We've all grown up with tragic events, so today's kids really will be fine

The wreckage of the British European Airways plane which crashed in Munich on February 6, 1958, whil

The wreckage of the British European Airways plane which crashed in Munich on February 6, 1958, while bringing home members of the Manchester United team from a European Cup match. Twenty three people died - an event that Nick's father remembers from his childhood - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Everything seems a bit more positive this week.

Ten million jabs done, reports of great atmospheres at vaccination centres and Chris Whitty's curves are all heading in the same downwards direction.

February even brings the realisation that schools could actually reopen in just four weeks which is just as big a shot in the arm for parents everywhere as seeing that so many over-70s have been vaccinated.

My children are keeping things positive and starting sentences with phrases such as: "When coronavirus is over..." which perhaps shows just how defiant they are.

This is despite the thinking among a fair few parents that they are going to emerge from the pandemic either behind academically or that they are going to carry a year of traumatic disruption into their adult lives.

Even a child taking their GCSEs in 2031 is going to have some memory of lockdown learning in their schooling and for many kids, 2020 was probably the first realisation that the world isn't all sweetness and joy. 


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Bad things do happen as anyone reading this will know. We all grew up against a backdrop of eye-opening events that certainly would have made a big impression on our young lives.

Someone turning 30 this year will undoubtedly remember the shocking footage from September 11, 2001 as a youngster, just as someone turning 50 would have grown up with The Falklands War and someone aged 60 will remember the Three Day Week.

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My mum talks about the Cold War and JFK's assassination as brutal events in her young life as she entered her teens.

My dad recalls, at the age of 11, reading about the Munich air crash, which took place 63 years ago today, on the front page of the newspapers he was delivering, which gave a generation a soft spot for Manchester United. I'm sure you remember tragedies from your own childhood, whether it was Aberfan the Blitz or Chernobyl.

There are world events that happen that you just have to contemplate and try and understand for yourself.

** HANDOUT ** This is the official NASA photo of the crew of the space shuttle Challenger mission 51

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger who died when it crashed in January 1986 - an event Nick recalls from his childhood - Credit: AP

Growing up in the 80s for me was a particularly traumatic time. It was bad enough following the tragedy at Hillsborough live on TV in April 1989 having just turned 14, especially as I already had knowledge of the Grand Hotel bombing, Hungerford, Heysel, Lockerbie, Enniskillen, Bhopal, Ethiopia etc. 

Turning on the news and watching stories about an attempt to assassinate the prime minister, a mass shooting, terrible famine or a plane bombing are pretty terrifying to a young mind and I'd have to argue that, in the context of a virus that looks like it may have a successful vaccine, just as scary.

My mum talks about the Cold War as particularly frightening and recalls going to bed in such a distressed state due to the brinkmanship between the USA and Russia that she didn't know if she would wake up. That is a pretty dreadful place for a child to be - but you could argue that it does instil a dose of worldly-wise resilience.

The tragedy that really sticks with me is the space shuttle Challenger blowing up in 1986. I was in the last year at primary school and we'd spent a couple of weeks that January doing a project about space and space shuttles, particularly as one of the seven astronauts on board was a school teacher, Christa McAuliffe. 

We left school on the afternoon of the launch with instructions to watch the news that night to see the shuttle take off and we were actually quite excited. Trying to come to terms the following day with what actually happened still sticks in my mind 35 years on.

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Back to today, the legacy of coronavirus among children will not be of the tragic numbers of lives lost nor probably the fact that they may have missed the odd birthday party or holiday.

It will be of the utterly amazing job teachers have done to keep things going. Us parents with young children may moan about having to sit with our kids through a couple of Zoom calls a day but that's nothing compared to the preparation, patience and professionalism shown by teachers.

At times it must be a repetitive and monotonous grind to keep children stimulated but if it is, the teachers that I see teaching my children from afar aren't showing it and it certainly brings home what a tough job it is.

Imagine if schools across the UK were to adapt their post-lockdown learning to replicate what many children have done at home over the past year.

"Right, children, today we will do all our work in the first hour and at 10am you can jump around the classroom in your pyjamas, watch the telly, play games, duff up your classmates, moan about going out for a walk, complain to the dinner lady when she tells you what's for lunch and constantly ask for drinks, snacks and things to be downloaded."

The past year has shown that, despite our best efforts, there are no substitutes for the talent of engaging children to learn that comes from teachers who have continued to instil a sense of calm during the pandemic, allaying any fears that this generation of children may have about growing up against the backdrop of coronavirus.

Bad things and tough stuff that we have no control of happens in all generations, so be happy kids of today, these weird times will hopefully soon just be character-building history.

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