Time to give the children in your life a summer to remember after coronavirus woes
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So many children have faced major disruption to their young lives over the past six months that it’s up to the adults in their lives to give them a blast over the next few weeks, says Christine Webber
If this were a normal summer, newspapers would be full of tips on amusing the nation’s offspring over the school holidays.
But for so many of us, this year’s traditional vacation doesn’t feel any different from how life has been for months. The majority of children haven’t been in school, and the next six weeks seem like more of the same – a stream of ‘groundhog days’.
Way over 60% of us have no wish to go near an airport. And though some people have gone abroad, and others have embraced the staycation idea, many families have no plans to go away because of health or money worries.
Since March, I’ve written about a variety of problems that Covid-19 has posed for adults. But today I want to focus on children, teens and young adults because their lives have been thrown into chaos too, and they have their own sadness and anxieties.
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Everyone, from about three years old upwards, is aware that something awfully strange has happened. And some of the fear, the upheaval and the major alterations to young people’s lives will disturb them for a while, though no one can predict for how long.
Certainly, youngsters who have been in those landmark years which are most significant in their development, may have been more affected than other age groups.
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I’m a school governor, and through that role, I’ve learned how crucial the final term at primary school is in preparing pupils for the big step up to secondary education,
Very few of the current Year Six have had the usual benefit of discussing what is expected of them in their new environment. Not surprisingly, many of them are anxious about the move. Also, they haven’t had the chance to draw a line under their time in their old school in the usual way – by saying goodbye to friends going to different schools, and to the teachers who have often become very important to them.
Other kids who have been badly affected are those who should have taken GCSEs or A levels. This has been a shambles of a year for them, with those exams cancelled. It’s not just that their results will now be based on the mocks plus their school work through the academic year, but that the normal celebrations associated with completing those stages in school life haven’t happened either. There have been no proms. No parties.
So, these young people have missed out, and many are left with a sense of unease and disappointment – and also with a lack of confidence about further education and about how other people might view the 2020 qualifications.
It’s much the same for older students who have just left university, but who have not taken proper exams or had an actual graduation ceremony.
So, I believe we should put our children first during these summer weeks, and even if we’re not having a proper holiday, do our utmost as grandparents, parents or other relatives to spend quality time with them and provide them with high spots to enjoy so that the vacation feels different from what they’ve lived through over the past months.
These events don’t have to be lavish – a neighbourhood rounders tournament in the park, a drive to the coast, or a meeting between different branches of the family at some central point that everyone can get to, could feel cheering and special. I’m sure you can come up with plenty of ideas of your own.
Monotony is a drag, and a summer without ‘time out’ that is fun, is like reading a novel with no punctuation!
Devising activities for younger relatives will almost certainly benefit the whole family – especially if the children are viewed as individuals rather than part of a group of siblings.
Every child needs some personal attention right now. You probably don’t need me to tell you that it’s often the best behaved and quietest youngsters who are suffering most.
Many of them are harbouring bleak thoughts about the possibility of infecting their dearly-loved grandparents, or about not wanting to return to school. Doing routine stuff with them like baking cakes or kicking a football around could well get even the quietest offspring talking over their fears.
I also suggest that you make a family record of how you spent this crisis. Even young kids are good at making films on their phones, so you could do a digital version – maybe an extended video podcast.
Or you could go the more old-fashioned route and write accounts and paste them and pictures into a big scrap book.
Try to describe the best of times, the worst of times, the funniest moments, the saddest ones and so on. And do make it a multi-generational endeavour involving family members of all ages. Sharing your experiences in this way will not only provide you with a permanent memory of an unprecedented time but should help everyone come to terms with it.
Daniel Defoe wrote a celebrated book about 1665 called Journal of the Plague Year. What will you call your project?