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“Some kids we just lose,” Melissa Rysemus, the principal of Interagency Academy, an alternative school in Seattle, told me. During more than a year of remote instruction, only about half of the school’s children attended classes, and some of them didn’t turn on their cameras.

Two of Rysemus’s students were killed during the pandemic, one shot by a boyfriend and one shot in his doorway for unknown reasons.

One way to assess the impact on children is to count “adverse childhood experiences,” or ACEs. These can be a parent beating or regularly swearing at a child or partner, or parents divorcing or abusing drugs or alcohol. Many children have one ACE, but those who have several are more likely as adults to suffer from cancer, heart disease and other ailments, as well as to abuse drugs, miss work or even kill themselves.

Several child experts told me that the pandemic has been an ACE machine, with more domestic violence, drug abuse and turmoil in homes, in addition to about 40,000 children losing a parent to Covid-19 itself. Given what we know about ACEs, today’s traumatized children may suffer increased risks for decades to come, and some may transmit the disadvantage to the next generation.

I’ve been worrying during this pandemic about an old friend of mine, whom I’ll call Dell. He’s smart and charming, but his grandfather was an alcoholic, and his father — a wonderful friend of mine — abused drugs and alcohol until his death six years ago. Dell started using drugs at 12, burglarizing homes to support his habit, but then three years ago, he turned over a new leaf.

Dell was a star of a recovery program, got a job, avoided drugs for more than two years and was a fantastic dad to his two children. My wife and I told him about research on the importance of talking to infants, and he began speaking to his kids constantly.

In February 2020 on the eve of the pandemic, I saw him and his new wife, and he told me he had been promoted to be a manager. We embraced and celebrated: He was going to be the one to break the cycle! His kids would thrive!

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