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Letters to Santa reveal pandemic strain on kids

Since Santa is so busy this time of year, the USPS program allows individuals or groups to adopt letters from children in need.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The letters sent into the United States Postal Service (USPS) program "Operation Santa" come from children all over the country and, sadly, they are showing just how much the coronavirus pandemic is weighing on the minds of young ones.

While some kids asked for the latest and greatest toys and games, others wrote to Santa asking for help to bring things like a coronavirus vaccine, food, or clothes.

Since Santa is so busy this time of year, the USPS program allows individuals or groups to adopt letters from children in need –  and return letters or gifts in his place.

Andrew, 9, from California, wrote that his family doesn’t have a lot of money this year. He wanted Santa to bring him a pair of Nike shoes and food for all children this Christmas.

Some children wrote that they wanted Santa to bring a vaccine or that he could make the coronavirus go away altogether.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Andrew Mendonsa said this is a sign that the pandemic is having a deep effect on children. Even after events like the attacks on Sept. 11 or mass shootings, children did not typically attach to current events on a personal level like seen in these letters, he said.

Dr. Mendonsa said the holidays are typically stressful anyway, let alone throwing in the pandemic.

“Every day from the minute they wake up and they can’t see their friends and they can’t go to school or can’t go shopping at the mall, they’re constantly reminded of this virus and pandemic,” Dr. Mendonsa said.

Generally, parents should talk openly and honestly about the pandemic with their children, Mendonsa said. There are enough media sources out there that children are likely to learn about the situation through a number of other places.

“We’re not at all helping our children or our teens when we’re trying to like talk down something,” Dr. Mendonsa said.

Parents can help also help their children through these times by providing them a routine, to give them a sense of stability. Parents should also be mindful that they are taking care of themselves.

If you notice your child has significant changes in behavior such as isolation, loss of interest in hobbies, or more risky behavior – you may want to consider contacting a mental health professional for help.

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