Childhood at a Time of a Pandemic: How the Delta Variant Affects Children’s Lives

child doing a handstand

When smartphones and tablets became widely used, we adults complained that they took outdoor play away from children. Indeed, kids these days are surprisingly tech-proficient. Toddlers can memorize an iPad’s functions, and kindergartners can navigate YouTube by themselves.

Little did we know it’s not technology that will actually take outdoor play away from kids. It’s a pandemic.

Now, we have technology to thank for keeping our kids entertained in this period. Can’t take them out to the zoo? Watch a Netflix documentary about animals. Can’t take them to the playground? Perhaps a VR will do. As much as we wish things were back to normal now, it seems that we still have a long way to go.

Just when we think we’re finally beating the pandemic, the Delta variant reached the US. And it’s been infecting children lately with new child cases are at 94,000 so far. Louisiana and Florida have the worst numbers.

With kids stuck at home since March of last year, their lives have definitely been redefined. Their experiences today can impact their growth. They’re no longer just the younger Generation Z; they’re the COVID-19 generation.

Pediatricians on the Rising COVID-19 Cases

The Children’s Hospital in New Orleans described the rising COVID-19 cases as “an epidemic of young children.” According to its physician in chief, Dr. Mark Kline, half of the children hospitalized today are below two years old. The rest are between five and ten years old, the age range that’s too young to be vaccinated.

In Florida, where the highest number of pediatric hospitalizations is reported, 179 are receiving care. One child has been put on a ventilator at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.

Despite the toll it’s taking on pediatricians, though, they did a remarkable job at adapting to the pandemic. They made kids’ clinics as safe as possible. Since March 2020 and practically overnight, they have focused on telemedicine. Kids who needed to be personally treated were given separate entrances, waiting rooms, and treatment rooms. The pediatricians also met sick children in office parking lots. Some set up tents outside their clinics, while others allowed consultations over the phone. Some also wrote children’s books about COVID-19, and when the vaccines became available, many clinics set up drive-thru vaccination centers.

However, their adjustments didn’t make the pandemic any less emotionally exhausting. Today’s even a tougher time for them, with the Delta variant infecting so many kids. Dr. Marcos Mestre, vice president of Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, said that COVID-19 “places undue stress on the child” because their parents can’t be with them in the hospital.

mother and daughter schooling

Childhood Redefined

The pandemic has changed children’s lives all over the world. Many preschoolers didn’t even get the chance to see a real school. Their first-ever classes were held online. As such, they missed opportunities for socializing, which would’ve developed their interpersonal skills.

While technology allowed kids to interact with other people, such as their relatives and teachers, electronic gadgets will never replace organic interactions. But on the bright side, technology makes children more self-sufficient. Provided, of course, that they use it with their parents’ guidance.

Technology enabled children to learn different things, some of which they may not learn in school, like current events. Preschools don’t normally include current events in their curriculum, but with the internet, parents can let their kids know and understand what’s happening in the world. This knowledge helps children realize that they’re not being restricted from going outside. Rather, they’re being kept safe from a virus.

But understanding the pandemic doesn’t mean kids won’t be afraid of it. Each kid will have a different response to the pandemic, but many of them may show irritability, neediness, or difficulty in maintaining routines. They can feel their parents’ stress and anxiety, which could traumatize them. The idea of getting sick and confined in a hospital scares kids, and since they view their parents as an embodiment of safety and stability, they may grow more clingy to Mom or Dad.

As we live through the COVID-19 Delta variant, the best we can do for our kids is to keep their lives structured. Create a sense of order in their day so that they’d feel normal. Maintain the same wake-up, eating, bathing, and playing times. The more predictable their lives are, the more settled they’d feel during this tough time.

If you’re stressed, avoid lashing out at your kid. Their young minds understand what’s wrong, too, and you won’t help by showing them irrational anger. In fact, chances are it’s your kid who’s going to lash out at you because they’re frightened or bored. So be their safe place, and take care of your own health too. The last thing you need is to pass the virus to your child.

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