‘It certainly has been quite a ride’: Helping young children recover from learning loss, stress from the pandemic


INDIANAPOLIS – It’s almost time to start talking about the upcoming school year.

Children will have to recover from both learning loss and stress related to the pandemic. Education experts fear preschoolers and kindergartners could fall behind.

“I was nervous and a little scared,” said Yesena Camacho, a mother concerned about how the pandemic would impact her child’s education. “It was worrisome, I was like, they’re going to fall behind, are they going to be able to make friends?”

At the age of three, all four of her children started at St. Mary’s Child Center. The preschool has had to adapt during the pandemic.

“It certainly has been quite a ride,” said Diane Pike, director of outreach and professional development.

Welcoming kids back to the classroom safely is their focus right now.

“That’s where the learning is going to happen,” Pike added.

Pike believes strongly that a critical part of learning for preschoolers is social and emotional.  She says a child is not going to learn if they don’t feel connected.

“When we talk about falling behind, what we want to make sure we think about is that it’s not about increasing learning of the letters and numbers, but increasing the relationship and the connection,” said Pike.

She’s ready to get early learners back on track, especially from low income families.

“Children that are living in poverty or in a stressful situation–they often enter school a year and a half or two years behind just under normal stresses,” Pike added. “So, the added stress of COVID makes it even more important for them to be at school.”

The pandemic has forced these kids to miss out on interactions, hands-on learning in the classroom, field trips and more. While the teachers focus on getting ready for the new school year, they ask that parents help out.

“Children also feel the hesitancy from their parents and family members,” said Pike. “Those emotions are contagious, so the more we as adults can be calm, that will help a child as well.”

A program at the St. Mary’s Child Center helps low income families access preschool services for as little as $10 a week. To learn more about tuition or scholarship assistance, click here.

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