Give Kids the "Summer Slowdown" They NeedRoundup
tags: education, academic labor, COVID-19
David M. Perry is a journalist and historian and co-author of The Bright Ages: A New History of Medieval Europe. He is a senior academic adviser in the history department of the University of Minnesota. Follow him on Twitter.
At 7:15 every morning Monday through Friday I return to my house and collapse, exhausted, my patience frayed, anxious if it was a day when I'd lost my temper and already ready to go back to bed.
This is how it feels after getting my kids -- a son in eighth grade and a daughter in sixth -- to the bus every morning. It hits, and then I have to start work.
It wasn't always so hard, but as so many other parents understand too well, this has been the longest, most brutal, school year of our lives, and we're all frankly just spent.
It's been a struggle to adapt to distance learning (September), then partially in-person instruction (October), then back to full distance (November), then one kid distanced and one in person (January), then both in person but only some of the days of the week (since March), and that's not even going into the special-education related battles with the school district over supporting my son. We are so tired and short-tempered -- and in ill-shape to learn or to parent any more.
But by the end of the first full week of June, a miracle will happen and the school year will end. For parents in the US with kids old enough for vaccines, this will be an actual post-pandemic summer.
Before the conversation becomes all about summer camps or sports or vacations or making plans to do all the many, many things at last that we've been unable to do, let's take a moment. Recognize that it's been hard on even the luckiest kids to live through a global mass death event like this one. A lot of adults have failed them. They are attuned to the chaos, more than they are ever likely to disclose to you (or even understand themselves).
We're just beginning to assemble data on the mental health consequences of the pandemic on kids, but the leading indicators are worrisome. From April to October of last year, mental health emergency cases for children aged 5-11 rose by 24%, according to the Children's Hospital Association. Even in resource-rich places and even for children who have not experienced illness and death from the pandemic directly, school closures disrupt routines, access to food, and correlate with rising levels of stress and anxiety among children.
Research shows that childhood trauma, especially when it goes unaddressed, correlates with long-term physical health concerns as well. And even if a child doesn't meet the official clinical definition of experiencing "trauma," most of our kids have been through traumatic experiences without a doubt. Since the very beginning of the pandemic, experts have been preparing for the effect of trauma on children. But as parents, what are we going to do? What can we do next week? In the hot days of summer?
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