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Teachers, experts weigh in on the pandemic and early childhood development

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(WBNG) -- The effects of remote learning over the last year and a half are about to show up in the next couple of days as children begin to go back into classrooms in the Southern Tier.

Early educations teachers at the Maine-Endwell School District Julie Catalano and Maureen Patterson Endwell told 12 News they are excited for the school year.

"We are ready with blocks and playdoh and things to send home with them this year as well as training our parents on the first day as to how to use the technology," Patterson said.

Though, they said using technology like computers and iPad can be hard for both children and some parents if they are not familiar with the technology. However, Patterson said that while zoom classes are much better than school being canceled altogether.

Yet, there are some subjects that must be learned in person, Patterson noted, like language acquisition.

While some children are coming in with learning losses due to remote classes, there might even be a more important long-term effect.

"I think the greater impact we're seeing is social and emotional with children," Catalano said.

Patterson and Catalano said parents have been the unsung heroes of the pandemic when it comes to remote learning.

"They are juggling careers, they're juggling home, they're juggling schedules of different children with different grade levels and they are the teachers," Catalano told 12 News.

Associate Director for Outreach and Extension at Cornell University Kimberly Kopko said it can be hard especially for younger children to try and fully understand what has happened this last year with the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's the change in routine, missing their friends, and just missing the big life events like birthday parties and things like that," Kopko said.

Kopko said there are signs to look out for when it comes to changes in your child's stress or anxiety can come in many forms. Such noted a change in sleep patterns, behavioral changes, more fear, more anxiety, change in emotional states or eating habits.

However, Kopko said there are a couple of simple ways to ease the stress that children are facing.

"If parents can allow for more playtime, more outdoor time, more family time, doing things together, picnics, maybe a day trip something like that, anything that promotes a sense of safety and security for children because that's what they're looking for," Kopko said.

The most important thing is to be honest with your child, even if it is difficult, Kopko said.

"Children at this age have very active imaginations, and they're going to conjure up something in their imagination that might be more fearful or more stressful than what the parent can say to them," Kopko said.

Despite school looking different, Patterson told 12 News they can't wait for the year to begin.

"We are very excited to start a new year, to have new routines with them, give them structure and form a classroom community," Patterson said.

Jack Cooper

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