Dear colleagues and friends,
The year 2020 is nearing its end and there have been a lot of memes going around expressing the wish that the whole year could be cancelled or erased. This issue of Perspectives is about one of the major reasons for people wishing for this, the Covid-19 pandemic. For those of us working with infants and their families in different parts of the world the year has meant increased worrying. Prolonged or repeated lockdowns of communities and cities have meant complete loss or at least reduced accessibility of services for the families in both health care and social services, and we know how harmful that can be for the wellbeing of our client families. At the same time worries concerning the health of our own families and ourselves have been in our minds all this time, and the worry for our colleagues working in the different occupations where social distancing is not possible. As many of you may remember, I live in Finland which in all the memes is the country with serious, silent people who like to keep at least 2 meters distance from one another. So this year may perhaps have been a bit easier for us Finns concerning instructions of social distancing, as it is not our custom to kiss friends hello or goodbye, and even hugging each other is a new custom that youngsters have adopted far more easily than earlier generations. Yet, even for us the necessity of not meeting our relatives and friends has started taking its toll. The most painful issue for us, too, has been not being able to see our elderly relatives for fear of infecting them, and particularly grandchildren not being able to visit grandparents for longer periods of time. Luckily there is now good news coming in from different countries concerning the development and effect of new vaccines against the Covid-19, but it will still take a while before the pandemic is over.
In Finland the recommendation for wearing protective masks in offices and public spaces was not issued until this autumn. Slowly but steadily the number of adults wearing masks in public has increased and questions concerning young children’s reactions to this have been raised here too. Just this morning I read in our local newspaper a plea from an early educator to allow the staff in day care centers to work without face-covering masks. In this issue of Perspectives you will also find a paper discussing the possible effect of adult mask-wearing on infants and young children. It is hard to reconcile the need to prevent the Covid-19 virus from spreading with the need of young children to see us showing emotions with our facial expressions. How then should we advise parents in this difficult situation? One thing we can tell parents is that if no one in the family is ill with the virus, masks at home are not needed. Parents could also be encouraged to increase the time they are in face-to-face interaction with their infants and young children, and leave smart phones and other gadgets alone until children have gone to bed. Having said that, there is one thing where computers and online connections can be of use. Our president Campbell Paul has mentioned in many of his talks how infants and young children can be engaged in interaction via video connection in remote clinical sessions. Maybe we could encourage grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and other close adults to spend some time weekly in interaction with infants and young children. It is amazing what we can do these days with our smart phones, tablets and computers. I myself was lucky to have a lovely experience of exchanging recorded voice messages with my four-year-old grandson which was really heartwarming in its simplicity. I also saw a lovely video of my nephew’s newborn son (I am a four-time great aunt as well), and was able to reassure the parents that the funny sounds he made in his sleep meant that he was dreaming and that there was nothing wrong with the baby. A little thing for me, but a big question for the new parents.
I have often talked about how we all need support and reassurance, no matter whether we are old or young, experienced or new to things. In these times with so many uncertainties about the future, I believe we need each other’s support even more. And since we cannot meet and touch each other as much as we would like to, let us send a nice message to, call or videocall our near ones and encourage the parents to reach out as well in all the ways they can. Let’s make all this technology work for the good of us all, and particularly for our young ones.
My warmest wishes to all of you,