A recent study published by the Pediatric Journal revealed that children are losing parents due to COVID-19 at an alarming rate. The journal discovered that one child loses a caregiver for every four COVID related deaths. Furthermore, the majority of these kids are from families of racial minorities.
This is not just a national issue. It is occurring locally in Washoe County as well. Given that the Latino population in Washoe County is 25%, a significant number of Latinx children in our community have lost a mom, dad or grandparent due to COVID-19. This is important because the death of a parent can negatively affect the development and mental health of children.
“It is just so sad for these kids,” said Kari Michael, director of Incline Middle School in Incline Village, NV. “Some of them have not been to school in weeks. Not only has their education been interrupted because of school closures, but now these kids have to deal with these losses [of parents] that they don’t even know how to comprehend.”
As explained by the principal, these kids suffer from emotional effects associated with the loss of a parent such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Without adequate support nor guidance, these children struggle academically and socially. Additionally, there are prolonged effects of losing a parent such as increased risk of suicide and economic insecurity.
A teacher from Tahoe Lake Elementary, who wanted to remain anonymous, described a recent experience. “Sometimes a child will cry during class and tell me that she misses her dad. Some of them will ask me a lot of questions about their parents and they want to know more about the parent he/she lost.”
The therapists that work at these local schools shared a few suggestions on how to help these children through these difficulties:
- It is necessary to recognize the death of the parent and answer the questions the child may have in an honest but caring way.
- It is important to validate the child’s feelings and share your own to show that the child is not alone
- If possible, maintain routines because children may find comfort in familiarity
Additionally, use available resources in the community to help children in need:
- Communities in School Nevada
- Banco de Alimentos del Norte de Nevada
- Community Health Alliance
- The Children’s Cabinet
As the pandemic continues it is important to provide children adequate support. These programs and strategies explained by the therapists are necessary in order to promote stable relationships and address childhood adversities.
This article was written by Kate Rye, a Spanish and Psychology major in her senior year at the University of Nevada, Reno.