Research shows that such excitement and stress are the two most common reactions to starting school. And, tellingly, much of this emotional response is social. Children are enthusiastic social learners and develop skills such as sharing, conflict resolution, and empathy at a rapid pace. Today many children have already attended parent-toddler groups or daycare before starting school. But during the covid-19 lockdowns, many opportunities for social learning have been lost.
Affects children’s development and what can we do about it? Cognitive social development brain development begins shortly after conception and continues until at least adulthood. It is formed by a complex interaction between genes and the environment. When it comes to social cognition, there is evidence of critical periods in brain development, such as adolescence. The cognitive social development, however, begins in the first year of life, when children begin to develop the “theory of mind”, that is, understand what others think, which continues until the age of five. Play is an important part of this process as it involves a lot of physical contact and the development of friendships, which helps children cope with emotions and stay mentally strong.
Researchers still do not fully understand the ways that lockdowns will affect children due to reduced or delayed social interactions. But a recent study provides evidence that the social cognition of some adults has been affected by COVID-19 lockdowns. The study showed that people experienced a reduction in positive feelings, which led them to think negatively, which was significantly related to their social connection. Those who were least socially connected were affected the most. Children are likely to be even more vulnerable when it comes to the long-term effects of a delay or absence in peer interaction.
We know that social brain development is a two-way street: the environment, in this case, social interaction between peers, affects the brain, and the brain affects the emotional and behavioral response to peers. Social cognition is not only necessary for success in school and work settings and personal relationships, but also in “warm cognition” in general, which is essentially emotional reasoning taken as a whole. And we know that such cognition is a basic component of “cold cognition,” which involves skills such as attention, planning, and problem-solving.
For example, if children are unable to play creative games with other children, learning to empathize, engage, and manage their emotions and language and social communication development is also likely to be affected. In fact, children with higher social cognition have been shown to do better in high school. Steps to follow for confined young children, Zooms and remote gatherings just aren’t enough. One mother, who had to deal with perpetual confinement, made the problem very clear to us.” My six-year-old son suddenly gets very shy when he talks to his classmates on Zoom,” he said.”And children not only miss out on seeing their peers but adult role models like grandparents and teachers also suddenly disappear,” he added.
Most of the young children I know don’t like video calls, so they are not a substitute for social interaction like they can with adults.”Some children, including those who are shy or anxious and those with neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), may be especially affected. Regarding this last group, psychological and pharmacological treatments must be started at an early age, which implies social interaction. A recent study showed that it is possible to improve ASD symptoms in young children ages three to six with severe ASD.
Therefore, the best thing parents can do at this time is to make sure that their young children have opportunities to play and interact socially with other children as soon as the lockdown is over and it is safe to do so. Governments should also develop special programs for young children to help them regain the critical period of social brain development they have missed. There is evidence that children can benefit from social cognitive training, such as reading and talking about emotional stories. Loneliness affects all ages and is detrimental to physical and mental health and well-being. Fortunately, we now know that our brains are still developing into early adulthood, and therefore the ability to relearn lost skills may still be possible