The Teenage Face of Covid-19
Written by: Shanon Lowery
Educator and Parent
Photography by: Jason Baldwin
Shared Perspectives Photography
We listen to the news stories every day. Unemployment numbers. Essential workers manning the front lines. Closures everywhere you look. The number of Covid cases in your state. And sadly, the sobering statistics… the number of deaths this virus has caused. All eyes are glued to TV and social media. This is a traumatic global event.
For the average teenager, this is the first crisis our country has faced in their lifetime. Our Class of 2020 Seniors are the 9/11 babies. Teens of today have lived a somewhat sheltered life. After all, this is the age of the “helicopter parent”. Parents working themselves to the point of exhaustion to keep their child from feeling disappointment. One can only imagine how these kids are coping with having their lives, as they knew them, turned upside down.
The teenage years are a critical time in a child’s development. It is a time when one grows to be more comfortable with the adult they are becoming. They are becoming more confident. They are, in their minds, invincible high school students. They see their friends, their teachers, and their coaches daily at school. Some may have extracurricular activities and jobs. Their days are structured. They are learning to manage their time between school, activities, jobs, and time with friends. Teens are social beings, learning to spread their wings. Human beings are social beings. As a society, one of our basic human needs is not being met during the Covid-19 pandemic. Today, the country has by and large come to a screeching hault and with that have come the directives to “socially distance”.
I have heard many people say that our children will be ok. Children are resilient. However, today’s teens have had their entire worlds ripped from their grasp. Their school day, gone. Face to face time with their teachers, gone. Get togethers with friends, gone. Class trips, canceled. Sports, canceled. Music events, canceled. Dance classes, canceled. Prom, canceled. GRADUATION, CANCELED. Stay home, it will save lives. Yes, but what a cost these teens will pay. Can you hear them shrieking inside their heads? I can.
Bailey Baldwin - Junior - Massabesic High School
Look at their faces. For some, their complexions have gone pallid. Smiles have been replaced with a look of despondence. Dark circles have emerged from under their eyes betraying the fact that these kids are overwhelmed with life as they now know it. This is the face of trauma. Heather T. Forbes explains that “a stressful event is likely to become a traumatic experience if: it happens unexpectedly, the child is unprepared for it, the child feels trapped, or if the feeling of powerlessness prevails. During the traumatic event, the impact is greater if the child believes they are: forgotten or abandoned, powerless, helpless, or hopeless.” (Forbes, 2012.)
Do not think for a minute our teens are overwhelmed merely by what they are missing out on. This generation of teenagers, known as Generation Z, has proven itself to be deep thinkers. “The search for truth is at the root of all of Generation Zs behaviors.” (Francis & Hoefel, 2018.) Will this virus rear it’s ugly head again or will the scientists come up with a vaccine first? What will things look like in the fall? Will I be able to go back to high school? Will I be able to go to college? What changes can I help to make so we can resume life under a “new normal”? What will happen in the election of 2020? Will my family escape the wrath of this deadly virus? Today’s teens are hungry for information and have taken on adult sized worries.
Ultimately, while teens are looked upon as young adults we, as a society, need to remember that their brains are not yet fully developed. They cannot fully process the Covid-19 pandemic. They sit in their rooms playing video games and listening to music as a way of self soothing. We, the adults, the parents, the educators need to remember that what these teens need most right now is to feel safe and protected. It is our duty during this time to help reduce their stress. After all, if we want today’s teens, our Generation Z kids, to be the leaders of tomorrow we must help them through this traumatic global event.
Forbes, H. LCSW. (2012). Help for Billy. p.12.
Francis, T. & Hoefel, F. (2018, November 18.) The Influence of Gen Z-the first generation of true digital natives-is expanding.
McKinsey & Company. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/consumer-packaged-goods/our-insights/true-gen-generation-z-and-its-implications-for-companies