School-age

5 most worrisome problems the pandemic has caused for students

From falling behind in the curriculum to being flat out disengaged, kids are suffering at the hands of online schooling. Here's how.

Concern for kids’ pandemic well-being prevails as the school year winds down for the second year in a row.

In Ontario, after parents spent the end of May wondering if and when children could be sent to in-person learning, they finally heard schools won’t re-open this school year.

After announcing home learning would continue to the end of the year, Nova Scotia reversed direction, so as of June 3, all students found themselves back in school.

These are the latest signs of how, over the past 15 pandemic months, Canada’s kindergarten to Grade 12 education system has been turned upside down.

School disruptions have exposed the fragility of the modern, centralized, bureaucratic education state, which I analyzed in my 2020 book, The State of the System.

Parents, learning experts and pediatricians report that “the kids are not all right.” There are real concerns about the “snowball effect” of losses in literacy, skill development and the preparation of graduating students.

The pandemic education shock has raised five critical issues that demonstrate how student achievement and social well-being are far from mutually exclusive.

1. Myth of “21st century” learning

The heavily promoted and much-anticipated age of “21st century learning,” characterized by curricula touting broad, holistic learning and a emphasis on
technological skills rang hollow when students and teachers were struggling to master technology for continuous learning.

Thrust into the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, what emerged was emergency triage learning slapped together on the fly.

The educational technology giants, exemplified by Microsoft, Pearson International and Google, achieved dominance through the spread of their educational technology. Some scholars, teachers and parents are critically scrutinizing their incursion into education.

Sitting around their kitchen tables helping their children with home learning has also opened the eyes of thousands of parents to the everyday realities of technology-driven 21st-century learning, and laid bare student skill deficits in mathematics and literacy.

2. Student learning loss

Since September of 2020, the full extent of the “learning slide” affecting all students, and particularly the most disadvantaged, became more visible.

Much like earlier studies generated in the Netherlands, United Kingdom and the United States, the first wave of Canadian research reports and surveys testify to the combined academic and psycho-social impacts on children and families.

A more recent May 2021 CBC investigation, based on responses from nearly 9,500 teachers in eight provinces, revealed that three out of four respondents were behind schedule with their curriculum, and more than half reported students were not meeting the expected learning outcomes.

The Canadian public has been left in the dark about the impact of pandemic learning loss, particularly on the development of Canada’s youngest learners. One of the few Canadian literacy impact studies, conducted by University of Alberta education researcher George Georgiou is alarming. He found that readers in grades 1 to 3 were lagging six to eight months behind.

3. Student absenteeism and disengagement

Both teachers and educational experts have sounded alarm bells about students disengaging from remote schooling.

The Globe and Mail reports that about 360 students in the Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board have been “persistently absent,” and missed 16 or more days — the benchmark of chronic absenteeism. Record numbers of students are missing attendance checks or not reporting in at all.

Research in the U.S. suggests there is a significant cohort of students worried about parents or guardians having enough money to pay the bills and who have decided to work to earn money after high school.

4. Blurring of parent and teacher roles

Conventional school-home boundaries have blurred as home learning becomes more common. There are signs of what human relations expert Pauline Boss termed “family boundary ambiguity.”

Under stressful conditions, parents have been expected to establish regular routines and take on the instructor role. Teachers face new challenges adapting to radically different, mostly unfamiliar tech-enabled teaching.

In Alberta, education professor Bonnie Stelmach’s research for the Alberta Schools Councils’ Association unearthed unreported problems associated with the incredible burden home learning shifts to parents.

Based upon a survey of 1,067 parents and 566 teachers, plus 10 in-depth interviews with parents, and 10 with teachers, the study demonstrated the profound effects of the pandemic on parent-teacher relations.

The study documented widespread confusion in how to interpret “ministry directives” when it came to expected time on task (hours per week), real-time online instruction and student outcomes. Diploma exams for Grade 12 were suspended, as were provincial achievement tests for students in grades 6 and 9. The Minister of Education that announced that all students would progress to the next grade. Parents and teachers reported that especially for older students, this removed any motivation to work through to the end of the year. Those issues cry out for further research in other provinces.

5. Need for “future-proof learning”

We are in the midst of what comparative social researcher Loris Caruso termed “epochal social change.” Schooling may never be the same again.

Students and families will increasingly be offered a choice between in-person and virtual learning for their children.

What students, teachers and families really need is “future-proof” learning. That term, coined by educational psychologist Paul A. Kirschner, provides a viable and much-needed alternative to pursuing holistic, ill-defined 21st-century skills or embracing competency-based student graduation standards. According to Kirschner, the best way forward in pandemic times is focussing on “the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to continue to learn in a stable and enduring way in a rapidly changing world.”

Overcoming the pandemic education shock will call for decidedly new strategies. Months ago, UNESCO warned that we were facing a “generational catastrophe.” A recent university study demonstrates the significant educational effects in Ontario of mass and localized school closures and gaps in support for students with disabilities.

International education expert Prachi Srivastava notes the time has come to to reframe the challenges facing K–12 education by addressing learning loss and “extend[ing] cross-sectoral approaches prioritizing the vulnerable and at-risk.”

