Summer of 2020: Emotionally Connected, Physically Distant
"The summer of 2020 will be devoid of a lot of experiences and access to things and people, that on hindsight we took for granted."
Six months ago, if someone had told me that my summer this year would not include a road trip in New Zealand or a visit to the pandas in Chengdu, or a few weeks in sunny Thailand, I would have laughed in disbelief. In our family, summer vacations are annual, well-manicured projects consisting of ambitious weeks of travel to at least two must-see places in the world. The summer would always be that time of the year where we as parents would consciously attempt to take a break from our normal routines. Typical holidays would usually include, exploring new places, experimenting with new food, discovering new places, and embarking on new experiences.
However, this year will be very different. The summer of 2020 will be devoid of a lot of experiences and access to things and people, that on hindsight we took for granted. For most of us around the world, this “break” will not include having grandparents visit, nor the “physical” playdates in each other’s houses. We won’t be over-extending our kids and enrolling them in after school classes to build their physical fitness and other skills, preparing them for the year ahead. And yes, there will be no travel, not even to a staycation in a neighbourhood hotel.
As a working mother, in the last two and a half months, I just about managed to find the rhythm and routine of balancing distance learning with remote working along with my other household responsibilities. Knowing that my 14- and 9-year olds were going to be “at home” for eight weeks without the “usual” summer offerings, made me extremely anxious.
Like most mothers from this decade, I instantly reached out to all my trusted resources for help: classroom WhatsApp groups, girlfriends chat groups, and last but not the least to our almighty digital universe. My single-minded objective was to make sure my kids had a solid plan for their summer of 2020 holidays.
In my journey of discovery, something magical happened. I graduated from an anxious state to a state of complete joy and confidence about what this summer would bring. Below is what I learnt about our kids and what we can do as parents to make sure that the summer of 2020 will be memorable for them and for us.
Flexibility, Creativity and Problem Solving
In the last two and a half months, the world changed for our kids and instead of being uncomfortable and uncertain, most of them seamlessly fit themselves into the “new normal”. They didn’t challenge wearing masks, they didn’t question why they couldn’t meet their dearest friends or play soccer in their neighbourhood playgrounds. Instead, they displayed flexibility and channelized their energy to continuously keep discovering and embracing all the new and wonderful things that now defined their life.
With this flexibility and their new-found access to a wealth of resources from all around the world, during this upcoming summer, our kids will, once again, simply figure out what to do. They don’t need to rely on soccer or a swimming class to build their fitness, they will cycle, go for a run, watch a Joe Wicks YouTube video for a quick workout, or find a yoga app to choose what they want to focus on that day.
Our role as parents should be to remind them of their newly found access to these experiences. For our younger kids, parents should help them with the organization of this process. Sit down with your child and help them jot down their goals and what they wish to accomplish during this break. Then guide them with a choice board that they make, full of activities chosen by them to embark on each day.
These experiences could vary from fun science experiments at home, starting a reading blog, writing their own song or a screenplay, reading bingo challenge, three-minute body scan meditation, making cardboard sculptures, finding shapes in nature, maintaining your gratitude journal or creating a family health care plan. Empowering kids to create, plan and do, will instil problem-solving and creativity skills in and give them a summer full of beautiful memories.
Emotionally Connected, Physically Distant
Our kids now love us even more. In all the uncertainty around the world, we are the one thing that didn’t change for them. They may not express this openly to us (especially if one has teenagers!), but they need us now more than ever.
For most of us thanks to the lockdowns and its measures, we were somewhat thrown into a scenario where we saw more of each other, ate lunch and dinner together while continuing our daily lives at “school” and “work”. This precious time that we all freely acquired has made us more connected, more compassionate, and more grateful for one another.
While our kids may not be able to visit grandparents in their homes, they have certainly established more frequent and meaningful connections with them. As parents, we should encourage this bond to grow even stronger and enable them to include in their continuing savouring this “connect time” with family and friends stationed all around the world.
Empathy & Gratitude
While our kids have been exposed to such critical, dangerous, and historical circumstances, they have also been fortunate enough to witness empathy like never before. Teachers have been more patient, parents have lowered their stakes, and friends have been much more supportive. There is a constant flow of compassion that is magically neutralising and humanising us a race.
As parents, our role should be to continue encouraging our kids to be grateful to all those who have contributed to their maintained wellbeing: their teachers, selfless tutors who have come their way, and friends from all around the world. We should remind them to hold on to this trait for life and to always be kind to themselves and to others. If there are days where they want to do nothing, as parents we should happily just let them do so.
We should lead them to find ways to extend empathy to the outside world, to those in need – healthcare workers, migrant workers, or just to people in need of an extra hand or resources in these challenging times.
This summer as the school breaks start, despite the challenging times they have witnessed, and knowing what summer this year could be like, our children are still smiling. They are laughing with friends on “Zoom calls”, finding humour in “House party” chats, dancing to TikToks, displaying creativity and problem solving by finding new experiences.
They have demonstrated flexibility, resilience, and compassion to not only themselves but also to those around them. These are life skills and traits that they should hold on to.
While its’ never been harder to say goodbye to their friends, school corridors, lockers teachers, or to your peers, for our kids, the summer of 2020 will be a cherished one, that will prepare them for the real world more than the usual road trip to New Zealand.
Priyanka is a mother of two, Taarini and Sanaaya who are aged 14 years and 9 years respectively. A working-mum, She is a regional client lead with over 19+ years of experience in building enduring brands across Asia Pacific.