It has been almost a year of pandemic parenting, an all-consuming, ever-changing chaos that has tested American families in unprecedented ways.
Schools closed, then opened, then closed again. Playdates were fewer and fraught with new rules. Working parents often did their jobs without child care, while parents of teens did their best to buffer against a litany of losses – friends, sports, proms, graduations. For many low-income families, COVID-19 exacerbated existing hardships, and toxic stress trickled down from parent to child.
Nine months after COVID-19 changed everything, parents are asking the same question they asked at the start: Will my children be OK?
To answer that, USA TODAY spoke with more than a dozen experts. What we heard was children need what they always have: caregivers who are present and emotionally available. They need people to help them make sense of uncertainty and loss, who can help them navigate fear and change.
“Children can go through divorce, they can go through death, they can go through just an amazing array of things and come out looking pretty good, if they’ve got somebody who can support them,” said Mary Dozier, a psychology professor at the University of Delaware who studies children who have experienced adversity.
USA TODAY asked parents for their most pressing questions. Experts in child development and education answer below.
Experts say there is no universal “normal.” To know how well your child is coping, look for…