Post-pandemic education is looking more like a rescue mission — one that needs to begin by putting the pandemic generation back on the path to sound education. That way, today’s schoolchildren will be better prepared to lead meaningful, productive lives.The Conversation

Paul W Bennett is an adjunct professor of education at Saint Mary’s University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Kids health

Has COVID turned our kids into permanent homebodies?

We're so used to stay-at-home orders, lax schedules, no activities, and nowhere to be, that when things open up again, it’s going to be weird—especially for our kids.

Are your kids refusing to sign up for their usual sports teams, group activities or day camps, even if restrictions soon lift and they’re deemed safe again this summer? It’s distressing when our children announce they’d rather stay home and play Roblox than meet up at the park for a masked playdate with buddies. On the one hand, it’s great that so many kids have adapted and settled into being at home so much–we’re all trying to see the positives of a situation we cannot control. On the other hand, parents may be wondering if their children have become permanent homebodies with no desire to see the outside world. Many of us have had kids in remote school indefinitely, or switching back and forth all year, and all of our social skills are atrophying. After so much time at home, it’s distressing to picture what it will feel like when we ease back into some version of a normal life again. 

In my practice as a parenting coach, I’ve also heard from some families that their kids are already anxious about returning to in-person school next September. 

First of all, rest assured that this is to be expected, and from my expertise as a parenting coach, our kids definitely aren’t “broken.” We all adjusted to the new COVID normal: lots of time at home. That’s what we do as humans—we adjust when we need to. But just because we can and do adjust, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Transitions are always hard. (If you’ve had a child who refuses to get in the bathtub and then once they’re finally in, they refuse to get out, you know what I’m talking about.) We’ve gotten so used to stay-at-home orders, lax schedules, no activities, and nowhere to be. When we start opening up again, it’s going to be weird—especially for our kids.

Let’s look at the science behind it, too. Our brains are wired to prefer certainty and familiarity. This is why going out and seeing people again may be anxiety-inducing. Our amygdala (the part of our brain that keeps us safe) loves it when life is predictable and comfortable. When we feel we are in times of transition and unfamiliarity, our amygdala can take over and goes into high alert. This is why staying at home and playing video games can feel a whole lot “safer” than going back to our old activities and school routine. Our amygdalas hate a challenge, even if, logically, we know it’s for the better.

OK, so if we know that transitions are hard for kids at the best of times, and that our brains love the certainty of the known, what can we do to help our kids as they navigate this? 

First, teach your kid how their brain works.

Explain to your kid that their amygdala can act like a smoke alarm that goes off when the toast burns. It might feel like an emergency, but they are actually safe. We can hear the messages coming from our amygdala: “Stay home! It’s nice and safe here!” and choose not to act on them. Those thoughts are like the “junk mail” of our brains. Observe the thoughts, recognize it’s a false alarm, and toss them out. 

Normalize their reluctance. 

We can say, “Of course you’re hesitant, and maybe even a little worried. This is a big change and we’ve been at home for so long. It’s totally normal to feel this way.” Knowing it’s normal to be afraid helps us to be brave. 

Reassure children that whatever happens, we can handle it. 

We’ve told kids for so long that it’s not safe to be out and close to people, but soon we’ll be telling them that certain activities are OK. It’s understandable that our children might be a bit worried. To help them feel less anxious, we need them to understand that no matter what happens, we can handle it. (“We can handle it” is the anti-anxiety rallying cry.)

Role play and practice. 

If you have toddlers or young children, you can play with stuffies or action figures and act out some of the new scenarios. You should pretend to be the hesitant toy who is feeling resistant to the transition, and let your child be the hero who solves the problem. If you have older children, you can play “What will you do when…” or “What could you do if…” This helps their brains move from the abstract to the concrete and prepares them for actual situations. 

Remind them how fun life was pre-COVID. 

Get out some pictures, slide shows, or phone videos of all the fun things we used to do. Share memories of favourite experiences. Anxiety can make us forget the past and that we actually can handle new or challenging situations. 

Make time for intentional connection. 

When kids feel secure and connected,  it’s easier for them to venture out into the big world. Remember the toddler at a playgroup who would alternate between “checking in” with a parent and exploring? They had to be sure their mom or dad was still there before they could venture out on their own. What I call “Daily Special Time”—15 minutes a day of one-on-one time spent immersed in your child’s world of play, whatever it is—really helps kids feel more connected. It’s hard when you’re distracted by work and household responsibilities that need to be managed, too, but zeroing in on your kid for a very focused, undivided period of time will help. For this undivided 15 minutes, avoid screens and structured things like board games. Walk the dog together, ask your kid to play their fave songs for you, or shoot some hoops. This kind of connection also helps ease the ordinary daily transitions, like getting ready for bed or getting out the door in the morning. These transitions are often tough because we, as adults, are busy getting ourselves or other children ready. But if we can stop to play with them at their level for even just five focussed minutes, it can help. 

Be a strong and enthusiastic leader. 

