Children in Crisis: For kids cut off from school, social gatherings due to pandemic it feels like an endless struggle, but there is help


(WTNH) — We are approaching the one-year mark in the COVID-19 pandemic, and for kids who have been cut off from school and social gatherings, it may feel like an endless struggle.

Charlene Anderson of Bristol said of her son, “We enrolled him in a pre-k program. He only went for two months before the pandemic hit.”

Anderson’s son is special needs. She says he does do speech therapy, but with his learning interrupted due to the pandemic she is “just really scared, really just nervous that he’s not going to get the help that he needs.”

And with no end in sight, families are in crisis.

“You just want to give up, but you know you can’t,” Anderson said.

Anderson’s family is a peak inside the struggle families across Connecticut are facing amid the pandemic as kids learn remotely without playdates or sports, and education and development concerns are only the start.

Dr. Glenn Focht of Connecticut Children’s Specialty Group said, due to the pandemic, kids are being isolated during a critical time in their lives, “Kids are feeling out of control…I’m extremely concerned at this time…This is really a hard time for kids – coming at them from many different levels.”

Dr. Focht says in the pandemic, pediatricians in CT have shifted to treating behavioral health more than ever before. There are signs parents can look out for.

Robert Keder, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician said, “It can be tantrums, it can be that they cry more, they stub their toe and it hurts, and you get more meltdowns…”Changes in sleep patterns, eating patterns, or kids just totally shutting down and withdrawing.”

Red flags of a crisis, signs a bigger problem could be brewing.

Dr. Focht added, “We’re seeing so many more kids with anxiety, depression, some kids who are having concerns surrounding suicidal thoughts.”

But treatment can start at home, starting with recognizing these are unprecedented times and you’re not alone.

Keder suggests, “Take a moment, it’s ok to put on your own oxygen mask first because you have to.”

And then open a line of communication.

Keder: “If you say like ‘oh, you’re not having these dark thoughts are you?’ What you’re really saying, is ‘it’s not ok to have those thoughts.’ The reality is kids, we’re all people, we have thoughts…So we want to create a safe space to talk about those things.”

And reach out for help. Connecticut Children’s launched a digital tool kit to help parents get started and direct them to resources available.

Anderson has found out first-hand that it takes a village, and until life returns to some form of normalcy, “it’s really helpful to know that I’m not alone…Millions of people and families are going through this, too…So it’s comforting to know we have each other and we’ll get through this.”

Unfortunately, this is not going to be a happy ending for all families. We spoke to a mom and dad whose teenage son made a tragic, irreversible decision. Something no parent should face. But now these parents are speaking out to try to help others. Look out for their story on WTNH and in the coming days.

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