Birth to Five Helpline specialists support parents, caregivers and professionals facing COVID-19 challenges

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, families are facing new and stressful challenges. Our Birth to Five Helpline specialists have been working hard to give parents, caregivers and professionals the guidance and support they need more than ever.

Here are some of the common concerns that our Helpline specialists are hearing from callers, along with their advice. Of course, we recognize that every child and family dynamic is unique and there’s no “one-stop-shop” approach to raising young children, so if you have a similar concern, don’t hesitate to give our Helpline team a call at 877-705-KIDS (5437)!

Safely returning to child care/preschool

Many parents are worried about the safety of their child returning to child care or preschools, and wonder what other options they have if those resources are unavailable.

When making decisions about child care, Birth to Five Helpline specialists recommend relying on trusted health information from fact-based sources. Since COVID-19 is caused by a new coronavirus, scientists and health providers are constantly discovering new information as they study available data. When considering whether your child should return to child care, families should take into account child-to-adult ratios, washing hands, and having toys and other materials sanitized frequently. Check out the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guide to child care during COVID-19.

Although children returning to child care can also feel like a relief for a parent who could be able to work without interruption or distraction, children may experience difficulties transitioning back to programs after spending so many months at home. The Birth to Five Helpline specialists can support families to talk with their young children and prepare them for a successful return to child care. If your child is worried about returning to preschool or child care, there are ways you can help. Read about managing your child’s anxiety here.

When looking for a new child care program, Helpline specialists recommend contacting Arizona Child Care Resource & Referral, a community resource that helps families find accredited and DES-approved centers.

If parents choose to keep their child at home instead of returning to child care, there are many resources available to help parents support their child’s learning and development. Here are some recommendations:

There are tons of resources, but the core focus is to create a daily structure that allows for supporting your child’s exploration and learning through regular interaction and play. Even through seemingly simple activities like cooking dinner together or going for a walk every morning, young children practice communication and motor skills, learn new things and take comfort in having a predictable routine. Play is a key part of a child’s development, so daily play is also important. Read more about play: Articles for Families on Play

Helping children adapt to changes

Changes caused by COVID-19 have influenced everyone’s lives. Adults are confused and stressed—and children are too! The uncertainty, insecurity, changes in schedules and opportunities to see loved ones can cause children to feel anxious or frustrated. Young children might not yet be able explain what they feel, but their behaviors give us clues. The Birth to Five Helpline has heard many parents describing changes in sleep routines, potty training, more hitting and increased activity level that is difficult to contain and support.

Depending on the developmental stage of your child, Birth to Five Helpline specialists help find ways and language parents can use to help their young children understand the COVID-19 pandemic and what their family is doing to keep them safe and healthy. The Birth to Five Helpline often shares these resources on how to discuss COVID-19 with children:

Balancing work and child care

With many child care centers and preschools closed, some parents find themselves in a difficult situation: Working from home and parenting young children at the same time. For families who have children with special needs, the challenge may be even bigger. The Birth to Five Helpline specialists have a few ideas to consider.

One increasingly popular option for child care is “family pods.” A family partners with another family who has children of similar ages. They agree on safety precautions and can then share/alternate the care of their children.

Families with two parents working from home while taking care of their children can, when possible, can schedule who is in charge of their child(ren) while the other parent works. If other family members or adults in the home are available, see if they are willing to schedule their help.

Even with a plan or schedule, balancing work and parenting is difficult and stressful. Birth to Five Helpline specialists recommend that parents remain aware of their needs as well as their children’s needs. It’s never possible to fulfill everyone’s needs all the time, especially during a pandemic! Knowing what you need and balancing it with your family’s needs is a good model for children. They can learn how to wait, how to take turns and that in a family, everybody matters.

Practicing mindfulness and deep breathing exercises can also help parents and children de-stress together.

During stressful times, the Birth to Five Helpline wants to remind parents: You are enough and you are not alone. Feeling overwhelmed and unsure is common and understandable, now more than ever. The most important thing is finding time to intentionally connect with and show love to your child.

For free child development support, call the Birth to Five Helpline at 877-705-KIDS (5437) or download the Birth to Five Helpline app in the Apple App Store or Google Play!

Call the Helpline to speak with one of our bilingual (English/Spanish) specialists, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

All content in this article, including any advice or commentary from Southwest Human Development staff and/or others, should be considered an opinion and is provided for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for medical or other professional advice, diagnosis or treatment.  Always seek the direct advice of your own trusted professional with any questions or concerns you may have regarding the child/ren in your care.  Southwest Human Development does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, products, procedures or other information that may be mentioned in this article.  You may contact Southwest Human Development’s Birth to Five Helpline at 1-877-705-KIDS (5437) to speak with one of our early childhood professionals for personalized assistance.  Birth to Five Helpline specialists are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.