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The Extinction of Hugs and Handshakes

Well, here we are a year later and in hindsight, the six-month emergency response plans we pulled together with the onset of COVID-19 may have been slightly short sighted.

Reflecting on conversations and interactions I’ve encountered with friends and family, I’ve noticed one consistent concern. It wasn’t about government leadership, financial stability or even the concern of contracting the virus. Every single parent shared concerns on the long term affects social distancing and lockdowns will have on their children’s behaviour. 

I thought it a unique personality trait when I met my first COVID baby. But after meeting a few, it was obvious that all of the babies I have met born during the pandemic play strange with anyone except the household family. 

Meanwhile, toddlers are being taught that hugging grandparents could put both themselves and their grandparents in danger. They look for permission to explore new things, instead of discovery through trial and error. 

Elementary students are suddenly deprived of human connected relationships with peers that teach them critical social and decision-making skills. Masks build a literal developmental barrier to decipher body language and social cues that are key at this stage of development.

Missed opportunities of first love and wayfinding peer pressure may initially sound like a win for developing teenagers. But high school is a time to build friendships and memories that will last a lifetime. Negotiating mental health while balancing loads of lost expectations seems to be sinking post-secondary students. Their independent launch into adulthood is deprived of the experiences that define them as young adults.

Let’s face it, the possibility that we are still battling COVID-19 in a year from now is highly likely. We definitely need to start being more proactive on addressing the social effects of the pandemic on our children. It’s traumatic, and trauma has a way of rearing its ugly head over and over again until it is dealt with. I’m not an expert, but the possibility that there may be an entire generation of children missing out on significant social skills may create a new pandemic – the extinction of hugs and handshakes.

Janet Smith is a proud single-mom of one daughter and a marketing professional who is grateful for her rural roots in the London area. She is a big believer in connecting with people through laughter and honesty.


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