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A Pandemic’s Effect on a Child’s Growth and Development

Our fourth episode of “Parenting Talk Series” is one that every parent should watch, whether you’re in HK or anywhere else in the world. Our topic this time is about how this pandemic has affected our children’s growth and development. We brought in Yvonne Becher, Chief Executive and the Director of Learning at the Child Development Centre (Hong Kong) (CDC) to give us her expertise in helping us understand what’s happening to our children during this time and some tips on what we as parents can do to help. And since this topic is a bit more complex, this interview went a bit over the 30 minutes time that we usually stick to.

As always, Little Monkey is here to provide information to help make parenting easier. This is so parents can make informed decision – whether that decision is on where to take their kids to play on the weekend by using our child-friendly directory to our new project – “Parenting Talk Series” – 30 minutes recorded interview with subject experts on all things parenting uploaded to our blog for the convenience of parents to watch whenever they like.

If you are worried about your child or suspect that your child needs to be assessed, we have the full contact details of the Child Development Centre HK (CDC) below.

Below is a recap of what we spoke about and the visual aids after the video.

  • Yvonne Becher is the Chief Executive and the Director of Programme and Learning at The Child Development Centre (HK) with experience in clinical, educational and developmental psychology, having studied up to Master’s level at universities in Australia and obtaining her PhD at the University of Hong Kong. An advocate for children and the importance of early childhood, Yvonne also provides consultations for parents and maintains strong links to academia with partnering with The University of Hong Kong (HKU), consulting on East-Asian Pacific UNICEF projects, and other involvements in the community. She is also a firm believer in play being a necessity for the development of children.
  • The Child Development Centre (Hong Kong) (CDCHK) is an NGO started over 40 years ago that offers comprehensive services and assessments for children with additional or suspected developmental, behavioural or learning needs up to the age of 16, with an emphasis on early childhood up to age 8. Originally, the CDCHK started out to help the needs of non-Cantonese speaking families as a source of help for those children whose development were not as typical as expected. But currently, they serve everyone with both English and Chinese speaking services.
  • We spoke about the difference between the Maternal and Child Health Centres (MCHC) and the CDCHK and how the CDCHK is an additional resource for parents who suspect or is told that their child is not developing as expected. Usually when the MCHC suspect this, they would refer the child to a government services but there’s most likely a long wait list so parents have another option at the CDCHK for not just assessment and detection but also intervention on working with the child and working with the parents.
  • When it comes to childhood development issues, early intervention is crucial and we cannot intervene early enough.
  • Assessments can be done in person, online, in groups or individual as well for overall special needs development issues and more specific special needs. And parents do not need a referral letter to get an assessment from the CDCHK.
  • Scholarships are available, pending due diligence, for low-income families to use the CDCHK services.
  • Other than assessments and interventions, the CDCHK offers training and parenting tips so check out their website for these videos and articles.
  • The pandemic has limited the lack of diversity in opportunities for our children – opportunities for physical outlet for motor development, lack of language stimulation and enrichment, and lack of social settings – hear Yvonne’s full descriptions. These limitations will mean delays in a child’s development and we spoke about inborn delay versus delay because of pandemic.
  • Yvonne also explains that children that are already having developmental delays before the pandemic are falling behind more whereas a child who just started having delays because of the pandemic can catch up with a bit of help.
  • Parent’s anxiety has also increased because of the pandemic worrying about their child. However, the positive side of this pandemic is that people are more sensitive to what’s happening with their child as parents are at home more so more exposed to their child.
  • Screen time usage is definitely another issue stemming from the pandemic which we will discuss at another interview.
  • We are starting to see the impact on the children’s development, especially social anxiety that Yvonne gave some examples of, but the long-term impact is not yet understood at this time.
  • We also talked about the different age and what is happening and what we anticipate happening. For example, under 2 years old are sensitive to the home environment and atmosphere and we are watching out to see the long-term effects of their development as we are not aware yet of the full impact at this time. 2-6 years old are showing good resilience but the anxiety is creeping in with lack of routine and going in and out of school. We are more concern about pre-teens as what they are seeing and how they are seeing the pandemic – what they hear and how they interpret what they hear – might lead to the wrong conclusion which leads to lack of confidence and more anxiety.
  • How we the adults react and help the children navigate through this time is most important at this time. Hear Yvonne explains how this is key in helping our children.
  • Advice for parents during this pandemic to help their children:
    • Under 2 years old: Keep a good routine and balance lifestyle to expose them to play opportunities
    • 2-6 years old focused on a balance life style of learning life skills instead of just on academics and do try to go outside. Listen and talk to them and hears their concern for the older ones
    • 6+ years old need to be heard especially their concerns and what they hear about this pandemic. Also, parents need to give them independence so they are not always depending on their parents now that parents are home more.
    • Across all age group – watch their screen time
  • The CDCHK website and YouTube channel has a lot of resources especially for helping with activities to do at home if we get stuck at home again. Yvonne also recommended the website with a lot of ideas on play for children that parents in HK can adapt to their smaller homes.
  • Yvonne also recommends letting the kids have unstructured play – parents and adults DO NOT always have to entertain the kids as they should be able to entertain themselves.
  • We also asked Yvonne about her views on the recent article from the South China Morning Post about how children in HK are unhealthy and unhappy. Yvonne suggested we focus on how we are modelling the behaviours and to be there for them (support) – listen to her examples.
  • Best time to speak to the children is during relax time to connect with them about any issues or behaviour you’re noticing.
  • Invest in connecting with the kids starting at a younger age to build a better relationship in the future.

Thank you so much to Dr. Yvonne Becher for all the much-needed information and great advice! We suggest parents watch the interview and give yourself a couple of days to process the information and come back to us if you have any questions!

And we really hope these 30 minutes Parenting Help video interview is useful to you parents watching. As always, we advocate for each family to make the decision on what works for them and their kids. Our next interview is with an expert on the topic of how music is the foundation for all children’s learning so best to start early. This expert will also give us examples and tips on how to foster our children’s learning development through music.

Below are the visuals we used during the interview for your information.

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