Parenting is a tough job, and that vitally important vocation has been made even more difficult because of the COVID-19 pandemic. At Focus on the Family, our motto, “Helping families thrive,” remains the goal, even during a global outbreak.

The COVID-19 epidemic has had a deleterious effect on children nationwide, and we want to come alongside parents to help them support their children during this crisis. At the top of mind for many parents is how their kids are being impacted by something our society has never experienced before: widespread school closures.

Of note, the effects of the outbreak crosses party lines, and parents from both sides of the aisle are worried about how their kids are being impacted by school closures.

In this vein, six senators have written a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urging the agency to help reopen schools, and warning about the harmful effects that continuing to keep schools closed will have on our nation’s children.

Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, led the effort and was joined by five of his colleagues: Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Tim Scott, R-S.C., Ben Sasse, R-Neb., Mike Braun, R-Ind., and Steve Daines, R-Mont.

Anxiety and depression have skyrocketed among adolescents due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter will be welcomed by parents who believe their kids learn best with in-person school instruction.

In the letter, Sen. Lee wrote, “A fully remote or hybrid model of K-12 education is straining the mental health of parents, students, and teachers while simultaneously increasing developmental, learning, and economic losses.”

The letter cited a recent study conducted by the United States Congress Joint Economic Committee, published on February 2, 2021, which found that “24 percent of schools remain fully remote, and 18 percent are teaching fully in person. . . the majority of schools (51 percent) are operating under some type of hybrid mode.”

Additionally, the letter notes that “anxiety and stress among American families and students” has increased in recent months because of school closures. One survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that that “59 perfect of parents with school-aged children reported they are concerned for their child’s emotional well-being.”

The negative effects of school closures and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were reaffirmed in a recent, new national study conducted by FAIR Health. The study found that mental health claims submitted to insurance companies by 13-18-year-olds doubled, jumping “to 94.91 percent of all medical claims in March 2020 and 119.31 percent in April 2020, compared to the same period a year earlier.”

Additionally, claims for major depressive disorder increased 83.9 percent while those for generalized anxiety disorder rose 93.6 percent among teenagers.

The findings of the study led FAIR Health president Robin Gelburd to issue the following statement:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on mental health, particularly on that of young people. The findings in our new report have implications for all those responsible for the care of young people, including providers, parents, educators, policymakers and payors.”

The letter from Sen. Lee also broaches the topic of the CDC’s recent guidelines on reopening schools which, if followed, would have actually led to the closure of a majority of schools nationwide.

“If the reopening of schools is not achieved, American families and students will only continue to suffer, as there will be even larger developmental, learning, and economic losses,” the letter warns.

“We ask that the CDC revise these recommendations, and urge you and other acting administration officials to work in coordination with, not against, states and local education agencies so that schools can promptly reopen,” it concludes.

The issue of reopening schools is becoming more bipartisan, as three Democrats in North Carolina have recently “complained about the ‘teachers’ union’ resisting reopening schools.” These three Democrats are members of the state Senate, and recently voted in favor of a bill mandating in-person school instruction at public schools statewide.

Of course, many parents are still concerned about sending their kids back to school and doing so during a pandemic can be quite scary.

Parents can take some comfort that by all accounts, COVID-19 is less deadly in children and teenagers than the annual influenza strain is. The CDC confirms that “the risk of complications for healthy children is higher for flu compared to COVID-19.”

It’s quite likely that the negative effects the pandemic has had on children’s intellectual acuity social ability will not be fully understood for some time. However, the more the topic is studied, the more dire the situation appears.

Dr. Marty Makary, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, warned on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” that keeping schools closed is way more harmful to children than the physiological effects of the COVID-19 disease itself.

As recounted by The Federalist, Dr. Makary explained that a new study has found that school closures have numerous negative effects on children including:

  • A 91 percent increase in self-harm in children due to lockdowns.
  • A 300 percent increase in kids seeking medical help for self-harm in areas with strict government-mandated lockdowns and school closures.
  • A 63 percent increase in overdoses and a large spike in emergency room visits due to “mental illness complaints.”

It’s clear that keeping kids at home negatively impacts their mental health.

If you’re concerned about your child’s mental health, Focus on the Family is here to help. Click here to read more about why this area is so important, and what you can do as a parent to help your kids thrive.

You can follow this author on Parler @ZacharyMettler

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