Pandemic taking a toll on children mentally and physically

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – As many closed part of their lives off to the outside world during the pandemic, doctors are fearful for what’s happening to children behind closed doors.

“We are definitely seeing less of the cases we would hope to hear about earlier,” Dr. Barron with Hasbro Children’s Hospital said.

Dr. Christine Barron is the Division Director of the Child Safe Program at the Lawrence A. Aubin, Sr. Child Protection Center. Their team responds to reports of abuse with children, but reports have been few and far in between since the start of the pandemic and the ones that come in, are severe.

“Less of the cases are coming in for the lower injuries for kids. Things like bruise or an injury where in the past, they may have been noticed and brought to attention and evaluated and provided preventative services,” Dr. Barron said. “What we’re seeing now is significant injuries; burns, fractures and even abusive head trauma.”

Dr. Barron says they’ve seen a rise in injuries from corporal punishment and severe weight loss in kids. She says she fears that and isolation will lead to developmental delays in children.

“All the risk factors for families are at the highest we’ve ever seen,” Dr. Barron said. “There’s isolation, increased financial stressors, there’s increase substance and drinking abuse in homes. Families don’t have the normal support systems they have in order to help them in their parenting roles.”

But, what’s happening behind closed doors isn’t only physical, it’s also mental.

“Often I find people very surprised when I say children can be depressed too or experience anxiety as well, but it is true,” Dr. Gandhi at Bradley Hospital said.

Dr. Tanuja Gandhi is a child psychiatrist at Bradley Hospital. She says kids are struggling right now, some depressed or suicidal, others in bad situations at home, but the majority, feeling alone.

“There are a lot more kids who are depressed and anxious because there is no social interaction,” Dr. Gandhi said. “For a child, social, emotional learning is very important and a lot of it happens in school when you’re outside the home.”

Dr. Gandhi says communication is the key and her advice to parents is to check in on kids routinely and see how they’ve feeling.

She also says while this year has been tough, kids are resilient.

“I don’t anticipate a permanent long-term impact if you’re able to act in time, provide the support to both children and families and help them transition back,” Dr. Gandhi said.

If you notice your child becoming more isolated or less interested in things they used to be, Dr. Gandhi says it’s always an option to talk to a professional.

If you notice another child with suspicious injuries or think they might be in danger, call Rhode Island’s child abuse hotline at 1-800-RI-CHILD.

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