A returning parent wrote me a nice note that suggested a blog topic. She suggested I write about the impact that Covid and the cultural/educational aftershocks have had on our kiddos.
Wow. That feels quite intimidating to me. I have so many thoughts and am still trying to sort out what actually is happening and what trends I might be over-estimating.
As I weigh whether to tackle this topic, I am reminded of one of my wise mother’s favorite quotes (Abraham Lincoln): “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”
Well, I suspect that I am about to remove all doubt.
Rather than approach this as an essay that would run for pages, I will share major themes as bullet points. I am not yet able to assess their relative importance, but I do think each has truth behind it.
- Before Covid, parents were already worried that their kiddos (and themselves) were on their phones more than they should be. I picture people discussing strategies to reduce tech usage – perhaps at the breakfast table – as the news of Covid and remote school/work came into the homes. The ironic punchline – we would be using more, not less, technology.
- Remote learning impeded many important developmental milestones. Children learn so much from interacting and playing. That is how we all learned to resolve conflicts, understand social cues, self-regulate our emotions, express empathy and so many other “normal” human interactions. This includes knowing how to take turns talking, share items or use words instead of actions. At camp, we saw massive evidence of this last year. It is better this year, which brings me to a more optimistic observation:
- Children are pretty resilient. I am not sure that all campers are back to pre-pandemic developmental levels, but the gap is closing for the vast majority of children.
- Increased isolation and social media usage has increased anxiety in tweens and teens, especially girls. I think I see this getting better but am unsure. I know it was also a serious pre-pandemic trend.
- The uncertainty of the past years (coupled with a tumultuous political environment) has increased adult anger, frustration and anxiety. Our children are like emotional barometers for our feelings. When we are more angry or anxious, it can spread to them. I am seeing some improvements in this area, but the trend is less clear than with delayed milestones.
- The pandemic made us all think about the mental health as we addressed the many challenges of Covid (health, economic, educational, social). It has also helped people feel comfortable talking about these challenges. I am encouraged that mental health issues are far less stigmatized, but I also notice that some young people have started to think that some of their struggles in this area are permanent and not capable of meaningful improvement. This is clearly the minority of young people, but I am hoping that we can improve our conversations about healing, resilience and even strength.
- With the challenges I discuss above, camp is harder to execute, but more important than it has ever been.
OK, those are my disjointed and disorganized observations. I hope they will be useful!