Children remain resilient through a tough winter

(Informatics from www.health2000.co.nz)

Dr Raylene Rao
Auckland, September 25, 2022

Should they stay or should they go? Paediatrician Dr Raylene Rao advises us on how we can support our tamariki through school or daycare, during this season’s bout of sickness.

It is no secret that we have had a really disruptive couple of years and winter this year.

We did a great job of eliminating Covid early on in the pandemic when our borders were closed. A bonus of this approach was that we also successfully eliminated influenza which typically circulates every winter.

Dr Raylene Rao, Paediatrician at Health New Zealand

Intense flu season

Hospitalisation data shows that we have had almost the equivalent of three flu seasons, 2020, 2021, and 2022 rolled into one, since re-opening our borders.

There will be children who have been really affected by the last two years, especially in Auckland. School closures, lockdowns, periods of isolation, and not seeing their friends and peers for stretches have all taken a toll.

My colleagues and I have seen children struggling with a number of issues such as low mood, more anxiety, and eating disorders. At work over the last few months, I have also seen children feeling more distressed or developing behaviour that is challenging.

A majority of children will be resilient in the face of these challenges. Children thrive on consistency and stability. Recreating rhythms at home and school which might have been lost over the past several months is important now. Attending daycare, school, seeing friends and family, fun activities, spending time outdoors, and being active, are key part of this.

Difficult decision

We know it can be difficult to judge when to send your children to school or when you should keep them at home.

If your child is feeling unwell or has developed new symptoms of a cold, such as a runny nose, cough and sore throat, it is best to keep them at home. They should stay at home and rest until those symptoms start to resolve.

Remember to help them do a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) if they do have these symptoms, to make sure that they do not have Covid.

Once they have recovered, it can be common for children to have a residual cough or runny nose.

If your child has recovered from illness, for the most part, it is okay to get them back into school and daycare. By doing this, we can start to minimise the disruption they experience.

Rhythms and routines

Now is the time to put in place those rhythms and routines of life that support our well-being.

For those with high-school-aged children, if your young person has an upcoming exam, they might be feeling a lot of pressure. The pressure might be worse this year than usual because of missed school and disruption.

This is where parents can really support their young people by avoiding putting extra pressure on them. Give them permission to take breaks and see their friends, even while they are preparing for exams.

If they are stressed, be a non-anxious presence. Remind them that doing well at school is more than just one exam, it is about playing the long game. Our emotional, mental, social, spiritual and physical well-being all matter.

The most common response in the face of challenges is resilience. I believe this will be true for most children in Aotearoa.

Dr Raylene Rao is a Paediatrician at Health New Zealand.

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