What Our Young People Need to Learn from COVID_19

During breakfast this past weekend, I was telling my husband that the response to COVID_19 has been curious. Gen-Xers appear to be the last generation to remember and experience any sort of “hardship” due to a national “crisis.” Growing up in the 70s, we lived through the worst recession our country had ever experienced. My husband, Chris, recalled times he ate popcorn for dinner (although as a kid he thought that was cool), and I remember eating canned food with white labels and black lettering – the first generics – because it was the cheapest available. There were gasoline shortages, and milk was expensive. I remember getting Reagan cheese and living on food stamps (and if you would have known my very frugal mother, you know it HAD to be rough if she broke down and applied for food stamps!) 

Photo of man reading paper about gas shortage, 1973.

But we lived. Yes, it was much simpler times, and we didn’t have expenses such as cell phones, TV, and internet services. We shopped at Goodwill before it was cool, and had our national news information once a day. We used coupons, shopped at Kmart, and ate a lot of baloney and mac and cheese. 

 Yet, our parents didn’t burden us with scary details about the times we lived in, but they didn’t keep us completely in the dark, either. Our attention was diverted by playing outside, reading books, and watching a little TV. We had time to be creative, but we also learned frugality and to be good stewards of what we had. In the 70s, we went without if we couldn’t afford it.  For those considered middle class, they were lucky to qualify for unemployment checks and food stamps to help get through these lean times.  Otherwise, you were on your own.  

Today, it’s not a recession, but a global pandemic of the virus COVID_19.  During this last week, our federal and local government agencies were making plans and recommendations as positive cases of the virus hit their community. 

But there are stories that I see as concerning.  For instance, Prime Minister Trudeau says that no one in Canada should have to worry about paying rent because of the virus.  Some politicians here in America are calling for a universal basic income (UBI) of $1000 a month until the crisis is over (and who knows when that will be?).  Yes, there are people out of work, getting job hours cut or losing income in other ways (i.e., small business), but should we depend on the federal government to be our answer and demand that they take care of all our basic needs?

 How does this teach our young people?  Automatic, free handouts, when things are tough, won’t teach younger generations how to plan or survive without depending on others in future crises.

Today, many young people expect to live the same if not better during a crisis.  If they must go without what they consider is a standard commodity, they want someone else to provide it, or they will develop an attitude that the world is unfair, and they are a victim.  Being rewarded for this mentality will not create responsible, active citizens who can handle future crises and, in turn, help others. When adversity is avoided or kept from us, it prevents “the rich roots of character, learning, resilience, creativity, and conviction to germinate.” (1)

We don’t have to like any of this current adversity, but we can believe that it will become a source of strength and wisdom in the future, making us into better people.  According to author and speaker Chris Widener, every contact with difficulty “gives us again the opportunity to grow personally and professionally and to forge our character into one that will achieve much later on.” (2)  We need to acknowledge that personal growth can be found from the suffering that comes from the trauma. Our perspective changes, our relationships improve, and we start to feel more gratitude. (3)  Literature, religion, and philosophy since ancient times. (4)

 While I was young during the 70s recession, seeing the example of my single mother provided valuable insight for me as I grew older. I learned to grab opportunities, work hard, save money, and spend wisely.  Adversities didn’t go away, but the more I persevered through each trial, the more resources I must act with wisdom today. 

 As parents, we need to explain age-appropriately to our kids what is going on in today’s world, and where they can find facts and truth. No matter how you decide to handle today’s pandemic, you should not shield your kids away from what’s happening.  Let them see how you are working through issues and what you have done or changed or gone without to get through it.  Ask them for help or allow them to help where they are able. No matter the ages of your children, they need to see your strong example, so when your kids are on their own, they will have a legacy of knowledge to use for building their resilience for what they encounter.  Use today’s crisis to begin a conversation. 

(1)   https://www.inc.com/jim-haudan/adversity-is-the-fuel-of-greatness.html
(2)   http://www.madeforsuccess.com/articles/personal-growth/adversity/embracing-adversity/
(3)   https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-path-passionate-happiness/201606/how-trauma-can-lead-positive-change
(4)   https://experiencelife.com/article/how-adversity-can-lead-to-personal-growth/  

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