Editor’s Note: Every Tuesday, Abby Freireich and Brian Platzer take questions from readers about their kids’ education. Have one? Email them at email@example.com.
Dear Abby and Brian,
The negative aspects of the past year are obvious, but I have also been trying to figure out what might be its silver linings, particularly for school-age kids. Will this generation be more flexible, adaptable, and resilient in the years to come? Will more of them be self-starters because of what they’ve endured?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on what, if anything, positive we might take away from the isolation and losses of this time.
This year has been tough for everyone, and children are no exception. Many are grieving the loss of loved ones; nearly all have endured profound academic and social disruption. A staggering number, especially teenagers, are grappling with depression and anxiety. And yet, as you write, perhaps some kids will find that in the long run, this time has made them more grateful for the basic human interactions that we all once took for granted. No one knows whether the pandemic will make kids more resilient or flexible, and how each child will process this difficult time will vary tremendously, but the job of teachers and parents is to do what we can to help kids find gratitude and opportunity in the life that awaits them.
One gift of hardship can be perspective. Although losing a soccer game pre-pandemic may have meant a bad day, quarantine may have meant not seeing loved ones for more than a year. Reacquainting themselves with what they have missed may give children a greater appreciation for what matters most in the long run: being healthy, going to school, seeing friends and family.
The same pattern holds for school. Many kids who once complained about going to school may now find it a welcome relief from staring at a computer screen all day. As COVID-19 restrictions ease, kids will benefit from you enforcing new limits on screen time, so make sure that your kids are putting away their tablets, closing their laptops, and getting out of the virtual world into the real one. As summer approaches, help emphasize this new normal by setting up more outdoor, in-person get-togethers with friends, whether in an organized sports league or a more casual gathering. Suggest that your kids play outdoors whenever possible. For most kids, these in-person social interactions will offer a respite from the isolation and constraints of spending so much time online.
Teachers and parents, too, might find that lessons can be drawn from this year. Schools, out of necessity, have had to transform the way students are educated, giving teachers the chance to test more flexible models of teaching, learning, and building community. In addition, the partnership required over the past year and a half between teachers and parents has given many parents a window not only into the curriculum, but also into their children’s strengths and challenges both academically and socially. If parents and teachers continue this close collaboration and communication, they can support their children’s growth in new ways.
This is not to say that things are going to be easy from here on out. Kids will invariably encounter obstacles in managing the losses and changes of the past year, and parents and teachers need to give them space and a forum to process their emotions. We should emphasize the delight to be found in activities and interactions we used to take for granted. Kids should write about or discuss their experience of the past year. And parents should use their kids’ reflections as an opportunity to help them be proactive now that they can finally do what they missed most—whether that’s playing with friends, hugging their grandparents, or simply going to school in person. Perhaps the greatest silver lining is that kids can now see that every ordinary day is, in its own way, extraordinary.
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