Despite the upheaval and losses due to the corona virus, it is valuable to focus on possible benefits and lessons we can take from this experience. I have counseled many kids and families during the pandemic who are learning and growing a lot from this adversity. The following are ten benefits that could make up the proverbial silver lining from the pandemic.
- It’s about time: Due to a slower schedule, parents have a heightened awareness of the rat race that has become childhood replete with 12 months a year club sports teams and academic enrichment activities. Families report feeling less rushed, tense, and exhausted and more calm, present, and connected. Kids tell me their family has dusted off old board games, 1000-piece puzzles, and card games for fun and focused family time. I challenge every family to deliberately remember the good feelings derived from this less busy schedule and make conscious choices next fall to maintain their down time and connection together.
- Stop shopping! How nice has it been to only go grocery shopping every 1-2 weeks instead of several times a week? This has allowed families to plan fun meals and cook together more often. Parents and teens are reporting that their amount of impulse buying is down because of restrictions on shopping expeditions and tightened budgets.
- We love boredom! Unsupervised free time has allowed kids to do what previous generations did routinely: create your own fun. Many of my best childhood memories involve spontaneous fun and doing more with less. Kids are building backyard forts, creating games with their siblings, and taking much more responsibility for their boredom. I hope that parents losing the job of entertainment director sticks long after the virus recedes.
- Head outdoors: An abundance of free time, having parents working from home, and a growing feeling of being smothered has led to families spending more time outdoors. Research has shown that time in nature results in people feeling calmer and more grounded, both qualities needed in times of stress. Let’s hope this trend of playing outside far outweighs time in front of screens after things open up.
- I wish I had time for__: No more excuses about being too busy to pursue interests and passions. I have encouraged adolescents to think about hobbies or activities they used to bemoan as impossible to pursue due to a lack of free time and start them. I know teens who have taken up playing guitar and ukulele, sewing, painting, photography, gardening, writing short stories, and web design. This has resulted in an increase in their creativity and a sense of fulfillment. I hope they continue to carve out time for their passions next fall no matter how busy they become.
One major benefit is having opportunities to be of service to others
6. Serving others: Kids today are much more aware than they were before the corona crisis of the suffering of others less fortunate. Many have taken it upon themselves to be of service to others, be it isolated neighbors or grandparents, peers who are lonely, or people on the front lines of the pandemic. 10-year-old Lilly painted pictures and taped them on the windows of a senior living home. 11-year-old Charlotte decorated her driveway with brightly colored chalk to make people smile as they walked or drove by their home. Children have reported to me that they feel more grateful for all of the blessings in their lives. Let’s hope we can all carry service and appreciation forward with us.
7. First year of college will be a breeze: Early on, one of the biggest stressors for kids was getting used to a new school schedule, similar to college freshmen. Students had to become more independent, self-motivated and organized. Their academic routine more closely mirrored the schedule of college students. I hope the confidence they attained from pushing through the frustrations and figuring it out will give them a head start their first semester of college.
8. Perhaps screen time isn’t as evil as parents thought: Being quarantined has required schoolwork and social lives to go online as never before. As far as I can tell, the increased time allotted by parents for kids to socialize with devices hasn’t caused any brains to rot. Teens who attend my weekend retreats and summer camp weeks are not allowed any technology for the week. At the end of camp, every girl tells me that they really enjoyed a break from the stress and tension that comes from 24/7 connection. I’m hearing similar sentiments now as adolescents are creating unplugged time to relax and decompress. Creating a healthy balance with technology is an ongoing process for our kids, and this pandemic has provided more grist for the mill in that regard.
9. Working together: The families I know who are functioning the best are the ones who involve their children in the process of making agreements. They brainstormed as a family to create their new home and school structure and routines. Kids were given a lot of voice in how their families used their free time and what activities they played together. That kind of democratic parenting process will prevent power struggles and enhance cooperation for the rest of your parenting lives.
10. Let your kids lead: The covid-19 crisis has opened up more opportunities for kids to step up into leadership roles. Some examples are: taking action with service activities, older siblings being a good example for younger siblings or friends, advocating for what they wanted with routines and family time, taking on more responsibility for self-care, and being a confidant for friends who are hurting. You don’t have to be Greta Thunberg to be considered a leader. One girl told me she smiled at everyone she passed as she rode her bike through her neighborhood. Another girl reported that she has become the only one who can get her little 3-year-old sister to settle asleep each night. We often so undervalue what our kids can contribute, so continue to encourage them to step up and lead.
What lessons can kids and families take forward from overcoming this adversity?
And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about. Haruki Murakami
Once this crisis is over, I encourage all of you, parents and kids alike, to become aware of the ways you have grown as a result of overcoming any adversities you were challenged you with. Decide what new habits, routines, and activities you would like to take forward with you and what old ones you’d like to leave behind. I hope you have learned what’s really important, what you truly need, all of the people, possessions, and experiences you are grateful for, the importance of close connections with family and friends, and the importance of being in charge of your time. It would be helpful to write these thoughts down in a journal to help you to further internalize the lessons. And you can always look back on your words if you lose your way as life gets back to normal.
Tim Jordan, M.D. is a Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrician, speaker, author and media consultant, blogger and podcast. Tim is dedicated and passionate about serving children, whether it is in his private practice counseling girls 6 – 22 years; consulting with schools; speaking to parents; or facilitating at his weekend retreats and summer camps. His new book is She Leads: A Practical Guide for Raising Girls who Advocate, Influence and Lead.