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What Is COVID-19? And How Does It Relate to Child Development?

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You’ve almost certainly heard of COVID-19 at this point. In fact, your life is probably very different than it was before the outbreak. You may be one of the billions of people around the world being asked to stay home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. These stay-at-home orders mean children can’t go to school or childcare, and some adults are not able to work, thus losing income.

It’s a stressful time for everyone, worldwide, but in the midst of it all, children’s development doesn’t hit the pause button. They continue to learn and grow, and there are still easy and free activities parents and caregivers can provide for their children, in spite of a situation that can feel frightening and overwhelming.

This infographic explains the basics of what COVID-19 is, and what it can mean for stress levels in both children and the adults who care for them. It also offers some easy and concrete solutions to help caregivers ensure that both they and the children they care for don’t experience long-term effects of stress. Finally, it explains how all of us as a society can work to ensure the health and wellbeing of all our fellow community members, both now and in the future.

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Doctors first discovered coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) at the end of 2019. It is an illness related to the lungs. It’s caused by a virus that can spread quickly from person to person and can be picked up from surfaces. In some people, it can be severe, leading to pneumonia or even death. Since COVID-19 is new, there is no cure or vaccine for it at this time. (Source: CDC)

Because the virus spreads so quickly, many places have banned large groups of people. Schools, houses of worship, and workplaces are closed. Children can’t go to school or daycare. Families may lose pay because adults can’t go to work. These changes can be very stressful. That’s why it’s important to learn how stress can affect us. We can also learn what we can do about it.

Protecting against infection and toxic stress

Losing a job would be stressful normally. So would having to homeschool at the drop of a hat. But these things are even more stressful when there’s a dangerous virus in the world. It’s important for all of us to stay away from others physically. This will help keep the virus from spreading in our communities. But it’s also very important to stay connected to people we care about. This is true for children and adults.

Taking a minute to close your eyes and breathe in and out can also help. That’s because slow breathing tells your body’s stress system to ease up a bit. This can help you respond better at even the most difficult times.

When we as adults feel better, it can help us connect better with the children we care for. This connection can help protect all of us, adults and kids, from the effects of stress. It also supports kids’ healthy growth.

Supporting families through the crisis, and beyond

A worldwide virus is a stressful time for everyone. But the stress gets worse for those who were already dealing with things like poverty, racism, or violence. There are still resources that can help in these challenging times: crisis hotlines, food banks, and relief funds. There is no shame in seeking help if you need it.

We all want to build up the long-term wellbeing of children and families in our communities. That’s why we as a society need to support responsive caregiving everywhere. This includes caregiving in homes, schools, and childcare centers. Together, this will allow us to weather whatever storms we come up against, now or in the future.

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