It’s time to prioritize our youth

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Editor: As we enter this next phase of the pandemic, let’s prioritize kids. They have no political voice, so we adults must speak for them. They desperately need us.

Since March 2020, our youth have made considerable sacrifices at high personal cost, while adults have sacrificed comparatively little.

During lockdowns, most adults still get to work, watch Netflix, go out for groceries, renovate the house, and socialize with the friends we still have. Life really hasn’t changed much for us.

But we have ordered kids to give up almost everything that makes their lives meaningful – in-class learning, sports, clubs, friends and even extended family. It’s time to see the situation from the kids’ point of view.
For almost two years now, we have gotten the entire youth-adult relationship backwards. Adults are supposed to sacrifice for kids. Period. This equation does not work the other way around if we want society to continue as it has for the last several hundred years.

We ordered our youth to stay home. They did. We ordered them to give up everything they care about outside of their families. They did. We asked them to get vaccinated, when the benefit to them was cloudy at best. They did. We told them that in order for their lives to get back to normal, they had to follow the rules. They did.

And now our government officials make liars of all of us. Any kid who spends two minutes thinking about this will see us adults for what we are – selfish.
Let us use sports as an example. Sports are critical for kids. They serve as a source of exercise, socialization and personal development. It is too easy for adults to claim that halting youth sports is a small sacrifice for the greater good.

We had our chance, we played our sports and we learned all of those crucial lessons that sports can teach – work ethic, attitude, respect. Those lessons have formed our characters as adults. Is it fair that we now turn around and tell our kids that they don’t get to have the experiences we had, they don’t deserve those opportunities to grow and develop, and that this is a small sacrifice?
On top of that, we claim that we’re all heroes, that we have courage. Signs everywhere proclaim the slogans “Heroes stay home” and “Have courage, do your part.” These slogans couldn’t be further from the truth. Courage is defined as the ability to do something that frightens one; bravery, or the ability to disregard fear. It is impossible to use the word courage to describe hiding out in your house or apartment.
Courage, during this pandemic, would be the ability to carry on with normal life despite our fears. To go to work, just like all of those people who do not have the option to work from home, ever: nurses, grocery store cashiers and drive-thru attendants, to name a few.

To support our small businesses by going to the gyms, the restaurants, and the shops.

And most of all, to let the kids go to school and participate in their regular activities. Let’s admit that school closures and lockdowns are not courageous or heroic at all. Let’s show kids what courage is and fight for them.
We continue to demand significant sacrifices from our kids, but what have we done in two years to improve the situation? Why is Ontario’s ICU capacity the same as it was two years ago? If the issue is that we don’t want our hospitals overwhelmed, why have we made no visible improvements to address this issue?

Why are the answers to these questions the same as they were two years ago – restrictions and lockdowns? Our kids hear what we are saying, loud and clear: you take all of the responsibility and suffer all of the consequences while we make little change or headway.
Is it any wonder that youth mental health issues are skyrocketing? These are the utterly backwards messages that kids hear from us constantly during this pandemic: what you care about doesn’t and shouldn’t matter, it’s your responsibility to protect your parents and grandparents, it’s your fault that the virus is spreading out of control, we’re all in this together except you make all of the sacrifices.
The sacrifices required of our youth are enormous and the long-term consequences unknown, while the sacrifices asked of adults are minimal. If you feel vulnerable or scared, do whatever you can to limit your social contacts. The rest of us, including our kids, have a responsibility to take reasonable precautions in order to support you. We should also continue to provide flexible options for at-risk people, things like virtual school, working from home when necessary, and grocery delivery.

Make choices that are best for you. But do not demand any more sacrifices from our youth. Do the opposite. Be vocal and loud: demand that our youth get to carry on with their lives, go to school, hang out with friends, play sports, join a social club.

Prioritize our youth and fight for them, despite your fears. That would be courageous.

 

Rachel Franssen

Chatham

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