Look for things to do as a family that involve getting back out into the world again, together. Start small—maybe it’s just going for a jog or a bike ride together. If your local library has opened, look into family-friendly programming. Maybe there’s a pottery studio with classes for adults and kids. When you sign up for some of the things your children used to love doing, make an extra effort to enroll them with a friend or two. Be positive but firm, and convey that participating in activities or interests is not negotiable. “You are going to Circus Camp with Maddie and Lily this summer!” Take electronics off the activity menu. (The choices aren’t “stay home and play Fortnite or go to soccer; the choices are go to soccer or stay home and be bored.) 

Get laughing!

Our bodies create stress chemicals and hormones when we feel anxious. These are useful if we have to actually mobilize for a fight or flee from a predator. But if we don’t find a way to shed these chemicals, they can build up and make us feel even more anxious. Laughter flushes the stress chemicals from our bodies, reduces anxiety and eases tension. Silly kitchen dance parties, encouraging at home-pranks (kids love whoopee cushions), keeping a few joke books around the house, and physical activity like daily roughhousing sessions with your children can release tension and get everyone laughing. (And by the way, roughhousing doesn’t actually have to be rough—it’s anything silly that gets them giggling.) 

Above all else, take a deep breath and give yourself some love. The pandemic has been hard on the children—and their parents. For over a year, we’ve been trying to juggle work and home while adapting to our kids’ moods, big feelings, and ever-changing needs. But with time, we will adapt to life after COVID, as well. 

Sarah Rosensweet is a certified peaceful parenting coach, speaker, and parenting advice columnist. She lives in Toronto with her husband and three big kids (ages 13, 16, and 19). You can read more from her at sarahrosensweet.com.

Kids health

The colour of your kid's swimsuit could save their life

Dressing your kid in vibrant colours makes them easier to spot in a crowd—and under water, too.

Summer is just around the corner, and with it comes days by the pool, trips to the beach and weekends at the cottage. While all these outings can be tons of fun for the family, it’s important to be aware of the risks that come with being around water—and how little things, like something as simple as the colour of your kid’s bathing suit, can help keep them safe.

That’s right, dressing our children in bright colours doesn’t only protect them in a crowd. While your kid can disappear at an amusement park in the time it takes for you to check your phone, having good visibility is also crucial when they’re in or around a body of water.

After all, drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental deaths in children: It’s quick, it’s quiet and it can happen to anyone (even good swimmers!). This is why water safety company ALIVE Solutions Inc. conducted a study to see how colour impacts visibility. The company took swimsuits in a variety of hues and submerged them in both a lake and a pool to test which colours were easiest to see underwater, so if your kid does start to drown you’ll be able to spot them quickly.

Photo: Courtesy of ALIVE Solutions Inc.

In the lake, they observed the suits in 18 inches of water from three different perspectives (including the elevated position of a parent sitting on the dock) and found the top colours for visibility to be neon yellow, neon green and neon orange.

“Think bright and contrasting,” the company says in a post detailing their findings. They also noted that it’s important to consider other environmental factors that may impact visibility, including water clarity, lighting, currents and the weather.

Photo: Courtesy of ALIVE Solutions Inc.

In the pool, they tested visibility in both still and agitated water, and also found that bright and contrasting colours are your best bets. In this setting, white and light blue had the worst visibility, and neon pink and neon orange had the best.

“Although the darker colours show up on a light pool bottom,” the company wrote, “they can often be dismissed for a pile of leaves, dirt, or a shadow.”

While neons were the best options overall, it’s interesting to note that some colours, like neon pink, were easy to see in a pool but practically disappeared in the lake. It’s important to cater your kids’ swimwear to the type of water they’re visiting.

So next time you’re buying your kid a bathing suit, you might want to think more about colour than style. And keep these other water safety tips in mind:

  • Remember that drowning can occur in any body of water, not just a lake or a pool. Kids can drown in as little as two inches of water meaning bathtubs, buckets and even toilets are potential hazards.
  • Make sure whoever is on watch duty knows they’re on watch duty and will be able to rescue if needed. This person should avoid all distractions, including their phone, and be 100 percent focussed on the swimmers.
  • Having basic first-aid training and becoming CPR certified are great ideas for anyone planning to spend time by the water this summer— it may not be your kid that you have to save!
  • Teaching your kids how to swim and how to behave safely around water are also key ways to prevent drowning. Kids can start swimming lessons when they’re around one years old and should be taught self-rescue techniques on top of their basic swimming skills.
  • Keep your kids’ bicycles, scooters and other wheeled toys away from the water. They can easily skid out and fall into the pool unexpectedly, becoming trapped underneath the object they were riding.

Kids health

Kids Help Phone saw a 350% increase in calls during COVID

CEO Katherine Hay breaks down the surge in demand for support during the pandemic.

Katherine Hay is the president and CEO of Kids Help Phone, which provides mental health support to youth across Canada. During the pandemic, her organization has seen a huge spike in calls, texts and online messages. Hay spoke to Toronto Life about what’s causing the surge and how Kids Help Phone mobilized to meet the increased need for support.

How has the pandemic affected what you do at Kids Help Phone?
During the first two or three months after Covid hit, we saw a 350 per cent increase in calls. We didn’t go dark for even one minute. When the pandemic hit, we didn’t say, “Well, we better start innovating.” We were built for something like Covid. We offer several different services: our phone line; our text line, Good2Talk; and a crisis service. Though it’s still human-to-human communication, our crisis text line uses machine learning to triage based on a texter’s severity of need. It looks for particular words that are more likely to indicate that a texter is in need of an active rescue.

