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Preschool children will have challenges with Alberta re-entry, educator says

Young children will be without their favourite stuffie when they head back to preschool under Alberta’s re-entry plan.

Some local educators worry children will be challenged under new preschool re-entry plans, released June 11 by the Alberta government.

Maureen Khallad, the owner of Calgary’s Think Sun Preschool Academy said the provincial government’s requirements expect too much of young children and preschools.

“I was horrified at the re-entry requirements, to expect a three-year-old who has never seen anything like this (pandemic). Then be shoved into a room with a teacher wearing a mask and the parent can’t stay isn’t going to go well,” she said.

“They’re not allowed a blanket, they’re not allowed a teddy, no comfort item. If you’re supposed to sterilize it when they come in and sterilize it when they leave. Well, I’m sorry, that’s not going to happen.”

As a seasoned educator, Khallad struggles with what Alberta’s restrictions will mean for children’s mental health and how they learn. 

“They fail to take into consideration that three-year-olds learn by touch. And if they can’t touch something, they can’t learn. That’s how their brains are hardwired,” Khallad said.

“It may be healthy. It may be safe, but mentally the scars are going to be there and I’m just really, really anxious about that part.”

Experts describe how parents can help their kids adjust to the ‘new normal’ 

Jennifer Crawford of Crawford Psychological Services.

Jennifer Crawford, a psychologist, and owner Crawford Psychological Services said that any changes in an environment can cause stress for young children.

“Any significant changes in a child’s life, I would argue maybe any significant changes in anybody’s life, whether it’s positive or negative, tends to be stressful.”

Crawford, a pediatric psychology specialist, believes some negative short-term effects could come from heath restrictions. But, overall, “children are very resilient,” she said.

She points to parents feeling more anxiety for their children then the children themselves as a major indicator of a child’s stress level. 

“Parents are understandably stressed, they’re obviously stressed about taking their child out. And so I would say that stress is also a consideration in how a child is coping,” she said. 

“I’m not saying the parents are bad for being stressed. I have kids and the idea of taking them somewhere when things opening up, which has been suggested is going to be all good by the fall, might be stressful for parents.”

Parents might have a role to play in how their child might react to COVID-19 regulations.

Crawford said when schools open in the fall, parents should recognize their emotions could rub off on their children.

“Parents are, I think, innately programmed to try and protect their children,” she said.

“And so if you view that as inherently dangerous, then I think your child will see it that way.”