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Back-to-school developmental struggles for 'COVID generation' kids

Medical experts say parents should prepare for challenges caused by the pandemic.

NORFOLK, Va. — As parents, teachers, and children get ready to return to the classroom, medical experts say they should prepare for the challenges caused by the pandemic. Many children of the so-called "COVID generation" are struggling with developmental delays.

CHKD Medical Director and Pediatrician Dr. Douglas Mitchell said pre-school-aged children missed out on language and communication skills if their school was shut down for an extended time.

"What can we do to enhance our kids' development? Talk to them all the time and really minimize the screen time and minimize the efforts to use passive education," he suggested.

Mitchell said he has seen a greater impact on mental health in older children, stemming from the pandemic and it may be attributed to parental stress during that time.

"It's another one of the childhood traumas that add to mental health issues and delays in development, as well. Because if they're stressed,  they're going to interact less" Mitchell explained

So, how do you know if your child is falling behind? Mitchell said your pediatrician can do an assessment during a well-child visit.

"Keep up the routine well-child visits so we can identify developmental delays early and try to gain resources they may need; get the kids immunized with all of the routine vaccines as well as flu and COVID so we can do everything we can to keep them in school this coming year," he advised.    

As you work with your child to get on track this school year, the doctor said not to overthink the parental support and guidance.

"Just remember the principles of childhood development," said Mitchell. "That's giving them free play, free conversation. You're already providing the most important therapy a child could have. " 

CHKD is expanding to meet the growing needs of mental health care for children. Outpatient mental health services started in the new Children's Pavilion mental health facility in April, and inpatient psychiatric care will begin in October. 

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