Has the demand continued throughout the pandemic?
Yes. Even putting aside Covid, it hasn’t been a happy, sunshiny year. We saw a spike across all our platforms when the Australian bushfires started at the beginning of 2020. We saw another spike with the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash. Again after the Nova Scotia shootings, when grief went through the roof. The number of kids reaching out to us about racism and discrimination doubled in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. This was not new for Black and Indigenous youth, who know social injustice intimately, but those were some of the most distressed texters we’ve seen. They were also most likely to talk about suicide.

What other kinds of issues are these kids seeking support for?
A year ago, we saw a big increase in conversations around isolation, fear, anxiety and depression. As the pandemic has worn on, we’re continuing to see fear—of the virus, of parents getting sick, of kids getting sick themselves. Kids have also experienced a huge amount of loss and grief. They’ve lost their regular routines, friendships, school, graduation. Kids are also experiencing a lot of issues around gender and sexual identity, because they’re isolated from some of the people and places—like school guidance counsellors, teachers and friends—that might have offered support. The intensity of emotion has increased exponentially, too. Young people are having longer, heavier conversations with our counsellors. But we actually saw a dip in suicide and suicidal ideation at the beginning of Covid.

Interesting. What do you attribute that to?
I can only theorize. But at the start of the pandemic, many kids were at home in supported environments, with parents around. On the other hand, we saw an enormous increase—about 46 per cent—in kids speaking to us about abuse, whether sexual, physical or psychological. There are homes that aren’t safe. Kids who might have been getting support at school now had nowhere to go.

I’ve heard that eating disorders have also increased during Covid because people are stuck at home. Have you seen any evidence of that?
Yes. Year over year, we’ve seen about a 110 per cent increase in the number of calls we’ve received about eating disorders. Young people are telling us that they’re bored and not getting enough exercise. Also, they’re not getting a real view of the world. The only thing they’re seeing is perfection—on TV, on social media. And they can’t be as perfect as what they’re seeing, so they feel really bad about themselves.

What kinds of support do these kids receive when they reach out to Kids Help Phone?
Our job is to be there for young people in the moment. The wait time for a young person to see a psychologist can be 12, 18, 24 months. Our wait times are under five minutes. We’re there to complement and support the mental health system, but we can’t be the only solution. When kids reach out, we can direct them to resources on youth mental health services across the country. For example, if you’re a young person in Dryden, Ontario, who wants to come out but can’t tell your parents, and you’re now out on the street, our counsellors can locate LBGTQ support groups, food banks and shelters in Dryden. From our data, we know that 80 per cent of our callers feel better after speaking to us. More than 55 per cent will tell us something that they’ve never told anyone before. Another eight per cent say that if they hadn’t spoken to us, they would have gone to the emergency room.

How do you make sure young people know about Kids Help Phone and reach out when they need help?
We’re the only 24/7 bilingual mental health service for youth in Canada. Young people know about us and will find us. We’re all over social media—Twitch, Instagram, gaming sites. We make a concerted effort to get into their spaces. For example, Facebook Messenger is a big tool for Indigenous youth and adults who live in remote areas that might not have reliable cell service. So we built the technology and implemented a Facebook Messenger service in September. These young people who reach out to Kids Help Phone have a tremendous amount of courage. They’re reaching out because they have hope. They’re trying to get to tomorrow. With that hope and resilience, we can step in and make a difference. It’s not unfixable. Our young people are showing us what they need. That’s a silver lining.

Kids health

These types of child injuries surged during the pandemic

The pandemic changed everything—including how our kids got hurt. Here's a look at what went up and what went down.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a ripple effect on just about everything, and that includes how, why and where kids get hurt. Rates of some paediatric injuries have gone up and others have gone down, and that has a lot to do with where we are most of the time: home. 

The good news? “Sport-related injuries, like organized hockey and soccer, are down because those activities haven’t been happening over the past year and a bit,” says Pamela Fuselli, president and CEO of Parachute, a national injury prevention organization. But on the other hand, “Other injuries, specifically around home safety issues, are seeing a rise around the country, because kids and families are spending more time at home.” 

She adds that the difficult juggling act that many parents are performing—paid work, childcare and schooling all at the same time—can make it very tough to have the level of supervision that you would ordinarily want. “I think it’s a real contributor to the patterns that we’re seeing.” 

Here are some child injury issues to have on your radar. (Note that these are preliminary numbers from various sites, and that country-wide stats from Public Health Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada take several years to be collected and analyzed.)

Poisonings

In the early days of the pandemic, when we were all furiously scrubbing and disinfecting, poison control centres saw a spike in calls about ingestion of cleaners and disinfectants. Those numbers seem to have gone down, but poisoning due to consuming hand sanitizers continues to be high, says Fuselli. In 2019, the Canadian poison control centres got about 100 calls per month about hand sanitizer—in March 2020 that figure jumped to 300 to 400 per month, and remains at about that level. 

