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4 Lessons I Hope My Teens Will Learn from this Unusual Time

March 2020

This sucks, right? There’s the obvious reality that people are dying from this dangerous pandemic and that healthcare workers and public health experts are busting their tails to stop it, often at risk to themselves. Money is tight for small business owners, restaurant employees losing hours, and everyone who’s having to pony up for extra childcare and weeks of supplies.

There’s also the small, everyday stuff that sucks, too, and it’s okay to say that. Everything is cancelled, which means kids missing their spring sports season (maybe the whole thing, who knows?), school theater performances (the hours of rehearsing—I could just cry for them), and trips and dances and competitions and birthdays and just having a social life. We like to claim that phone-bound teens don’t spend enough face-to-face time with friends, but just quarantine your teenager and see how much they crave IRL friend time.

We’re not going anywhere for a while. In the midst of these hours and days and weeks together at home, these are some things I hope my teenagers will learn:

Lessons from Quarantine

1. You have a duty to others.

This disease doesn’t seem to affect kids and teenagers in a serious way. You could probably go out with friends, go to concerts, and live your everyday life, and you’d be just fine. But it’s not all about you. Sometimes we do boring or uncomfortable or hard things so we can help all of us, because that’s what humans do. It’s why we follow traffic rules and donate blood and don’t litter and a thousand other things. And you know what else? Sometimes it feels good to know you matter (you do), that you are needed (you are). We are counting on you.

2. Nature is soothing, free, and necessary.

It’s going to be a long road. We’re going to get anxious and antsy. Cooped up at home, we’re also going to be way too sedentary. We all need to get outside as often as we can—at a minimum, at least once every day. There’s something about fresh air and fat chattering squirrels and crocuses pushing through a mat of last fall’s leaves that wakes up couch-dulled bodies and whisks away the fog of worried minds. Pandemic or not, it’s always a good time to take a walk.

3. Eat the leftovers.

Yes, sometimes we’ll get pizza or Chipotle. But we have a fridge full of food and we are not going to waste it. And when it’s not so full, we’ll get creative and try to use up what we have before we go to the grocery store and endanger ourselves and others. “Need” has real meaning now. It was always a good idea to use the produce before it spoiled and eat the ends of the bread before opening a new bag. But now we get it, don’t we?

4. Memories aren’t always planned.

We are living in extraordinary times. None of us would choose this, but history is being written right now. Someday, my teenager, if you have kids, you will tell them what it was like to live through the coronavirus pandemic. They’ll marvel that you didn’t have a vaccine yet. They’ll know (as you know about us) that you must be really old. But you’ll remember all this. Sometimes memories are made of vacations and birthdays and holidays and graduations. But sometimes memories are made of blizzards and hurricanes and 9/11 and that time the whole town lost power for two days. Heroic things will happen, sad things will happen, and small, funny, stupid things will happen in the coming weeks and months. You won’t get the memories you planned on, but I promise you will get memories you’ll hold onto for the rest of your life.

Sharon Holbrook is managing editor of Your Teen. Sign up for her new and captivating newsletter. 

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