It’s been about a month since most of the United States quickly ground to a halt. As many have said, as a country entered a self-induced coma. Each day is unlike any that has ever been experienced. All the while, like all other parents of young children we have been forced to take on challenges that exceed our expertise, resources, and patience.
Over the weeks I’ve been processing how families, friends and other people in my life have been internalizing their experiences and listening to various “experts” on how to address the issues we face this instant and the issues we should begin to anticipate by the time COVID-19 has passed as a societal concern. And then there are the children. There are so many questions about the children and what this means. What are the academic repercussions? What are the implications for peer relationships? How will the stress and insecurity their families are experiences imprint themselves into their value systems?
As I write this my older daughter is telling my younger daughter to leave her alone because her baby (doll) is sick with COVID-19 and no one can be around her except her mom. They’re able to play this after spending the first three hours of the morning in front of computers “learning.”
This morning while eating breakfast we began to discuss the great things about working and going to school from home. We don’t have to wake up early, we don’t need to make lunches, and we don’t need to drive anywhere. We are privileged to have secure jobs and the resources to carry on our lives where it only took us four weeks to come to a spot where we can see positives. From what I hear that is not the case for most of the people around the United States.
We also discussed the things we miss because we have to stay home. The list included their teachers, their friends, restaurants, playgrounds, the library, and the recreation center.
And somethings are already becoming normal. The kids are no longer asking to talk to their friends daily. They are no longer resistant to learning online. They have figured out how to pass time without leaving our home. That’s our news, but what does this all mean for the kids? What, particularly does it mean for Generation Alpha? My short answer is pretty much the same as everyone else’s; only time will tell.
Less noticeable observations
I recently came across a comic strip that showed the stereotypical generational responses to the virus. From Baby Boomers to Generation Z, each caricature had a different perspective. The last frame showed the character from generation z and a character from the silent generation agreeing on FDR’s infamous quote “All we need to fear is fear itself.”
I had two takeaways. The artist sees Gen Z and Gen Z’s grandparents or perhaps great grandparents (Silent Generation) as coming full circle. Are they saying that the Silent Generation’s experience of the Great Depression as young children and World War 2 in early adulthood is parallel to Generation Z’s experience of the Great Recession as young children and the COVID-19 pandemic as young adults? Is this accurate? And what about Gen Alpha? Will there first jobs be the product of a New Deal type of response. Furthermore will they be the Generation volunteering to fight a modern war as the world spirals into greater conflict?
The other take away was that Generation Alpha was completely absent from the comic strip. Why? One could surmise that it is because they are yet to be perceived as a voice worth listening to regarding ongoing events. It might be assumed that they couldn’t possibly wrap their heads around COVID-19, so why listen? That is certainly true for the Gen Alphas born in the second half of the last decade, but those born between 2010 and 2015, my kids; they may not be able to understand time and truly grasp the gravity of the situation, but I would argue that they have a better understanding of what is going on than many Baby Boomers. They ask the questions that need to be asked, they are thinking about the cure and vaccine, but they are not hedging their bets on anything. The future is a blank slate. They know that it is important for everyone to work together to overcome this, and they are committed to continuing to learn and stay safe. They are adapting. Is this because they are naïve and still accept authority unconditionally. No, it’s because they have grown up in a world that has prepared them for these types of events.
Here’s a one perspective on how older Gen Alphas are internalizing COVID-19.
As we move forward into this uncharted territory I ask you to consider the voice of Gen Alpha, not just their physical safety, but their emotional safety. It can be tough for adults to see children as people with rights, particularly a right to speak up and speak out. Try to let go and listen to what your child has to say about responding to COVID-19 and help them see solutions rather than dwell on the problems. Allow them to tell you how they are feeling and validate their perspective with words of encouragement; fostering their curiosity, creativity, compassion, interest in collaborating, and ability to adapt to adversity.
On the other side of the pandemic will be teenagers who are part of Gen Alpha. Yes, you heard me. Teenagers. The economic aftershocks of COVID-19 is projected to last a decade. And if we want a brighter future, it will be in their maturing hands. Please stand by Gen Alphas as they learn and grow from this experience.