By: Jeylin Almonte
View all Jeylin Almonte's works
Let’s stop disregarding children’s feelings about the pandemic.
Covid-19 was first revealed in December 2019. No one gave it a second thought until it began to impact more than 200 countries around the world. The majority of the population was eventually forced into isolation or quarantine. This meant that many people had to spend more time at home, which isn’t always beneficial. Staying at home for an extended period of time can increase the risk of putting your physical and emotional health at danger.
Many children and adolescents in the U.S. had to take a leap of faith and adjust to the pandemic. They had to attend school through a computer screen, sacrifice social interaction, accept the fact they couldn’t go outside and even wear masks.
In July 2021, the pandemic entered its terminal stages, which means restrictions will be eased, companies will reopen, people will be able to travel more freely, and there will be no more isolation. But, as wonderful as all of this sounds, let’s face it: this epidemic was difficult for people of all ages. Countless people have endured mental challenges that have caused them to experience a wide range of emotions.
Studies demonstrate that after a year of sitting in front of a computer, 95 percent of children are academically, mentally, physically, and emotionally behind. Many children have gained weight, are emotionally disturbed, and have fallen back on academics. Beginning in September, when most children return to school, we will begin to really see the lag caused by isolation.
I spoke with the Rosario Family to learn a little bit more about their experience during the pandemic. Mayelin Rosario is a mother of four and wife of Gabriel Rosario. Bailey Rosario, 10, and Liam Rosario, 8, attended a New York public school from September 2019 to June 2020.
Mayelin and Gabriel opted out of virtual learning for their children and decided to homeschool instead. Mayelin says she didn’t like the virtual learning curriculum and it wasn’t teaching her children what she expected. After observing how her children reacted to virtual learning, she knew homeschooling was for the best.
Did you enjoy learning from home?
Both Bailey and Liam said that they enjoyed learning from home and liked the curriculum that was being taught by their parents. They enjoyed being able to see their two younger sisters and spending quality family time more often.
When you were told you had to quarantine, how did that make you feel?
“It made me feel sad. I love my friends and not being able to see them made me feel lonely.” Bailey says. “My brother and I both loved going to school in person, we liked doing our homework and I was very upset when that was all taken away from me.”
Although Liam enjoyed school he says he appreciated the isolation time because he “got to spend more time doing the things he loves, like building Legos, reading and solving puzzles.”
How did you cope?
Both Bailey and Liam had similar ways of coping through hard times. Both kids made sure to keep in touch with friends. “We loved playing online games like Roblox, FaceTimed our friends and watched movies as a family.” Liam says.
Bailey enjoyed finding new hobbies like cooking, baking, dancing and boxing. Something the family also did to cope together was garden. They grew fresh veggies and fruits like strawberries and cucumbers.
What made you feel happy during these times of isolation?
“A happy thought that helped me get through times of isolation was that my family was always going to be here for me and that I have people who take care of me.” Bailey says.
Liam agrees, saying all he wanted was “his family to be safe and nobody getting hurt.”
“I would do anything for my family,” both children say. “We make sure to spend time with them at all times.”
Did you have to create a new routine for your children? If so, did you consider it easy or difficult?
“Of course, everyone had to change their lives and establish a completely new routine. We had to make a new schedule for everything based on their online schooling, and everything was very different from our previous lives,” Mayelin explains. “At first, it was challenging, especially with everything that was going on at the moment. It was a number of things: police brutality, coronavirus, Black Lives Matter, and so on.”
“Absolutely,” Gabriel continues. “We had to develop a system that provided a safe haven and let the kids know everything was going to be okay.”
Both parents say they did all they could to ensure that their children enjoyed their time at home. They participated in activities such as coloring, painting, watching movies, and cooking as a family.
Over time, did you see any behavioral changes? Strengths? Struggles?
“The only behavioral changes that I did see was they didn’t have an outlet to release energy,” Mayelin says. “They were all over the place and very hyper.”
Both parents concluded that Zoom was a big hassle, especially for Liam. “Liam didn’t enjoy it, he didn’t like it and it was always a struggle for him to get his work done,” Mayelin says.
She also found Bailey was “very low” sometimes. Her daughter missed social interaction, and she could tell. “Everything had to be changed and adjusted in their lives, and it definitely showed in their behavior.”
Before the pandemic, children were already dealing with mental health disorders.
Statistics show more than 20 percent of parents with children ages 5-12 report their children experienced worsened mental or emotional health during the pandemic. According to the CDC, child visits to the hospital emergency department for mental health reasons has increased 24 percent.
So many children are suffering in silence for many reasons; mourning, loneliness, feeling as if they have nobody. All of this can become a lot for just one person.
We have to understand these feelings are not just going to go away because the COVID-19 pandemic is coming to an end. These feelings are just getting started and are going to be here for a while. We have to help them, talk to them, listen to them and spend time with them — it can go a long way.