This is Not Just Hitting the Elderly: Underestimating what This Is Doing to Our Youth

Empty Computer Room

My daughter stood at the top of the stairs crying. I asked her what was wrong and she simply said, “I don’t want to be here.” She loves us, but she is supposed to be enjoying her college year on campus with friends, exploring new opportunities, meeting people and expanding her mind. Instead she is cooped up in this house with mom and dad–not just for a few days, but until…who knows?

I told her that she is right to feel as she does. This is not fair. She is being robbed of a formative experience. I look back on my college years as transformational and fun. Those days at Kalamazoo College made me who I am and pointed me in the direction of service to others. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to have that taken away–even if only for a few months. She has every right to be upset now.

I reminded her that eventually a new normal will settle in. We have no choice for the time being. I told her that this whole thing reminds me a little of Anne Frank (with obvious major differences); she was a young girl who found herself suddenly cut off from the outside world and her friends. We have the advantage that we are still able to connect to the outside world…but what we share is a sense that there is something very dangerous (and possibly lethal) lurking outside. Anne never lost her spirit; she found ways to preserve her humanity in the midst of great inhumanity. Even so, there can be little doubt that this COVID-19 experience may be traumatizing for our children–especially if the quarantines drag on for weeks and weeks (which to young ones seem like years). No one is really talking about that–the aftercare that will be necessary.

We are all muddling our way through this and I hope that we can find the best in others and in ourselves through it all. When Anne was alive, we saw the worst of humanity and the best of humanity. The choice is ours. It is up to us how we want to face this crisis. We decide how we treat each other. We decide how we treat ourselves. We also decide how to heal ourselves and those most traumatized. Many fear that the lead-up to the crisis was left to chance rather than careful planning; let’s not allow the aftermath to be left to chance. The stakes are too high. Our youth are counting on us.

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