Lockdown and our little ones
This week is Infant Mental Health Awareness Week, and one of our Parent Champions reflects on lockdown through the eyes of her three young boys.
After 'head', 'hammer' and 'hay', my little boy’s first words were 'car' and 'wheel'. He loves cars and buses. He knows where any picture of a car is in all our books, and has learned his colours through them. He always loved going in the car, which was a relief because every morning he had to endure nursery drop-off and pick-up for his twin brothers who are 18 months older than him.
After not having been in a car since lockdown started in mid-March, we ventured out last week to go on a different walk. He was so excited to be getting in and he happily sat in his car seat. But as soon as we started moving, he screamed and screamed. He was petrified! One of my three-year-olds tried to calm him, ‘Mummy, I'll hold his hand. He wants to get out’. Why? Because, of course, two and a half months is a very long time when you are only 20 months old. It is long enough to forget what a moving car feels like. Long enough to forget how to climb up a slide or what a supermarket trip involves.
With my (just turned) three-year-olds, we can talk about nursery being closed and shops being closed. But they too will have fears of things that we used to do. Last night, I played them noises of the underground. They wanted to remember what it sounded like, the whooshing and the platform announcements. They can communicate some of this, but what else are they going to have forgotten and what else may be a new fear for them? Will playing film of normal things help them with this?
A new normality does set in for young children. Mine are very fortunate, with the three being so close in age, that they don't miss playing with friends. Of course, I worry that they will have forgotten how to play with other children and that they will be even more of a twin bubble! (They used to choose to do most things at nursery together). When out walking now, if we see people approaching, they all immediately jump into the verge, hedge or stinging nettles to get out of the way. If we see other children we know, they don't even try to approach.
Will they re-learn how to be friendly, how to not see everyone they encounter as a threat after having heard the fear in my voice? I think that all I can do is ensure that their experiences are as happy as possible, and that I expose them to video and discussion on normal things. We have even played hide and seek on a video call with friends, which was far more successful than I expected!
I remind myself that this period of time is very long for them, and they will need help to learn (or re-learn) how they react in different situations and how to continue developing. We did continue with our car journey that day, and on the way home he was a lot happier. The following day, we went for a drive again to ensure that he remembered what it was like. That one experience taught me to be mindful of how this will have impacted on my little ones.
If you are a parent or carer and looking for mental health support at this time you can visit our website for advice and resources.