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Socially-distant holidays can affect children’s mental health

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Downtown Syracuse.

A holiday season overshadowed by the pandemic takes a toll on our mental health; and that includes on children.

Dr. Jennifer Rapke works primarily with kids at the Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse. She sees how a socially distant holiday season that blows up yearly routines has affected her family.

"I know my own daughter said if we don’t go to so and so’s house the day before this, it’s not normal and it’s not okay,” Rapke said. “So I think it’s even more so a routine for them than it is for us.”

She said while adults can make a distinction that changes in tradition are for the greater good, kids don’t have that level of cognitive awareness. That means sometimes, missing a traditional family visit or a holiday shopping ritual, can be very challenging. She said some days, kids will be fine with it, and other times, just lose it. Keeping them on an even keel might require a bit of inventive thinking.

"My best encouragement to everybody is trying to focus on what can we do now that we’ve never tried before, or do differently before, and we’re sort of forced to take that chance now,” Rapke said.

Rapke suggests coming up with some new ways to celebrate and creating new traditions.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.