Opinion: Children’s voices deserve to be heard during COVID-19. Let’s not let them be forgotten

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Sidney Campbell is a PhD candidate at the Institute for Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto. She works as a research assistant with the Voices Childhood Ethics Program at McGill University in Montreal. Franco Carnevale, RN, PhD (Psych), PhD (Phil) is a nurse, psychologist and child and youth services ethicist. He leads the Voice Childhood Ethics Program.

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With Health Canada recently approving the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for people ages 5 to 11, it’s important to notice and draw attention to an undeniable truth in the pandemic: Children remain invisible.

It may be true that the impact of COVID-19 on young people has been at the center of a recent public discourse phase, particularly because in order to “get back to normal” we need to consider and protect this vital population. Is. However, most of the dialogue has focused on COVID-19 Vaccine Approval Process for Children, parental opinions and concerns, and plans for vaccine rollout.

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The youth themselves live in the background of this stage. While researchers continue to engage with various stakeholders to reach and understand children and their families, in many cases youth are overlooked.

Emerging evidence continues to indicate that Young people in Canada aren’t really doing well during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mental health concerns are on the rise. Transmission risks are gaining momentum, along with other physical health concerns. Elementary education pathways, though slowly returning to normal, have been disrupted in significant ways. Joining community organizations, while important for support and socialization, has been challenging. Young people also bear those burdens in their families and other social circles.

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And unlike the rest of the population, many young people have had to wait a significant period of time for a vaccine. A decision motivated by safety, yes, but one that heightens the fear and continued loss of what lies ahead.

What is more, youth remain within the purview of key conversations related to the pandemic. In many ways, those best equipped to explain these subtle experiences are the young themselves. The lack of engagement with children in media stories, especially those perceived as child-centered or child-related, has placed children as an afterthought.

When we fail to ask young people what they are thinking, feeling or expecting, we end up speaking For Them. As a result, it has misunderstood the depth of these effects and the places within a child’s life that lead to these losses.

However, when given the opportunity to share in meaningful ways, young people’s voices can fill vacancies, address gaps, and open new outlets for exploration and strategy. in advances made by childhood ethics And scholars of early childhood studies, we can begin to challenge the dominant view that treats young people as secondary citizens. We are encouraged to view children as individuals who have rights, interests, ideas, abilities and knowledge about what is right/wrong or good/bad. We can see a young person as important in the here and now. And we can assume that kids just don’t care about themselves.

in a paper, Young people revealed that they aspire to be considered as valuable and active contributors to COVID-recovery-plan development for their communities. In our own continuing work at Voice Childhood Ethics, we hear youth speak about the unanswered challenges they face and their hopes for reciprocity in pandemic responses, especially since they have shared many of their interests. has been abandoned and has suffered significant losses for it. other. Our team has also noticed concern for others repeatedly mentioned Our research with and about children, They worry about other people and, especially in pandemics, may decide what to do based on concerns about transmission to their family.

Then what comes next? We should use this pause to reflect on how we view and make assumptions about youth. Media outlets, but also members of society, have a responsibility to challenge and reshape dominant rhetoric. Youth matters.

We must do what we can so that children can be heard the way they want to be heard. This can include supporting organizations that are actively bringing young people and decision makers together to encourage participation, or by creating more places for children’s voices to be heard in different areas. Ideally this type of engagement will happen before major decisions are made or immediately after deliberations.

We must see young people as experts in matters that affect them – because that is exactly what they are. And we must ensure that children are not forgotten, trapped behind closed curtains, but that they are positioned as narrators of their own experiences and aspirations.

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