky Senni, the director of the Turtle Island Children’s Center. “That resilience... truly I will never forget that.”

Resilient. Vicky Senni and Cecelia Puleio say as leaders of the Turtle Island Children’s Center in Montpelier, they know kids are, but the pandemic proved it.

“The recognition that children are so capable and able of understanding what’s happening around them. They know that we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and they know we’re practicing all of these different things that are new and sometimes hard, and they’re doing it with such grace, it’s a really nice example for a lot of us,” Puleio said.

The teachers say their preschoolers are constantly making connections and asking questions.

Reporter Christina Guessferd: You’ve never met me before. Is it kind of strange or uncomfortable seeing me with a mask on?

Saskia Pyatak/Preschooler: It’s kind of weird. You kind of look like a mask monster.

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Saskia Pyatak: Can I see your face?

Christina Guessferd: Yeah!

Saskia Pyatak: (Giggles)

Parents say some positives of the safety protocols-- their kids learning new life skills and putting tough times in perspective.

“I know people say life is short, but I believe it’s long. We have a long time to get used to things and to bounce back from things,” said Samantha Kolber, Saskia’s mom.

Plus, Dr. Jeremiah Dickerson, a child psychiatrist at the UVM Medical Center, says research doesn’t support any long-term developmental consequences.

“They are missing those cues from seeing somebody’s mouth, but they also are able to pick up on lots of other cues that provide them with information about other people,” Dickerson said.

Dickerson’s suggestions? Actively engage in extra face time with your child and don’t shy away from difficult discussions.

“There’s still a lot of uncertainty, I think, as well,” Dickerson said. “I think we have to be transparent with children about that, like, ‘We don’t know a lot, but here’s what we’re doing to help ourselves feel better.’”

It’s that transparency that’s taught kids like Cora Moreno that once we reach herd immunity, “Then playdates can happen again,” she said.

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