Battery ingestions

Although the number of battery ingestions fluctuates yearly, preliminary data show child-related injuries related to swallowing button batteries, (found in devices like fitness trackers, hearing aids, singing greeting cards and key fobs), and magnets (found in some toys, board games, craft and science kits, and fridge magnets) were on the high end in Canada in 2020. In the United States, emergency visits due to battery ingestion almost doubled during the pandemic, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

If you even suspect your kid has swallowed a battery or magnet, get medical help immediately. 

Cannabis ingestion

Some Canadian poison control centres also reported a rise in accidental ingestion of cannabis. For example, the IWK Regional Poison Centre in Halifax had 37 calls about cannabis exposure in children in 2020, compared to 14 in 2019.  “Things like cannabis and cannabis edibles—you may not think about them as a drug, funnily enough, and take the same kind of precautions that you might with other products,” says Fuselli.

Sport-related and motor vehicle collision injuries

If there’s one good thing that can come out of a stay-at-home order (aside from reducing the spread of COVID, of course), it’s this: Last year, the Montreal Children’s Hospital saw only three emergency room visits related to motor vehicle accidents—a significant decrease from an average of 50 per year from 2015 to 2019.

The shutdown of organized sports has also led to a decrease in injury: The Electronic Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program is seeing a “massive reduction in concussion and brain injury related to sports,” says Parachute.

Trampoline injuries

In Edmonton, Alberta, there were 47 emergency department visits for trampoline injuries in May 2020, compared to 28 in May 2019. Studies published from the United States and UK are showing increases in fractures from trampolines among children during the pandemic. (The Canadian Paediatric Society advises against home trampolines for kids, due to risk of injury.)

Cycling injuries

Bike rides are a great way for kids and families to get COVID-safe exercise, but it’s important to do so safely—a report from Montreal Children’s Hospital found that cycling injuries soared in 2020, after being on a downward trend since 2015.

What does all this mean for parents? If you’re the parent of a kid under six, get down to their level and see your home and yard from their point of view, which can help you ID some hazards, says Fuselli. And regardless of age, pay a little extra attention to the day-to-day activities, she says, like always wearing a bike helmet properly. No one wants a trip to the hospital for any reason right now.

Kids health

Worried about Lyme disease? Here’s how to protect your kids from ticks

Lyme disease is scary, and kids are particularly at risk. We talked to an expert about how to keep kids safe from tick bites.

Last July, a day after a family outing to the zoo, Crystal Cochrane of Edmonton was pulling five-year-old Mikayla’s hair into a ponytail when she felt a small sesame-seed-sized bump at her daughter’s hairline, near the nape of her neck. When combing didn’t dislodge it, Crystal looked closer and discovered a tick had firmly attached itself to Mikayla’s head. “I panicked,” Crystal recalls. “We had heard about Lyme disease, and knew it was bad.” Wanting to know for certain whether the bite might make Mikayla sick, the Cochranes headed to the Stollery Children’s Hospital, with the tick (which they had carefully removed and placed in a sealed container) in hand.

Lyme disease, an illness that’s transmitted via the bite of an infected deer tick, is relatively rare but has been on the rise in recent years in Canada (from 144 cases in 2009 to 1,487 in 2018), with children between five and nine years being more commonly affected than most other age groups. If not treated in its early stages, Lyme disease can cause problems, such as meningitis, temporary weakness of muscles in the face and arthritis. A very small proportion of ticks also carry Powassan virus, which can cause inflammation in the brain and serious neurological symptoms. Only about 25 cases have occurred in Canada in more than 50 years, but with ticks on the rise, experts are worried the population of infected ticks may also grow. So what do you need to know to protect your kids?

Learn where they lurk

Do you live in an area where there’s an established population of western black-legged or black-legged ticks? The former is found in parts of BC, while the latter lives in certain (in some cases, expanding) areas of Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The proportion of ticks carrying the infection varies depending on location—it’s typically between 10 and 20 percent, rising to more than 50 percent in certain hot spots. “We have maps at Canada.ca, but if you want to know about your region, you’re better off to consult your provincial public health website or phone your local health unit,” says Robbin Lindsay, a Public Health Agency of Canada scientist in Winnipeg who specializes in zoonotic diseases. Tick season runs roughly from May to September.

Reduce your risk of being bitten

Black-legged ticks typically live in, and along the edges of, wooded areas, hanging out on vegetation while waiting for a host to brush up against them. If you’re headed to such a place, make sure your kids wear pants (tuck them into their socks for maximum protection), long sleeves, a hat, and closed-toed shoes. “You want to deny ticks access to your skin,” notes Lindsay. To help spot hangers-on before they can attach, opt for light-coloured clothing. Apply a repellent containing DEET or icaridin to clothing and any exposed skin according to package directions. And soon after coming in from outdoors, systematically check kids from head to toe, ideally before having them take a shower or bath. A Yale study found that showering cuts the rate of Lyme infection more than a tick check alone—perhaps because it requires removing clothing, where loose ticks can lurk. Tossing clothes and gear into the dryer on a hot cycle (after washing if needed) for 10 minutes will kill any ticks hidden within them, says Lindsay.

