Adults must get vaccinated to allow children and adolescents to resume their lives after it was halted for a year and half due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Around the age of 16 I came across a discipline called philosophy that gave all my internal incessant questioning a name, a path to pursue and an unyielding dedication to the Socratic Method. That didn’t negate of course the teenage drama, confusion, mild depressions and bouts of rebelliousness. I had what I can now call in retrospect a full and healthy adolescence. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for today’s teenagers.
I’ve been teaching sixteen and seventeen year olds for ten years. I consider it a great calling and I enjoy conversations with my students. Year after year I’m amazed by how being a teenager is so different, yet exactly the same even though gadgets, apps, and jargon incessantly change with time, and getting their undivided attention has become a challenge. The availability of new tools and technologies are utilized to articulate the same teenage drama that I, and probably you, experienced many years ago.
That was until last year.
The pandemic had massive impacts on possibly every aspect of our existence including financial, social, and educational. But, in my view the most devastating of all is one is the everlasting effect of a normalization of an all-encompassing fear. Anxiety has become not only an existing factor in our lives, but it has been promoted to a necessary and acceptable feeling in response to the omnipresent threat of COVID-19.
Anxiety has become a foundational and validating feeling that we are no longer trying to counter or hide from our children so as not to impact them. Contrarily, we are trying to scare them as much as we possibly can to prevent them from partaking in any activity that we might deem unnecessary. Research has shown that increased anxiety among children and young adults spiked during the pandemic and exacerbated by extended periods of lockdown. Some suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
It has always been our role as adults to navigate through the uncertainties of life, and face anxieties when they come along, and ones I admit sometimes are stimulating. But when we the adults found ourselves ambushed by too many uncertainties, and unable to navigate through the tide of anxieties, our instinct to protect our children kicked in, but did we choose the safety mechanism wisely: we put their lives on hold until further notice. Fear-mongering became good parenting.
I asked some technology crazed teenagers and preteens about what they felt they were deprived of due to COVID. Recent graduates and seniors said the graduation ceremony and prom. They said the important rites of passage that were curtailed made them feel that their transition was unreal.
While for some missing not saying a proper goodbye to school friends, others lamented missed educational opportunities to join universities abroad.
When I asked about the vaccine and whether they believed it could allow them to make-up for lost time, they were skeptical about regaining what had been already missed.
As for the preteens and tweens they said they missed socializing with their friends. Others highlighted their limited capacity to concentrate during online classes. When I asked them about whether vaccinating the adults can help them regain their former lives, they adamantly answered no because, they said, their parents were convinced that the third wave impacted children and teenagers, regardless whether adults were vaccinated. Their parents will not allow them to go back to normal, they conceded.
When I asked if they had the option of being vaccinated themselves would they take it, they said yes.
As vaccines are becoming widely available hesitancy shouldn’t exist. COVID has enforced a new reality upon us all. This reality habituated us to a new routine that we’ve come to cherish, keeping our children close and monitoring their behavior allowed us a proximity that we are now reluctant to let go. Nonetheless, the true cost of this needless isolation is paid for by the young who are being deprived from invaluable lived experiences. We once asked the young to go into hiding to protect the old from death, now it’s time for the old to take a shot so that the young may live.