Social and community disruptions caused by the COVID-19 restrictions could have a lasting effect on child wellbeing, Flinders University researchers warn.
While health, safety and education responses are the focus of restrictions, the needs of childhood independence, self-determination and play are less acknowledged, Flinders University experts explain in a new publication.
“Play is a key aspect of children’s wellbeing from their perspectives,” says lead author Jennifer Fane, a PhD candidate now based overseas. “The closure of playgrounds, schools and the fear and worry associated with being in public spaces has likely had significant impacts on children during this time.
“As children return to school, and life starts to resume as it did pre-COVID-19, focus and attention to children’s opportunities for play – and their ability to exercise reasonable ‘agency’ during this time of significant transition – are two key aspects that can support their wellbeing during this difficult time.”
While everyone’s freedoms have been impacted by COVID-19 pandemic, children’s agency, or ability to make choices and decisions within adult-imposed constraints, has never been more apparent.
“Young children interviewed in the study told us of the importance to their lives of trying new things and having a say about play,” says Flinders Professor of Public Health Colin MacDougall, a co-author on the Child Indicators Research paper.
“As the world takes baby steps to ease these life-saving restrictions, and move into an uncertain future, we must take the time to think about very young children.
“This research can be used to help chart a course for the multiple transitions these children are undergoing.”
Ms Fane, whose PhD at Flinders focused on communicating with preschoolers, says these perspectives can support child wellbeing in future, including as government restrictions on people’s boundaries affects where children play and how much they can have a say.
The article, ‘Preschool Aged Children’s Accounts of their Own Wellbeing: are Current Wellbeing Indicators Applicable to Young Children?’ (May 2020) by J Fane, C MacDougall, J Jovanovic, G Redmond and L Gibbs has been published in Child Indicators Research https://doi.org/10.1007/s12187-020-09735-7.
Footnote: UNICEF has unveiled a guide to talking to children about the COVID-19 pandemic.