Practise prompt removal

If you do find a tick attached to your child, lie a pair of tweezers flat (parallel) against her body, and use the tips to firmly grab the tick as close to the skin as you can. Then, pull upward steadily and evenly, taking care not to twist or jerk the tweezers. Once the tick is removed, place it in a container. Cleanse the broken skin with a disinfectant, such as rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. Because an infected tick has to be attached and feeding for some time to transmit the infection, “if you remove it within 24 hours, it’s highly unlikely the child will get Lyme disease,” explains Joan Robinson, the chair of the Canadian Paediatric Society’s Infectious Disease and Immunization Committee and a paediatrician at Edmonton’s Stollery Children’s Hospital. However, the more rare Powassan virus can be transmitted in a mere 15 minutes, so speedy removal is crucial.

Seek help if necessary

Robinson says there’s no need to take a child to the doctor following a tick bite unless they develop symptoms, such as a rash of any kind, fever, headaches, or muscle and joint pain after being bitten. “Then, it’s helpful to take the tick along,” she adds. If your physician suspects your child may be infected based on symptoms and exposure history, she will prescribe an antibiotic. Since blood tests can’t confirm the diagnosis until up to a month after a bite, when more serious complications can arise, kids can be treated without a formal diagnosis. Treating kids at this early stage almost always cures Lyme disease.

In the small minority of cases that aren’t detected until complications such as arthritis have developed, a longer course of antibiotics (or two) is needed to get rid of the infection, and it can take time for symptoms to disappear afterward.

Even if your child shows no worrisome symptoms, you can take the tick, in its container, to a local public health unit for identification. This helps authorities to track tick populations.

As for Mikayla, it turned out she was bit by an American dog tick—a type that doesn’t carry Lyme—and the redness and swelling were symptoms of a mild allergic reaction. The experience hasn’t dampened the Cochranes’ enthusiasm for the outdoors, though. “My kids have the pleasure of long sleeves, repellent and tick checks,” says Crystal. “And I carry tweezers.” Just in case.

This article was originally published in April 2017

Kids health

Opinion: The COVID-19 vaccine should be mandatory for kids—here’s why

Many governments already issue other mandates to keep kids safe, so why should the COVID-19 vaccine be any different?

On May 5, Health Canada approved a COVID-19 vaccine for use in children aged 12-15 years. The United States Food and Drug Administration quickly followed suit, and other countries are likely to do the same. Similar approvals for younger children are on the horizon.

This is very welcome news. It will not be possible to achieve full protection against COVID-19 at the population level unless most adolescents and children are vaccinated. However, factors such as vaccine hesitancy and mistaken beliefs about the risks COVID-19 poses to children may make this a challenging goal.

One tool that may serve to encourage vaccination uptake is vaccine mandates.

As philosophical researchers, we offer three ethical arguments in favour of making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for children, based on our research. We contend it would be ethically permissible for governments to impose a sanction (such as a fine or exclusion from social environments or activities) on those who fail to vaccinate their children.

Risk of harm to children

Argument one: If there is an easy, low-cost way for parents or guardians to avoid exposing children in their care to substantial risk of harm and death, they ought to do so.

COVID-19 presents a substantial risk of harm—including long-term health complications such as organ damage, long COVID, or multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) and death—to at least some proportion of children. We have limited knowledge about how large the at-risk group is and who is in it, and about the extent to which these conditions will be treatable.

If the COVID-19 vaccine is as safe and effective as other standard childhood vaccinations (or similarly safe as, it seems, most COVID-19 vaccines are for adults), it would provide parents and guardians with an easy, low-cost way to avoid exposing their children to an infection that may cause them serious harm or death.

Governments have an obligation to protect children from parents or guardians who might expose children in their care to easily avoidable risk of harm and death. Therefore, the state ought, in principle and in the absence of decisive countervailing reasons, to mandate that parents vaccinate their children against COVID-19.

We accept that the state protects children in other contexts by imposing obligations on adults to adopt easy, low-cost ways of avoiding significant harm and death, for example, by using car seats and seat belts for their children when driving.

Risk of harm to others

Argument two: If, by vaccinating their children, parents and guardians can avoid imposing a significant risk of harm and death on others in an easy, low-cost way, they ought to vaccinate their children.

The threat to all of us from COVID-19 is significant. The risk unvaccinated children pose is especially great. Children contribute to the spread of the virus through social mixing, often in large groups (for example, in classrooms). Moreover, the longer children remain unvaccinated, the more opportunity exists for a new, more potent variant of COVID-19 to emerge and threaten us all.

A safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine would provide parents and guardians with an easy, low-cost way to avoid imposing the significant risk of harm or death associated with COVID-19 on others.

The state is required to adopt measures to protect populations from exposure to risk of harm and death that might be avoided easily and at low cost. Therefore, the state ought (again in principle and in the absence of decisive countervailing reasons) to mandate that parents vaccinate their children.

We accept that the state protects populations with low-cost and easy avoidance of risk of harm and death in other contexts by, for example, imposing speed limits, limits on alcohol consumption and vision requirements for driving.

We also already accept that the state imposes obligations on parents to take measures to prevent their children from posing risks to others in many contexts. Childhood vaccinations are already mandatory in some liberal democracies, and most liberal democracies mandate that children attend school to provide them with a civic education, and prohibit children from carrying weapons, for similar reasons.

