February 2, 2021 by Ally Donnelly (courtesy photos)
It was bad. And Karen Deane knew it. “You hear people talking about kids being depressed and having anxiety and social isolation,” she said. “I was seeing all of that in our household.” Karen is a hospice nurse working long hours in a pandemic. Then her dad got sick and she’s helping take care of him too. Before Covid, she says for the most part, “I was a stay at home mom. I made their lunches. I drove them around and suddenly they’re on their own.”
Bearing the brunt was 11-year-old Sophie. Before the pandemic hit, the Hingham Middle Schooler was one of those kids–vibrant, confident, constantly on the go with tennis lessons, play dates and a massive extended family. She was an excellent student and could tell you the names, and probably the favorite color of every teacher and staff member at school. But in November, Sophie went all remote to protect family members and her mom’s hospice patients.
Many days, Sophie was home alone with her six-year-old brother, trying to juggle the new demands of middle school and the temptation of unfettered access to devices. “There's many tears in the process of it,” she said. “Like, between too much schoolwork, staying up late to finish schoolwork. It’s definitely lonely. I think just not being able to have much human contact and all you really have is like work and screens and screens.”
Karen says she saw her kids losing themselves in a digital world, “I didn’t allow TikTok. I didn’t allow Instagram and now all of that stuff has completely taken over because the kids are home alone.” And the consequences have worn through.
Mom Karen said, “You have a kid who loves school was totally social, going to sports and tennis and all these activities and suddenly, your kids are at home in bed, and you're fighting with them to brush their hair and actually put clothes on and get up and come out of their bedroom.”
Karen took a drastic step which she tells us about on today's episode of The Hingham 'Cast. She said she had to focus on being a mom again, “I felt like we were getting to the point where I wasn’t going to get my old kids back.”
We also hear from Dr. Elizabeth Englander. She heads the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center at Bridgewater State University and is the author of "The Insanely Awesome Pandemic Playbook: A Humorous Mental Health Guide for Kids.”
The book gives kids exercises and advice on how to cope with the massive changes in their lives from remote learning and too much screen time to anxiety and social isolation. “The risks are so profound.
Kids were already dealing with social skills problems and isolation,” she said. “They were already dealing with problems like substance abuse rising, adjusting to digital life where kids get cell phones at a very young age. The pandemic is happening on top of an already stressful time, and kids can only take so much.”
In The Pandemic Playbook and accompanying guide for parents, she lays out what signs of distress kids should look out for in themselves and when they need to reach out to an adult, “A lot of kids are going to come out of this with issues. That doesn't mean they're permanent issues. It doesn't mean that we can't fix things. But they're going to need help.”
You can hear the full episode by subscribing to The Hingham Cast via the following link: https://hinghamanchor.com/the-hingham-cast/.