Children growing up in the COVID-19 era are damaged

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“Children are resilient.” This is what people keep telling us. This is what the adults who don’t hesitate to destroy the childhoods of millions of American children tell themselves – and us – so that they can sleep at night.

Parents across the country knew that children were not doing well and that they were not going to be doing well. And now, the data that has been circulating for almost two years in this pandemic reflects this reality.

The surgeon general has issued a rare public notice on an “emerging mental health crisis in young people.” In a 53-page report, we learned that symptoms of depression and anxiety doubled during the pandemic, with 25% of young people showing symptoms of depression and 20% experiencing anxiety.

Think about how the average American child lived during the pandemic. Socialization was interrupted for a year and only continued behind plexiglass, masks and distance. Remember the excitement of snowy days? Those are gone. Now, when a school day is canceled, children wonder and worry if they will go back and when; will it be in a day or in several months?

The surgeon general has also warned that conditions like ADHD are on the rise. Once the children have been locked inside for ‘distance learning‘, of course, they cannot remain seated when they have finally been allowed to return to a classroom.

Among adolescent girls, suicide attempts increased by 51% (and among boys, by 4%). We know the effects of social media and the Internet on the mental health of developing girls; then we forced them to keep all of their socialization online for over a year. Is it any wonder that they try (and succeed in tragic circumstances) to end their life?

Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has warned that conditions like ADHD are on the rise.
Photo AP / Susan Walsh

Jay Smith, the father of Spencer Smith, a teenager who died earlier this month from suicide, explained his son’s plight, as reported by NBC News: He said Spencer had spent the entire summer in train and get in shape so that you can play on the school football team as a lineman. When the sport was changed to flag football because of the pandemic, Spencer “gave up,” his father said. “It was not the same type of practice because they had to distance themselves socially. He didn’t like that part of it, ”Smith explained.

Spencer eventually stopped training and his grades started dropping as he struggled with distance learning.

At one point, the teenager attended school in person one day a week, but asked his parents if he could stay home because he found it too difficult not to be able to interact with his peers.

Smith said her son left a note detailing his difficulties in being isolated, writing that he felt “locked in this house”.

Wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, elementary school students line up to enter school for the first day of class in Richardson, Texas.
Among teenage girls, suicide attempts are up 51%.
AP Photo / LM Otero, File

When you were a child, what do you remember about school meals? I remember wishing for the mythical food fight. I remember talking with friends, trading cups of pudding for cookies, whispering to friends asking if I could copy their homework before our afternoon classes.

What does it look like now? Children are finally back to school but are eating outside, sitting in buckets and on the floor across the country.

If they are allowed in, they are often asked to eat socially at a distance and in silence, sometimes with partitions separating them, sometimes to face the wall.

No part of their childhood in 2019 remained fully intact. They had the carpet ripped from under them in March 2020. School lunches are just a window into how much we have damaged children’s childhood.

students sit separated by plastic dividers during lunch at Wyandotte County High School in Kansas City, Kansas,
The children are finally back to school but are eating outside.
AP Photo / Charlie Riedel, Dossier

There is no end in sight, no exit on the horizon. We were told two weeks to stop the spread, and this is also what we told our children. We are about to enter our second year of pandemic restrictions.

Jay Smith, the father of Maine, told reporters: “This pandemic cannot last forever, and if they are feeling lonely and depressed, they should seek help. Things will get better. ”

You cannot fault children for not believing this well-meaning message. Our society has treated them as vectors of disease and has stolen irreplaceable years from their childhood. Why should they believe the pandemic is going to end and things are going to get better? We cannot show children any evidence to that effect.

The only remarkable thing about the Surgeon General’s report is that more children don’t suffer from mental health issues. If we don’t prioritize a quick return to normalcy for American children, the number of children in crisis will only increase.


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