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'Feelings First' campaign offers support for B.C. kids navigating post-pandemic life

Last Updated Jul 6, 2021 at 1:26 pm PDT

(iStock photo)

A new campaign has been launched to help kids across B.C. navigate new social situations in a post-pandemic world

A Vancouver-based pediatrician says parents are also anxious and confused about how to help their children adapt

The Feelings First program goal is to help kids under 6 get comfortable talking about their feelings and set up routines

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Families now trying to adapt to more COVID-19 restrictions being lifted can access a new program provided by the Provincial Health Services Authority.

Summertime parties and playdates may be especially nerve-wracking for children under age six.

Dr. Anamaria Richardson, a community pediatrician based in Vancouver, says the Feelings First campaign involves parents talking more with their kids about their feelings, as well as setting up daily routines.

“Videos are easy to watch, they’re funny, they’re cute and messages are really simple to kind of wrap your head around.

“The overall impression is that they’re really trying to give parents the knowledge that they are the experts. Also, we’ve had a pretty significant rollout in terms of social media. Thousands of downloads and thousands of shares.”

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Key concerns raised so far include kids re-learning how to socially interact with their friends during playdates or sleepovers and spending time with grandparents without worrying about possibly infecting them with COVID-19.

Richardson says children as young as one are much more resilient than you might think they are.

“We can always –always– help them change and provide reassurances –modelling of behaviours. Different ways of approaching and different ways of responding to new environments and situations that may be new to kids. Parents absolutely have all the skills and are the experts on their child.”

Richardson tells NEWS 1130 kids may be anxious about spending time with friends or relatives after nearly a year and a half of isolation and parents are also confused about how to help their children adapt.

“You’re just constantly kind of worrying and I think I remember back then (when her children were young) it was a different message than now. It was that the first year of life is the most important and it’s not. Of course, it’s an important year, but parenting at home through the pandemic, you’ve kind of lost the other kids that you can compare the development of your child against and then, on the flip side, I’ve also seen quite a bit of challenge of social, emotional development in children not having all of the social interaction that was quite traditional and typical before the COVID pandemic.”

She adds infant and early childhood mental health impacts how children deal with stress and develop self-confidence.

“The most important thing that parents need to remember is that they are the most important teacher for their child and parents and caregivers and grandparents are going to be the greatest source for children to learn from. It’s not about classes. It’s not about additional activities. It’s not about knowing how to add or being excellent at sports. It’s what they learn from parents and that parents and caregivers, grandparents all have the knowledge within them to know how to help out their kids.”

Information provided by the Provincial Health Services Authority shows there are currently 260,000 children under age six in B.C. and research shows fostering “social and emotional development in the early years leads to healthy brain development, success in school, increased community involvement, and even success in future employment.”