The psychological impact coronavirus is having on kids

Perth Amboy High School Senior James Rodriguez says he’s crushed that he’ll be missing senior year traditions. Rodriguez, who is ranked as one of the best high school wrestlers in the state, was excited about receiving a scholarship to wrestle in college. It’s a dream he has been working on since his freshman year.

“I’ve been keeping myself in shape and exercising and running still — exercising at home. You don’t know what’s next and it’s a big step and a new chapter,” he said.

The coronavirus pandemic has put all of that on hold. The honor roll student says he now has no idea when the university he is set to attend will be up and running, leaving his world upside down.

“You’re looking forward to all these things, and at the end, unfortunately, this happened and it’s like, ‘oh man,'” he said.

High school seniors aren’t the only kids whose lives have changed dramatically. Like many other first graders, the coronavirus has changed how 6 year-old Dominick Rotondo plays and learns.

“I either go out there and play basketball or I come here and play soccer and go on my swing,” Dominick said. “We’re learning new stuff, just on a video. It’s tough to understand.”

His sister, 11-year-old Eliana, says while she loves playing with Dominick, she misses her friends and socializing during extracurricular activities.

“I was going to dance and I played basketball  with my friends. It’s been pretty boring inside my house. Me and my friends only FaceTime. When I go on walks I tell them to come outside,” the fifth grader said.

Clinical Psychologist Dr. Kelly Moore says it’s important for parents to recognize that loss of a daily routine and uncertainty can lead to loneliness, especially for kids.

“If they’re asking why they can’t go out or to grandma’s house or something like that, that may be when you would share information and keep it general, like ‘there’s a bad cold going around and we are doing all that we’re supposed to do to keep our family healthy and make sure we don’t get anyone else sick,'” she said. “You go out to take the trash out and they’re clinging and they don’t want you to leave. You see this reemergence of separation anxiety.”

In order to reduce stress and anxiety for kids, she says it’s important to control the amount of information they receive.

“I think it’s really important that we take a break from the news ourself. Don’t have it on as background noise because even if you don’t think they’re paying attention, they are,” Moore said. “If and when kids return to school, which we hope will be at some point, there may be some need for support around transitioning back and feeling safe in those environments.”

When the lockdown is lifted, Eliana is looking forward to having a party, going to the beach and hanging out with her friends — even if it requires masks and social distancing.