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The kids are alright?

We have had the baby boomers and the millennials' but now, as we navigate an international pandemic, I often find myself pondering over what the fallout will be for Generation Alpha (those born since the year 2010, children currently aged 0-11). 

Babies are usually brought to see their GP or another health professional at approximately 6 to 8 weeks of age to check they are growing and developing well.  Part of this screening includes enquiring as to whether they have cracked their first smile yet or not.  I think about how for many babies the only smile they will have seen is that of their mother’s.  With the implementation of face masks, social distancing, the cancelling of baby massage and swimming classes and with the limitation on household mixing; exposure to smiles from others is somewhat limited.  Nevertheless, as I proceed to check each baby’s head and heart and hips, etc it is rare that I am not met by a gummy grin staring back at my half-covered face.

We are living in a time that teaches young children a confusing paradox between being strong and resilient, all the while normalising vulnerability and expression of a full range of emotions; an antimony of principals both of equal importance.  Never before has a generation had to be so adaptive to an ever-changing state of affairs.  How well equipped are young children for this?  And where have they gone to for guidance and support with schools closed, lack of access to friends and teachers and many with parents juggling parenting, home schooling and working from home?  I have seen first-hand how hard this has been for many families to contend with.  I am truly hopeful that, when we are able, there will be an abundance of support and provisions put in place that will more than counteract the seclusion that has been felt in so many ways, by so many people, especially children.

Data from just before the start of the pandemic showed that problems related to excess screen time and obesity were on the rise in children, how will lockdowns, lack of sporting activities and, for many, social isolation have compounded these issues further?  According to a 2019 survey done by Harris Poll and LEGO, children in the UK were three times more interested in becoming video bloggers than astronauts when they grew up!  Maybe kids today should not be under-estimated after all.  It remains to be seen how our Generation Alpha will approach what lies ahead of them.  There is a lot of work to be done to relearn the advantages of collaboration but through the pandemic there will also be an unprecedented trial into how enforced solitude may be seen to play a role in shaping the level of independence and self-sufficiency in these children as they grow into adults of the future. In every new baby’s first smile I am reminded that they are capable of far more than they are often given credit for.


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Dr Charlotte Anderson

Charlotte graduated from the Hull York Medical School in 2010. She then went on to specialise in caring for children and babies for a number of years before completing training to become a GP. She has been at Sherburn Group Practice since March 2021. 

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