Two weeks ago, my 7 year-old daughter started having full-blown anxiety attacks. Even just the smallest decision, like whether or not to have mac and cheese or an egg sandwich for lunch, can easily paralyze her with sadness and confusion. She has become hypersensitive and recoils if I try to touch her. She no longer wants to have playdates or be close to other kids. It started like this ever since the mask mandates were lifted at her school.

It’s hard to avoid letting my dismay slip into anger. I can’t help but think of my friends in Florida and Denmark with children of the same age who have not been masked and distanced from other kids for the last two years. I keep seeing those Facebook posts from that one old friend saying: “Kids are resilient. What is the big deal about masks? My kids don’t mind it at all. Don’t you care about vulnerable people?”

In my worst moments, the feeling of helplessness turns to rage. Was it worth it to do this to our children? Was it really necessary? Who did we protect?

I had a conference with my daughter’s teacher, who takes her mask down when she is at the front of the room teaching but puts it back on when she sits with the children in smaller groups. She nervously laughed and said: “It’s not because of coronovirus, I just don’t want to catch a cold.” I managed to respectfully point out to her that this is likely confusing for children, and possibly a contributing factor to my daughter’s predicament.

It took every ounce of my self-control to avoid taking out all my pain and frustration on her. Instead, I merely expressed my concerns and asked that she take them into consideration. I feel no ill toward her. In fact, I can’t imagine how hard it has been. Even if I wish things had been done differently, I am grateful that she has been doing her best for my child. It’s not her fault any more than it is my daughters.

Despite our best efforts to keep her safe, surrounded by love and support, my daughter has clearly been traumatized by the policies that were put in place.

I am certainly not alone. I know of at least four other parents in my own small sphere with children who were also subjected to the restrictions and are struggling with their mental health. For those who are going through this, my heart goes out to you. There is simply no greater torture then to watch your child suffer. And to think it might have been avoided could fester into the sort of regret that forever dampens one’s spirit.

Yet, blindly lashing out and projecting my hurt onto others only makes me feel worse and does nothing to help my child. Even if, in fear, people continue to deny the obvious missteps and obfuscation of truth, to blame those who have no more control over these matters than I do would only continue the cycle of harm. I refuse to further perpetuate the same dysfunction that disregarded the well-being of our children and turned them into political yard signs. We have failed them on so many levels. Children need us to be the example of care, compassion, and healing that has been absent.

If there is another “surge” will restrictions be reinstated?

Frankly, I no longer trust the CDC. Not because of any youtube videos or podcasts. But because of the institution’s utter lack of transparency and the fact that their policy guidelines have been nonsensical. If I am not mistaken, the covid plans that were adopted by my school district, according to the official recommendations, are still based on state-wide case numbers that are not stratified by age or immunity status. I have not heard anyone suggest that this should be changed. And my daughter is suffering. And I don’t know what to do.

Just now, my wife went upstairs to ask my daughter if she wanted to come down and make donut muffins. A few weeks ago, this was one of her favorite things to do. But today, even simply asking her if she wants to has caused her anguish. We have already called several professionals looking for help but no one has gotten back to us. My guess is they are overloaded. In the absence of professional help, we have to turn to each other. I have avoided writing about such matters because they are so fraught with emotion and politics. However, anyone who knows anything about trauma knows that the wounds need to be exposed. My heart is breaking. All I can do is remain patient and hold faith that my daughter, and all of us, can find ways to heal.

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