More fearful and observant in the presence of strangers, more difficult adaptation to new environments: the many sanitary measures and confinement have had repercussions on the behavior of toddlers.
• Read also: The harmful mask for the little ones
At least, this is confirmed by educators in day care settings as well as mothers who gave birth some time before or during the pandemic. Whether in private, family or early childhood centers (CPE), the integration of “COVID babies” has been more difficult this year, we say. “There was more crying this year [lors de l’intégration de nouveaux poupons]. […] Detachment was more difficult for babies who experienced the confinement of spring, ”says Geneviève Bélisle, general manager of the Quebec Association of Early Childhood Centers (AQCPE).
“In normal times, integration takes around two weeks, but this year, it took around four weeks, especially for babies who did not have a sibling in the daycare,” said France Quirion, representative of the regions of Quebec and Chaudière-Appalaches for the Association of Private Day Nurseries of Quebec.
Babies more observant
“We notice that these children are more observant, less prompt,” adds Sophy Forget-Bélec, educator and president of the Quebec Association of Private Educational Family Environments. “We see that the children did not socialize like the children of other years,” she adds.
This is particularly the case of little Elizabeth, aged 7 months. Her mother, Nellie Noël, notices a difference in behavior with her other 4-year-old daughter, at the same age.
“With us it’s great, but with foreigners she analyzes a lot. If they take it, it shits a little, ”says Mme Christmas. According to her, her youngest has not worked with more than thirty people since her birth. Her entry into daycare was also more difficult than for her sister, says Mme Christmas. “She still asks a lot for the arms and even for the drinks, it’s a little more difficult,” she says.
Wearing a mask by educators does not help their adaptation, says Mme Christmas. “Of course, it’s difficult for Elizabeth, who gets to know her educators, it creates a barrier. I believe that her relationship with the educators is not the same as it was for my oldest, ”she explains.
The story is the same for Andrée-Anne Stewart, mother of three, who says her youngest 8 months old is “antisocial”, when she compares him to her two other older sons.
“He smiles at people who are familiar to him, but he cries in the arms of others, especially in the arms of his grandparents. […] He is wilder and scared in the arms of people he should have known and recognized well at his age, ”she says. “At 4 months, it had not yet been taken by anyone other than me and my partner,” she continues.
Other negative effects to fear
At the Ordre des orthophonistes et audiologistes du Québec, we warn that learning delays can lead to behavioral problems. “Nearly 80% of learning disabilities, including ADHD, are related to a language problem,” says its president, Paul-André Gallant.
“If we are not able to express a need, we get angry and that can sometimes be interpreted as a behavior disorder,” he illustrates.
Pediatricians say they are very worried that toddlers will be deprived of lip reading in child care settings.
“Research tells us that a child who pays more attention to the mouth will have more developed expressive language than another child of the same age who pays less attention to the mouth,” say pediatricians.
INSECURITY AND ANXIETY
In addition to causing potential language delays, the mask can also be anxiety-provoking for infants, since it hides facial expression and, therefore, non-verbal language, essential to their development.
“Children operate by anticipation. If they do something expecting to receive a smile and they don’t see it, it becomes very insecure for them. The child therefore develops fear or sadness, ”says Dr.r Jean-François Chicoine. “If we continued the experience [le port du masque] for a long time, it is sure that the children would become depressed, ”he adds.
The Dre Marie-Claude Roy is also worried about the fact that the bond of assurance and encouragement with the educator is affected by the mask, which can become stressful for the child.
She explains that infants 12 to 18 months old cannot guess a smile or any other reaction behind a mask. “They don’t have the maturity to interpret it,” she said.