British Columbia·Point of View

The strength kids have found in adversity might be the silver lining to COVID-19

One of the lasting legacies of 2020 might be the strength and the resilience our children continue to show and develop. 

Children are learning how to be more grateful, kind and resilient, parents and experts say

One of the lasting legacies of 2020 might be the strength and the resilience our children continue to show and develop. (Brynn Anderson/Associated Press)

This story is part of Amy Bell's Parental Guidance column, which airs on CBC Radio One's The Early Edition.

It can be hard to find any silver linings where COVID-19 is concerned, especially when you see the effect it's having on kids.

But could this global crisis, months of social isolation, and uncertain days ahead actually improve our children in some way?

Believe it or not, one of the lasting legacies of 2020 might be the strength and resilience our children continue to show and develop. 

One thing many parents struggle with is the desire to make things better for our kids — to take the pain away.

But not only is that unrealistic, it also takes away the chance for kids to learn how to navigate what it feels like when life takes unexpected turns, clinical psychologist Dr. Rebecca Pillai Riddell says. 

"If you don't actually give them the skills to express emotion, regulate that emotion … you aren't building resilience, you're building children who won't have the skills when life inevitably gets rocked," says Pillai Riddell, who is also a trustee of the board with Strong Minds, Strong Kids, a program that promotes mental health among children and youth. 

Let your kids feel their feelings

By helping their kids experience adversity, adults can even learn from how children process it.

United Church Rev. Rhian Walker says you can take cues from kids by feeling all your emotions without letting them completely derail you. 

"If we support our kids in feeling the feelings, you'll notice with a child it will pass through their system quite quickly," Walker explains. 

"It teaches them that their feelings are fine and they can cope with what is, and not what they hoped it would be. And they teach us that really well." 

Angela Crocker has been very impressed with how her 14-year-old son Sean has handled the past few months.

He stays connected with friends through technology, and he accepts that while he is following the rules, not everyone will, and has demonstrated a greater sense of empathy.

Crocker hopes the positive changes she's seen in him stick around long term. 

"He's expressing gratitude in new ways. Being grateful that we do have a safe, warm, comfortable home," says Crocker.

"He will always remember this time and know how much there is to be grateful for, even if you don't have all the things." 

Kids will cope and conquer

Crocker isn't the only one who has seen their children find reserves of kindness and compassion right now.

I've seen first hand how much more responsible and thoughtful my own kids have become. They have changed and will continue to do so.

Pillai Riddell agrees that the lessons instilled in them now will become part of them going forward. 

"They'll look back at how they coped and how they conquered," says Pillar Riddle. "This will be the story our children will tell their children." 

Walker thinks that not only will this time define our children in many ways, it will also help them define a new way of connecting and caring.

"I think they're going to be a generation with a great deal of compassion. They're going to get that you have to make sacrifices for us all to be included and to be cared for, " says Walker.

"I think this experience will make this generation one of the most compassionate that have ever lived on the planet." 

I'm not trying to minimize or dismiss the very real toll this time has taken on kids, and will continue to take as time slowly marches toward brighter days. And some will carry a heavier burden than others.

But these kids are going to be a generation with an overwhelming sense of community, empathy and acceptance. They've learned that life will throw you curve balls that knock you off your feet — but they've also learned how to get back up time and time again. 

So they won't have just coped with COVID-19, they will have been intrinsically changed by it — giving them the power to change the world in return.


Amy Bell is a digital contributor to CBC. She can be heard weekdays on The Early Edition as the traffic and weather reporter and parenting columnist.


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