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YFCS October Blog: Trauma of COVID and Its Impact on Families

The Youth, Family, and Community Sciences graduate program publishes a monthly blog written by students, alumni and faculty sharing important topics and helpful resources in family science. In the October 2021 blog post, Emily Ragland, founder and owner of communiTEAM LLC, discusses how trauma from the pandemic has affected families.

In March 2020, our world changed in ways that many of us would never have imagined. Although everyone was impacted differently, the family unit in America was taken, shaken up, and dropped on its head in a way that our systems were ill-prepared to support. Parents lost their jobs or had their income cut to the point that many could not provide for their children. Children were isolated in their homes away from peers, teachers and other third parties who often served as protectors and mentors for youth of all ages. Between the financial demands and isolation, parents and children started surviving instead of thriving, and they were doing so alone in their homes. 

Emily Ragland

When we sit back to think about the ways families thrive, much of it is in community support, school engagement, connections outside of the home, and safety in the home. Over the last 18 months, all of these systems have been challenged, and many families find themselves fighting battles alone. Parents struggle to get mental health support due to long waitlists and costs. Children are not seeing friends and developing social skills due to being homebound in their schooling. As if these shifts were not enough for families to fight through, the increase in stress has also led to the use and abuse of alcohol and drugs skyrocketing. Abuse is increasing as families turn to substances for solutions, and children and adults are being victimized behind closed doors as a result.

As a child and family advocate, seeing this weight on the shoulders of our parents and guardians couldn’t go ignored. As I dove into learning more about the family systems and theories and the impact of policies on families, it became clear to me that we were not addressing the foundational issue: trauma.

Trauma is defined in several different ways, but it has a specific description when referring to trauma as it relates to mental health and family resilience. The definition of trauma in the medical dictionary is “a psychologically upsetting experience/s that produces an emotional or mental disorder or otherwise has lasting negative effects on a person’s thoughts, feelings, or behavior.” With that in mind, it is critical that we as youth, family and community advocates learn more about trauma. The impact that trauma can have on humans can be intense, and without the correct systems in place, parents and youth are fighting a battle that they didn’t even know they were in. 

It is time we change how things are usually done – and do them the way they need to be done. Our families need us, and something as simple as becoming trauma-informed can change the futures of every family we encounter. From learning about the signs of trauma to understanding the impact that trauma has on the brain and development, there are lifelong consequences that we must become more educated in. It has been a hard 18 months for everyone. As passionate advocates, being the superheroes we are, it is time to put the S back on our chest and learn how to be there for our youth, families, and communities.

Learn more about how you can take the next step to be a part of the solution.