Children’s well-being

Argument three: One very compelling reason we have to end the pandemic and to mandate vaccination relates to children’s well-being. We must protect children from the mental and physical effects of lockdown and other restrictions, or effects of insufficient restrictions, such as school closures due to infection spread.

Restrictions and the effects of spreading infection lead to decreased opportunities for the pursuit of well-being. Impacts on education alone are considerable, especially amongst the least well off.

But most important of all we want children to thrive. The third argument for mandating the vaccination of children turns on unique features of children’s well-being. Children’s well-being may have different elements than adults’. For example, adults may be focused on values like authentic happiness and rational desires. This may not be true of (especially young) children.

While happiness and the satisfaction of desires matter to children’s well-being, these might not be all that matters. Other so-called “objective goods” may play a significant role in children’s well-being. These include loving and supportive relationships, various forms of play, learning and intellectual development.

Ending the pandemic is essential to enabling children to enjoy the so-called “goods of childhood,” including valuable relationships with friends and extended family (especially older adults), various forms of unstructured play, exploration and intellectual development, and to pursue them in a carefree way in the absence of unavoidable worries about risk.

Childhood is a relatively short period in an individual’s life. It is important for preparing children to meet the challenges of adulthood. But it is also a time in which to savour particular kinds of goods in a unique way. An effective way to secure this for all children is to mandate their vaccination.

We believe these three arguments are compelling reasons for vaccinating children. We hold that they offer a strong case for considering mandating vaccination for children. However, even if there are decisive counter-arguments for not mandating vaccination in some contexts, we maintain that our arguments provide parents or guardians with conclusive reasons to vaccinate their children.The Conversation

Anthony Skelton is an associate professor of philosophy and core member of the Rotman Institute of Philosophy at Western University and Lisa Forsberg is a British Academy postdoctoral fellow at the University of Oxford.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Style

35 pairs of sandals for kids that you can buy online

Kids home and no time to browse online? We got you.

It’s hard to believe it, but another pandemic summer is upon us. And with many kids once again home all day, finding time to browse the internet for your summer essentials is basically impossible. So, we’ve done the work for you.

Here are some of our favourite sandals for kids. And the best part? You can buy them right from your phone! Happy shopping.

Tween and teen

Why I let my daughter wear booty shorts

I care about my daughter's behaviour, her sense of confidence, and her belief in her body as her own—not where her shorts fall or the size of her bikini bottoms.

When my daughter was in second grade, a major heat wave hit Southern California. Most of the schools near the beach don’t have air conditioning, so when temperatures climb above 90 degrees, coastal San Diego schools shut down at noon. And when that happens, the only reasonable thing to do is head to the beach.

I packed up our beach chairs and towels and headed to the ocean. When we got there, my daughter saw some girls from her grade playing at the water’s edge. As she ran off to her friends I set my beach chair next to the mothers—women I recognized, but didn’t know well.

As our seven-and eight-year-old children dug in the sand and dragged seaweed out of the ocean, a group of young teenage girls set up next to us. The girls, all about 14 or 15 years old, spread out their towels. Then, carrying with them the cloud of drama that surrounds girls that age, they walked in front of us and into the ocean.

Like me, and many of the moms next to me, the girls all wore bikinis, but theirs were slightly different. They were sporting a bikini bottom style that was just becoming popular—the cheeky, or Brazilian cut, which exposes a few more inches of buttocks than the standard cut. This sent off a wave of whispered conversation among the mothers.

“Now that is just inappropriate,” one woman said.

“They’re too young—half their butts are showing!” said another.

The conversation escalated until one of the women proposed approaching these girls—all of whom were strangers—to tell them the reasons why their bikini bottoms were unacceptable.

I kept quiet the entire time because I was surprised to find I disagreed with everything they were saying. My daughter was so young I hadn’t really given much thought to what teenage girls should or shouldn’t be wearing. But I didn’t see what the big deal was. They were at the beach, running around, hanging out with friends—not in front of a screen or wandering around a mall or, worse, drinking or doing drugs. If they felt comfortable and if this was the style of the moment, why should I care what some neighbourhood girls wear?

Then a thought occurred to me. “What about when my daughter is that age? How will I feel then?”

My daughter is 12 now—so that time is here.

Last summer, I was helping her pack for a week at a camp, and the packing list included “shorts—fingertip length or longer.” She tried on every pair of the shorts she wanted to bring, and they all stopped before her fingertips.

“Maybe you just have long arms, like me,” I told her. “I don’t think I have any shorts that long either.” We picked the longest of the bunch and sent her off. When she came home she said it wasn’t an issue. Nobody cared, and she mostly wore jeans anyway, because she spent the day riding horses and taking care of farm animals.

My daughter has her own sense of style—to my delight she takes after me in her love of jeans and flannel shirts—but her two priorities when getting dressed are comfort and T-shirts with references to Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. In the summer, she feels comfortable in shorter-than-fingertip-length shorts.

She likes to wear one pieces and tankinis to the beach, but if her tastes changed to cheeky bikini bottoms, would I tell her not wear them?

If I did, I’d have to be prepared to tell her why.

