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Wisconsin teens share experience living through the pandemic

Posted at 6:43 PM, Mar 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-23 19:43:35-04

The pandemic has taken its toll on kids and teens across the country.

The C.S. Mott Children's Hospital national poll out of Michigan found 46 percent of parents say their teen has shown signs of new or worsening mental health condition since last March. It suggested that one in three teen girls, along with one in five teen boys, have experienced new or worsening anxiety.

Sixteen-year-year-old Sahil Shah and 18-year-old Sarah Booher, both students at Menomonee Falls High School, looked back on life during a global pandemic.

Like schools across the country, Menomonee Falls closed last spring based on the evolving concerns surrounding COVID-19.

"During the summer or late spring, it really started to hit me. I missed my friends. I missed talking to people. School is hard for me because I don't learn very well virtually," said Shah.

The normalcy of being a teen was gone, and the days were filled with uncertainty.

"It's been really tough to miss out on a lot of different experiences that I've been looking forward to. We didn't have our junior prom. Senior year, the start of it, was different: no homecoming, football games looked different," said Booher.

She added that there was a lot of stress and anxiety around the potential of getting sick or a family member getting sick.

Mya Harris, a licensed social worker and child and family therapist with Children's Wisconsin, said the pandemic has been traumatic.

"When we deal with the trauma, we have a lot of symptoms related to trauma, such as feeling sad, feeling anxious, feeling uncertain, a sense of hopelessness sometimes. So we've seen all that with kids and teens," Harris said.

Harris believes the lack of connection is causing these trends. She adds while we have social media and virtual learning, it is not the same as in-person.

However, she said there has been some good.

"It will create the ability for us to talk more about our feelings and trauma itself, what that is and what that does to us. That it’s okay to feel sad. It’s okay to have these feelings that are confusing," said Harris.

"Hopefully again us all being able to be more open about our feelings open about conversations about what we need," Harris said.

For Shah, talking with friends through video games, getting outside, playing soccer, and basketball all helped him cope with the pandemic.

"I really enjoyed spending time with family too. I would say that was the biggest impact. The best part of the pandemic was spending more time with family," said Shah.

Booher said pre-pandemic, her days were packed from start to finish with school, clubs, and sports. When the world slowed down, so did she, working on self-care, hanging out with family, and journaling.

"I now know how to regulate my time, how to find some balance, take the time to be with my family, take the time to care for myself. So if there's been a silver lining it's been that," said Booher.

Both students feel optimistic about the future.

As we wrapped up our interview, Harris left us with this quote by Maya Angelou, as we move forward.

"No matter what happens or how bad it seems today, life does go on and it will be better tomorrow."

Harris encouraged families to share how they are feeling, understanding that this time has been tough on everyone in some way, and to seek professional help if they need it.

She advised finding healthy ways to cope by doing more of whatever brings you joy, whether it is reading, drawing, dancing, meditation, or sports.

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