Coronavirus News: Families turning to virtual therapy for kids during COVID-19 crisis

LONG ISLAND (WABC) -- Kids aren't out on the playgrounds, and they aren't inside their schools as a result of COVID-19.

Several weeks into this pandemic, some families may be settling into this new norm -- but others are reaching a crisis point.

"We're getting a lot of referrals from urgent care, where they are trying not to hospitalize the kids, and they're sending them to us," Regina Barros Rivera said.

Barros Rivera is with the North Shore Child Family Guidance Center in Nassau County, and she highlights some of the more urgent warning signs.

"They're beginning to isolate, they're not sleeping, they're having passive thoughts of suicide or self harming," Barros Rivera said.

But she says there's help virtually. In fact, many therapists are fully up and running now and are even doing intake for new, young patients.

For the Stensland family in Huntington, it was a matter of continuing a group friend session for their 12-year-old son Jimmy.

"I should be interacting a lot more with my friends via text, email, phone calling," Jimmy said.

Jimmy's mother Gina Stensland said she thinks sometimes kids need to be reminded.

"It's so easy to be so lazy once your school work is done," she said.

Jimmy's virtual help comes from a group called Kidz Helping Kidz in Melville. That's where Sarah Wagenberg and her family turn, as well.

"I think as a mom, it's been hard just trying to keep everyone occupied, get a sense of routine," Sarah's mother Marissa Wagenberg said.

The issues range from frustrations due to online schoolwork to more serious health issues that are plaguing families everywhere.

"I have some kids who actually have parents that have the coronavirus, so they talk about that," Kidz Helping Kidz mental health expert Dana Kane-Glickman said. "They're very concerned, will we ever go back to school? Will life ever be normal again?"

The pleasant surprise is that they say virtual support is much more helpful than they thought.

Therapists are also getting a glimpse of family dynamics at home in a way they've never seen before.


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