Children's Pandemic Health Guide Now Available
Utah’s chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics has launched a new online resource to help parents and caregivers navigate the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Covidparenting.org http: is a pandemic coping guide for parents. It provides support and information for parents and healthcare providers as families navigate the uncharted waters of isolation, anxiety, and illness brought on by COVID-19.
Dr. Spencer Merrick is a triple board resident and the covidparenting.org liaison to the Utah Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He is pediatric, general psychiatry, and child and adolescent psychiatry resident. He says the pandemic has presented a unique challenge to good childcare.
“So, it kind of was born out of recognizing organically a need for that and a need for resources for parents who don't know where to look for how to establish a schedule when you're routine is so disrupted, and where to turn for help, and how to look for warning signs of when your kid is getting sick. [It was a] midsummer, kind of a collaborative effort between myself and some other residents in my program and some attending physicians who got together and started to put together resources. And the resources just kept piling in and getting more and more organized in such a way that we thought this is bigger than what we set out to do. And we created an entire website that is dedicated to really doing the basics, creating structure and helping to manage that stress and getting help.”
Merrick says there is an uptick in children’s general anxiety across the board, even with kids who seem to be coping well.
“There are still challenges even in those kids that seem to be coping well and because of routines disrupted and they’re sleeping differently, they're eating differently, they’re isolating in ways that they don't realize, and they’re managing screen time differently. So even the kids that seem to be thriving end up and having a few things that come up. But definitely we see this hit kids, that are in lower income groups, harder.”
He says children in lower income families are hit harder due to both parents working, often more than one job, and unable to provide supervision and support.
Merrick says stress from parents trickles down to younger children, and due to social distancing, lack of play dates, and general stress, early childhood language development is affected. Behavioral issues also can surface.
“So, when a kid isn’t getting socialization through daycare finding ways to maximize that social contact for their language development and for their social development through other means, that that's just extra zoom calls with grandpa or dedicating time to play with siblings and people in their own household things like that. But we do see a lot of people coming into clinic struggling with some behavioral concerns with their younger kids too.”
The project was funded by a grant from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Georgetown Center for Children and Families. He says well-child visits, routine vaccinations, recommended screenings, and follow-up care is important to do during the pandemic. The resources provided on the website refer to Utah services, but they plan to make the website more universal and share it with other AAP chapters.
Covidparenting.org officially launched last week. Merrick says he is thrilled a vaccine is rolling out to the public, but he says it is not time for parents or anyone to let down their guard.
“I want to stress we are still in for what will, likely be a difficult winter, and that getting the vaccine does not mean masks off right away. We’re still in for a little bit more of a long haul. And these resources, I think will be tremendously helpful for people that are struggling which is you know all of us, to some degree or another.