During the pandemic we opened a discussion for teenagers to share their experiences, anxieties and fears, and their tips and ideas for dealing with it. We have drawn from over 200 posts written by the youth, from countries around the world, and created an amalgam portraying their thoughts, feelings and ideas to highlight their concerns and share their wisdom. Only names have been changed to protect their anonymity, but their words and impressive use of English with only minor errors have been preserved. By Kathe Gogolewski, Becki Cohn-Vargas, and Natalia Bout
The anxieties forged from the Coronavirus pandemic have altered the way people view their lives, their wellbeing and their security. Across the globe, people share a new fragility in similar ways as both the virus and its ally — a disquieting angst — crosses borders, cultures, and socio-economic levels. As so many adults scramble to find new footing and help others gain theirs, their children are sometimes left alone to deal with their questions and fears. On our platform they have an opportunity to turn to each other. Teens from around the world express their condolences, ideas, and hopes. They demonstrate an amazing synchronicity in their shared sentiments, while affirming a simple beauty in their candor. It’s easy to imagine that their ease emerged through a mutual trust and belief that their peers would understand them. As their parents, guardians and concerned adults, these quotes offer us a window into understanding the way this virus has shaken their sense of self, and ushers us in as silent witnesses to their resiliency.
Loss of Freedom, Loneliness, and Struggles with Distance Learning
One of the glaring and overriding themes that emerged from their posts dealt with the loss of freedom provoked by the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders. For Nadin, 16, from Russia, “The hardest thing in this whole situation is to understand that you can not do something very familiar, which you did before without even noticing this action — went out into the street without fear, was not afraid to be among people, say hello to friends and breathe the same air with them.” Li, 15, from Vietnam echoes her sentiments. “The streets have half the amount of cars driving on them as there used to be….” Dari,13, from Mexico summed it up neatly. “Now I understand how animals feel living in the zoo.”
Other posts reveal ways that isolation has fueled their loneliness, a loneliness that an online screen cannot fully satisfy. The pandemic has stripped them of the comforts afforded from physical contact and presence. They no longer enjoy full sensory experiences with each other and their teachers, where touching a hand, laughing with a group, or sharing food have all now been reduced to comparatively flat connections on their computers and cells. Teens experience relationships acutely, which define and shape their sense of identity and belonging in the world. “I really miss school because I can’t see my friends because of the coronavirus “ wrote Paola, 13, from Spain, expressing the feelings of many others. Amanda, 15, from the USA concurred “ I keep in touch and text my friends but it is still not the same.”
For some, the transition from school to distance learning at home has been very frustrating. Polina, 14, from the Ukraine communicated thoughts shared by others. “It’s very difficult for me to study online and especially those subjects that I didn’t even understand when the teacher explained them to me.”