We’ve now officially hit a full year of lockdown. College students have spent two academic years adjusting to online or hybrid learning, with those returning to campus still physical distancing and testing frequently. We follow this protocol because we understand the importance of keeping each other safe. But how are these changes affecting children?
I’ve worked in two separate childcare facilities during the pandemic. I worked after school at a daycare until mid-March, and that summer I returned to my seasonal job as a camp counselor. Working in these places allowed me to watch in real-time as students and teachers were forced to adjust to life in the pandemic.
At camp, it was our job to make the experience as normal as possible. We didn’t want to overstep our bounds, because each family explained the pandemic differently to their children. Some comments I heard from kids throughout the summer were:
“Mommy says all the parks are closed because of the ‘coy-ona virus’”
“I can’t see my family in England until the bad germs go away”
“My mom says no one’s allowed to come to our pool anymore until people stop getting sick”
Needless to say, these comments were heartbreaking. And these came from the children I was able to see in-person. My job at the daycare had me working in age groups from infants to elementary schoolers, and as the pandemic worsened, attendance rates dropped until all age groups could be packed into a single classroom. Finally, the Governor called for all childcare facilities to shut down. My time at the daycare was cut short.
That summer, camp reopened at one third capacity. I picked back up my work in the preschool, where most of the campers and counselors were made up of students and teachers from the school year. Because they were already familiar with each other, things ran smoothly. Staff had to wear masks inside, while the kids only had to wear them in shared spaces in the building. Convincing the kids to wear masks took a lot of creativity, patience, and fast walking to get them back in the classroom as soon as possible.
In the end, things went well, but only conditionally. If we had to increase any of our safety precautions, I believe we would’ve had a bigger problem on our hands. I feel for students and teachers during this time. Our camp’s first and only virtual meet-and-greet was awkward at best, so I can only imagine how difficult online teaching is. Kids are missing out on critical developmental years right now. Hopefully things will reopen by next school year, but for now we all have to play our part to stay safe. Because as bad as things may seem to us, it’s even more difficult for the children.