Today was a rough one at my house. My daughter looked at me with her lips curled in a snarl and said, “Mom, I am officially over it! I am DONE seeing the silver lining. Just stop!”
I have been an educator for 25 years and am currently the parent of a junior and a sixth grader. This COVID-19 situation is blowing my doors off. My husband and I talk regularly about how to build resilience in our smart, kind, and privileged kids. In my experience, resilience is often born of hardship and, to be frank, my kids have not experienced a lot of that organically. Yes, they have ups and downs like all humans and have experienced loss, but, at the end of each day, they are housed and fed and loved. The coronavirus may be their first glimpse at global struggle that impacts them daily. So, thank you for the real opportunity to build resilience in our kids, COVID-19. Still, it’s not fun—and at least one of my kids is over it.
My daughter is mad right now. She misses her friends, the fact that she should be captain of her lacrosse team, and that she would have spent her spring break in China with her schoolmates. She is supposed to be touring colleges and having scouts attend her games. She is supposed to be working and earning money for college. She doesn’t understand why we are continuing with school. She wants summer to start now and for schools to wait for the coronavirus to run its course.
Today, I asked her, “Why do you attend school?” She looked at me like I had asked a completely ridiculous question. I repeated myself and waited. After some time and palpable irritation, we were able to focus our attention on the fact that nothing about why she is attending school has changed. She wants to be an educated person who can make an impact on the world. She wants to understand and contribute. She wants to grow.
She expressed that the coronavirus has changed everything. We reconsidered the reasons she attends school: education, the ability to impact her community, growth. I told her, “That is why you do your homework now. That is why you are lucky to be in school. It is not about getting good grades; it is about becoming a better version of yourself. It is about acknowledging the privilege of access to good education. It is about embracing the fear that we don’t know what the future holds and maximizing the opportunity to be the most resilient version of yourself that is possible for the future.”
She rolled her eyes, but I think she heard me.
This is a time when our students have the organic opportunity to learn resilience. We can remind them that their job right now is to optimize this time. The pressure to succeed and get good grades has morphed into the opportunity to honor the opportunity to be educated, and to honor the opportunity to be a person who can move forward out of this current circumstance and pay it forward.
I reminded my daughter that this is her junior year. As much as it is not of our choosing, it is up to her to determine the rewards she will reap from this time. The structures that once shaped her expectations for her education are changing, so her new opportunity is to educate herself for herself. It is painful to let go of what we expected for this time in our lives. It is courageous to embrace what is right in front of us.
My wish for my children and for yours is that they can build resilience in this time that will support them in the future. My wish is that they can see their education as a vehicle that they are driving. It’s not about the grades. It never was. The coronavirus may be offering them the opportunity to appreciate what is and remember why they are lucky to attend school. As parents who are responsible for leading our teenagers, we get to be in conversation with them about how they drive their education. I must admit it’s not always fun to be a parent right now, but it is an opportunity to ask my children the questions that really matter, in hopes that they can find answers that work for them.