Early Childhood Week highlights challenges faced by children during pandemic

By Reann Fournier, Special to The Record
Early Childhood Week highlights challenges faced by children during pandemic

The Collectif Petite Enfance will be hosting its sixth annual Early Childhood Week from Nov. 15-21. According to the group, issues concerning early childhood development are even more important to discuss during this time, as the pandemic has made conditions challenging for children who may have already been vulnerable.
The new normal has impacted several areas of early childhood development, from the use of masks in learning environments, stress during pregnancy, increases in domestic abuse, and the cancellation of activities that connect schools, families and the community. The decrease of those events has a significant impact on the transition to kindergarten, which is a crucial time for young children and their positive development.
“Before the pandemic, there was already a clear indication that we had to work on different areas of our society to create a better social safety net for children,” explained Elise Bonneville, director of the Collectif de Petite Enfance. “The pandemic has increased that need.”
Bonneville discussed the possibility of masks having a developmental impact on children in their youngest years as they learn to understand emotions, facial expressions, and speech. “The first years are the most important for developmental life. A child born in the pandemic could have developmental issues by not having contact with people important to that stage, like grandparents, or important pieces of society,” she said.
“So many of the systems in place to help parents and children are not reachable right now,” added Bonneville. “It really does take a village to raise a child and the isolation, the shutting down of services, it causes needs that are typically answered by being out in the community to not be met.”
Throughout Early Childhood Week, there will be three province-wide events; the release of survey findings on the challenges faced by parents and young children during the pandemic on Nov. 17, a virtual event supporting the well-being of young children in English-speaking communities on Nov. 19, and an online event hosted on Nov. 20 discussing new developments and child friendly municipality nomination procedures.
“Having a whole week focused on this discourse and inviting a whole province to mobilize and create activities is important,” said Bonneville. “Even with the pandemic, people are making an effort and are creating spaces to invite families to do something special and about early childhood. There are so many challenges that could diminish the courage to continue with this, but people are continuing.”
“Leading the way in this are parents, naturally, but it goes beyond that: the essential contributions of educators, neighbours, employers, community services policy-makers, and an engaged citizenry cannot be overlooked,” she added.
To finish off the week, people are encouraged to wear a ‘blanket square’ on Nov 20, the International Day of the Child. The squares are made from fabric and are meant to look like a child’s favourite blanket. “Wearing a blanket square and thanking people who work everyday to make a difference with children are some things that show your support,” said Bonneville.
Bonneville finished by saying that mobilizing an entire province to speak out for young ones has a big impact. “It’s even more important to speak loud for young children because they don’t have the voice to do it themselves,” she said.

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