The Pandemic is Traumatic for Kids Like Mine. I Have No Idea How to Help ThemRoundup
tags: education, COVID-19, childhood
David Perry is a journalist and senior academic adviser to the history department at the University of Minnesota.
My daughter flung herself down on me, crying as she said, “I hate this so much.” She’s 11 now but still a foot shorter than me, so her head was pressed into my chest, her words muffled. I felt the damp of her tears press through my T-shirt and squeezed her as tightly as I dared. “Me, too,” I said.
My daughter is part of “Generation Covid,” or Gen C. It’s a generation that will not only be marked by the trauma of the disruption and death, but also by witnessing the total failures of adults to protect them and their world. So far. I keep telling myself that with just a little more effort, we could change the lesson, but mostly I don’t know what to do. I try not to pretend that I have answers. So I hold her and hope that’s enough for now.
Every parent I know is struggling, and not just with the impossible tasks asked of us. There’s no way to be a good parent, teacher, employee and spouse, all at the same time, as the world collapses and we’re isolated in our homes. But it’s more than that. As winter settles over us, it becomes harder every day to keep away the fear. Generation Covid will carry the trauma of this year into adulthood.
“Gen C” was proposed as a term in the early part of the last decade by marketing gurus seeking to define a generation “consumer” or generation “connected.” The term didn’t stick as near as I can tell, which may be for the best, because now the C stands for covid-19. Ed Yong of the Atlantic recoined the term when talking to a friend with a new baby, a use that may expand to distinguish people who were children during the 2020 pandemic. My daughter is technically Gen Z, which has been commonly defined as 1997-2012. Perhaps we should rethink those generational categories, though. Predicting generational divides before they happen is a fraught business, but it’s hard to imagine something that could define a cohort more than being a child — aware yet powerless — during this pandemic.
My daughter is too connected to be fully distracted from the crisis. Daily, as she logs in to class, as she plays “Among Us” or “Minecraft” with friends, or as she clicks past ads to get to a new YouTuber’s shenanigan, she’s reminded of her collapsing world and how much she’s lost. (I asked her permission to write this; she’s online, and she’s going to find it eventually.) But I suspect that she’d be able to read it in my own mood, even if she had no idea what was going on in the world beyond our walls. All our children, isolated with us, feel it, and the strain is showing.