If I told her there’s something wrong with showing too much of her body, I’d send the message her body is something to hide. By age 13, one survey found that 53 percent of girls are unhappy with their bodies; by age 17 it jumps to 78 percent. I want her to feel joy in her body, to love how it feels to dance and swim and play with her friends, not to focus on hiding and covering.

The other reason I’d tell her not to wear a skimpy bikini bottom is even darker.

The Harvey Weinstein scandal that sparked a long-overdue national conversation on sexual harassment laid bare what most of us already knew: that to be a woman in the world is to be vulnerable, and to see a young girl turning into a woman is to see the beginning of sexual harassment.

The reason those girls on the beach made the women next to me so uncomfortable was because of their own #metoo memories, of overly affectionate PE coaches, of after-school meetings with leering English teachers, of boys who’d never been taught the true meaning of consent.

Teenage girls walk a razor-thin line when it comes to their bodies. Our culture tells them to be thin and beautiful, but not show too much of that beauty. Girls learn that exposed skin is an invitation, a mistake that invites danger, and whatever happens next, the blame lies squarely at the feet of the girl who wore too little.

I wonder how that conversation on the beach would go now that we are finally having a national discussion about consent, about the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and the need to change a culture that allows men and boys power over women and girls.

I also have a nine-year-old son. It’s as important to talk to him about sexual harassment and consent as it is with my daughter. It’s a discussion about how to ask for consent, the idea that consent can be taken away at any moment, and the importance of “no”—not a discussion about wardrobe choices.

When thinking about what my daughter wears, it comes to this: I care about my daughter’s behavior, her sense of confidence, and her belief in her body as her own, not where her shorts fall or the size of her bikini bottoms.

This article was originally published online in May 2018.

 

Kids health

Is COVID more serious in kids today than it was when the pandemic started?

We were told COVID is mild in kids, but news of a 13-year-old's death sparked renewed fears among parents.

The news that a 13-year-old girl from Brampton, Ont. died in April from COVID-19 brought parents’ worst fears bubbling to the surface: with new COVID-19 variants and a third wave of the virus spreading across the country, should we now be more worried about our children falling ill or dying?

The short answer is no, says Jeremy Friedman, associate paediatrician-in-chief at Toronto’s SickKids Hospital. “I don’t think that parents should necessarily be any more worried.” That’s because even with the variants spreading in Canada it is still rare for children to get extremely ill, and rarer still for them to die from COVID-19.

He adds that while his hospital is seeing more admissions due to COVID-19 now than in earlier waves, the number of kids hospitalized is still very small—about four to five at any given time—and more likely a result of increased spread in the community than a more dangerous form of the virus. (As of May 6, there were nine paediatric patients at SickKids.)

How many kids have gotten COVID-19?

As of April 30, 2021 there have been about 219,000 cases of COVID-19 in people 18 and under, representing 18 percent of the total cases in Canada. However, only 851 people in this age group—which makes up roughly 20 percent of the population—have been hospitalized for COVID-19 symptoms across Canada since the pandemic began. That works out to 1.7 percent of the total hospitalizations for COVID-19. There have been 145 kids admitted to the ICU (1.3 percent of total ICU admissions), and nine have died, including a baby and toddler in B.C. and a 16-year-old in Quebec.

This correlates with data from abroad. A Lancet report released in May 2021 reviewed fatality stats from seven countries (U.S.A., U.K., Italy, Germany, Spain, France, and South Korea) and found that there were 231 COVID-related deaths in kids between March 2020 and February 2020 out of a combined population of 137 million people, or 0.17 per 100,000 people.

Although new variants of COVID-19 are more transmissible, resulting in more cases among kids, another Lancet report, this one published in February, didn’t find evidence of more severe disease among children in England’s second wave, where the B.1.1.7 variant was prevalent.

Should parents be more vigilant now?

While fatalities and severe illness are relatively low-risk in children, they can still catch it, particularly if they live in an area with high community spread or have family members working in high-risk occupations. It’s important to continue to follow the public health guidance in your area and watch your kid for symptoms.

Saba Merchant, a paediatrician and director of Maple Kidz Clinic in Vaughan, Ont., says it’s especially important to exercise caution for children with pre-existing medical conditions. Kids with obesity, asthma, and those who were born premature (preemies have a higher chance of having health complications) top her list of ailments to be the most concerned about, but with anything that compromises the immune system – cancer, diabetes, neurological disorders, down syndrome, etc. – parents should be extra vigilant.

How to know your kid’s COVID-19 symptoms are serious

If your kid does get COVID, the majority of time their symptoms can be managed at home. Try to keep them comfortable, give them lots of fluids and, if they are feeling feverish or uncomfortable, you can give them ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

In terms of when they need to see a doctor: “The top three warning signs on my list apply to any viral infection,” says Merchant. “Struggling to breathe, lack of appetite or interest in drink, and lethargy.” Difficulty breathing can either look like taking rapid breaths, or struggling to take in a breath. For younger kids, dry diapers are a warning sign.

Friedman adds that parents’ intuition is also a powerful tool. “If you feel there is something wrong with your child, you shouldn’t hesitate to seek medical attention.”

Until more adults are vaccinated and case counts come down in the community the safest plan is to carry on as we have for the past year and a bit: maintain social distance, wear masks when inside public spaces or in crowded outdoor areas, and wash our hands.