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COVID pandemic's long-lasting impact on children a major concern for Canadian parents: poll

An empty Calgary classroom with desks spaced apart ahead of the start of the fall 2020 semester. An empty Calgary classroom with desks spaced apart ahead of the start of the fall 2020 semester.

A survey conducted for Children First Canada found the vast majority of Canadian parents are worried about the toll the COVID-19 pandemic is having, and will continue to have, on their children.

"We know over the past two years that kids have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic," said Sara Austin, Children First Canada president and CEO, in an interview with CTV News Calgary. "And with Canada approaching the second anniversary of the pandemic, we wanted to gauge how Canadians were feeling about the future of kids."

The survey, conducted by Maru/Blue, suggests there's significant cause for concern and parents are calling for prioritized government spending to assist Canadian youth.

"What we heard was that 85 per cent, an overwhelming majority, are concerned about the future of our children, and fully one-third are very concerned particularly about the impacts of the pandemic, that kids are not just bouncing back. That they're going to need significant support to address the huge impacts that they've experienced over the past two years."

According to the poll, 75 per cent of Albertans believe that children's lives are collectively worse off today than they were pre-pandemic and 85 per cent of all respondents say the pandemic has had a negative impact on the social and emotional development of children.

Austin says the lifting of COVID-19-related restrictions does not mean the pandemic-related fallout is anywhere close to ending.

"(Children) have experienced a very significant learning loss because of the prolonged school closures. They've had impacts to their mental health —the social isolation that kids experienced during school closures but also from the stressors that parents and families experienced with income loss — with struggling to just deal with all the pandemic restrictions, that have taken a toll on children's mental health and their social development.

"This impacts their physical health. You think about how many kids were losing out on not only just things like recess, but also organized sports like hockey and gymnastics that they were cut off from and many kids have been reluctant to return to sports. These things are not going to just magically get better. We're going to need to support our kids in the weeks, months and years to come."

Children First Canada says that while the long-term impacts of remote learning as well as in-class masked learning remain unknown, students have already lost out on "so much learning time with school closures and with the ping-ponging back and forth." Austin says the approach of governments hasn't always aligned with the needs of children and there are legitimate fears as case counts begin rising once again.

"The Canadian Pediatric Society strongly recommended that masking remained in place in classrooms until more children could be vaccinated. Governments have ignored that advice," said Austin. "So many parents and kids are feeling vulnerable right now with their kids in the classrooms in the unmasking situation and what that could mean, particularly for children with disabilities or complex medical needs and compromised immune systems. We're already seeing rates of COVID starting to tick up in our province and in other parts of the country. It's a very worrisome sign."

For additional details on the survey visit Children First Canada.

The survey of 1,506 adults, selected at random from Maru Voice Canada's online panelists, was conducted on March 8-9. The survey's estimated margin of error is +/- 3.0 per cent, 19 times out of 20. Top Stories

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