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Kamloops father worried about developmental impact on his baby due to pandemic

Justin Bourke with his daughter Emily at a splash park in Kamloops. Bourke worries about the developmental effects of COVID restrictions on his one-year-old daughter Emily.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Justin Bourke
June 24, 2021 - 6:00 AM

Like many pandemic parents, Justin Bourke of Kamloops is worried about possible developmental impacts his baby daughter faces due to the social restrictions imposed.

Bourke's wife gave birth to their daughter Emily in January, 2020. The first-time parents were overjoyed at their good fortune and had planned everything out prior to her arrival into the world. What they had not planned for was a pandemic and the social restrictions that came with it.

“We got to spend two months with our baby before COVID hit,” Bourke said. “She hasn’t been able to see family or be social for 16 months.

"There have been no parent-and-me groups or play groups. Even finding a babysitter has been exceptionally hard. Our baby has had very limited contact with children her own age. It will be interesting to see how children’s development has been impacted. I fear we’ll have a generation of socially stunted kids.”

Researchers across the globe have been collecting data on the subject, but are only in the very beginning stages of the process. Only time will allow them to discover the short-term and long-term effects, if there are any.

Parents like Bourke will just have to wait.

“I’ve noticed our baby’s vocabulary isn’t where it should be,” Bourke said. “Her vocabulary should be between three and 12 words, however, because she hasn’t had a lot of practice, aside from her parents, she has only two words. She cries when people visit and doesn’t understand things such as sharing or tossing a ball with others.”

Bourke’s baby is now in daycare, something he is grateful for.

He says it takes her a long time to warm up to anyone and it took two months for her to stop crying at daycare and wonders if these kinds of behaviours are due to the lack of socialization in her first year of life.

“Her first birthday was over Zoom, which for us was kind of meaningless, only seeing people on a screen for 40 minutes,” Bourke said. “She has rarely met extended family in person. Even her first Christmas was spent with only her parents. I am just so excited for her to see the beauty of an unrestricted world.”

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