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Science, Health, Tech

Nemours offers parents tips on navigating changing pandemic landscape

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Delaware Public Media
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Nearly 2 years into the pandemic, Nemours Children’s Health recently hosted a webinar to help parents and caregivers continue safeguarding their children.

Experts say safeguarding takes many forms, from monitoring children’s mental health to getting them vaccinated.

Dr. Kenneth Alexander, Chief of Infectious Disease at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Florida, says one of the best ways to protect your children during the pandemic is to get them vaccinated.

“A lot of Americans have now been vaccinated,” said Dr. Alexander. “We’ve got a real understanding of the effects of this vaccine. And what do we know? It keeps people out of the hospital. It works really, really well.”

He notes there have been cases of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, associated with the vaccine. However, rates of myocarditis due to COVID-19 are much higher.

The Nemours experts concede vaccine hesitancy among caregivers is common, fueled by concerns over vaccine side effects. However, they agree the cost of getting COVID-19 without the vaccine far outweighs the possibility of vaccine side effects.

But safeguarding children doesn’t stop at physical health. Since March of 2020, experts say teen depression and anxiety rates have doubled. Recent research shows the rate has also significantly increased for pre-teens and younger children.

Dr. Zachary Radcliff, a pediatric psychologist at Nemours Children’s Health, explains what warning signs caregivers can look for to indicate changes in a child’s mental health.

They include irritability, loss of interest and enjoyment in their favorite things, avoidance, and changes in things like sleep, appetite, self-care, and social behavior.

But Radcliff notes social isolation may present a little differently in children, especially because of increased internet use.

For a lot of teens especially they were able to be connected online. So online connection is actually valuable connection,” explained Radcliff. “We know that there’s good research that shows that people who are connected significantly to friend groups through, kind of, text, online, social media, in meaningful ways- that can be really beneficial.”

While online connections may be beneficial and should be encouraged, he also stresses it’s important to monitor your child’s internet and social media activity.

Overall, Nemours stresses the importance of being curious, non-judgmental, and creating space for your children as they navigate through the pandemic.