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Childcare centers adapt to a new wave of anxiety, lack of social skills in kids



Local Charlotte News — Millions of children spend the majority of the last 18 months like the rest of us; home and away from others.

Educators and psychologists are learning the isolation and stress have stunted development in kids.

For nearly a year, and a year and a half, Fallon Schoeller was a full-time mom, mediator, and teacher to her three children.

“It was a lot,” Schoeller said.

Outings like birthday parties and trick-or-treating and hanging with friends were replaced with each other inside their home in Lake Wylie for months.

“It was very stressful to have everybody all in the same space and having to keep up with everybody with what they were doing while I was trying to work,” Schoeller said.

Fast forward to October 2021, she has noticed a difference in her children, especially her youngest.

“So, everyone pretty much lost a year and now it’s showing up, now that they are back in school,” Schoeller said. “She kind of gives up more easily and gets more frustrated, and she goes, ‘eh, I don’t need to do it.’ I think it impacted her the most.”

“This was not a Lake Wylie problem; this was a world problem,” Executive director at Giving Tree Development Center Michelle Dawson said. “These children are lacking in social and emotional more than they ever have.”

She said students, especially toddlers are behind on major developmental milestones.

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“They have had less time to establish what normal communication and normal socialization skills,” Forensic Neuropsychologist Dr. Lisa Long said.

Following the pandemic, Dr. Long has seen an uptick in issues involving socialization skills, learning, and anxiety among children,

“All of the children, regardless of age have lost a significant period of time of being with their peer group, of what we would call social education,” Dr. Long said.

On top of isolation, the anxiety felt by millions of parents has been absorbed by their children.

A JAMA Pediatrics review shows depression and anxiety rates have doubled in children since the start of the pandemic.

“The family as a whole has been impacted and when parents are stressed, children are stressed too,” Dr. Long said.

Childcare centers are having to accommodate for the changes.

“Every day we say to our staff, forget what you used to know, forget how you used to do things, we have to create something new to t meet these kids where they are at,” Dawson said.

Educators and staff are approaching the classroom differently, focusing more on emotional and social growth.

“They are unable to identify their emotions. So, we have done things like putting words to their emotions. Because sometimes we just think, ‘oh, it’s a two-year-old being a two-year-old,’ but sometimes it is frustration in not knowing what they feel,” Dawson said.

As for parents, Dawson said she has had to be transparent, in hopes they too contribute to the socialization needs of their children.

“During uncertain times like this, it’s really important that parents try to provide their children with as much stability and consistency as possible and one thing that I often recommend is that parents find a small pod that they can interact with. It’s the perfect opportunity to allow your children to get that socialization that they need,” Dr. Long said.

One positive takeaway from the pandemic Schoeller has noticed is that her kids have a whole new appreciation for school.

“Now that they are back in school, it’s like a night and day difference,” Schoeller said. “Everybody is happier everyone is getting up and going.”

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