Is there a positive side to the pandemic for children, parents, and teachers? The overwhelming answer is yes. A query on this subject produced so many answers, it was impossible to fit them all into this article. Most spoke of closer relationships developing between siblings and between parent and child, as a result of the lockdown. Still others spoke of gains in understanding new kinds of technology.
There were, of course, all kinds of negative results of the pandemic. More people grinding their teeth (bruxism), gaining too much weight, depression: the list goes on and on. The negatives are easy to find. “But what about the positives?” I asked my daughter-in-law, a mother of three and a high school English teacher.
“Of course there are positives,” she said. “But the main thing is that the pandemic made them siblings,” referring to the three little ones, my grandchildren, aged 9 months, 3, and 5.
Positive Side of the Pandemic #1: Siblings Brought Closer Together
Chelsea Bagley a mom of two with a third child on the way, agrees that the pandemic brought children—and family in general—closer together. “Because we’re not always rushing around from one thing to another (between school, work, and miscellaneous activities), we’ve learned that we don’t need to be ‘on the go’ all the time, and we have spent so much more time together as a family over the last year! My oldest daughter (who was 4 when the pandemic hit) learned how to ride a bike without training wheels, and she’s learning to read too. Both of my kids have learned to play really well together, and they’ve truly become the best of friends.”
Other parents have seen the positive side of lockdown and how it has improved sibling relationships. “Being at home more often and unable to spend as much time with friends has allowed my three children to strengthen their bond, says autism awareness advocate Kathy Heath. “Typically when they spend time together, it’s in groups with other neighborhood kids. While we do miss that time and look forward to that in the future, they have been able to bond in a special way without outside influence. It’s been nice to watch.”
Jen Bradley, a mother of 5 kids, also talked about the positive sibling relationship changes between her children as a result of the pandemic. “My kids’ relationships with each other as siblings have grown significantly. Instead of always being involved with extracurricular activities or playing with friends, they’ve had to spend time at home—and with each other. It’s been awesome to see them become closer!” says Bradley, who says that hygiene measures also improved her children’s health. “My kids are healthier than ever before. Thanks to staying home more and wearing masks when they’re out, they’ve been exposed to fewer germs and don’t touch their faces nearly as much. They’ve now learned the importance of washing their hands thoroughly and practicing better hygiene.
Positive Side of the Pandemic #2: Getting an Insider View of Our Children’s Education
Cassandra Lane is a busy woman. Editor-in-Chief of LA Parent Magazine, mother of a teen, and the author of an upcoming book about Black motherhood, Lane found herself working from home, with her son not far away. “I’ve enjoyed eavesdropping on some of my son’s classroom discussions since they’re happening right on the other side of his bedroom door, which is next to my home office. I get to know a little more about what the class is studying and discussing, as well as experience his teachers’ personalities and teaching styles. It’s fun to watch his learning ‘in action’ and connect to it in ways I might not have been able to do in the long hours we used to spend apart while at school and work. Sometimes, I use these little tidbits I hear to open up deeper discussions with my son,” says Lane.
Aside from the inside glimpse of her son’s learning process, Lane discovered the positive emotional benefits of the pandemic, “Our family is experiencing this unprecedented time together, and that, in many ways, lessens the fear and panic because of being able to talk freely and hug each other throughout the day (so many hugs!)—there’s something so reassuring about that.”
Greg Halter, like Lane and so many other parents, has been working from home. For Halter, this means getting to each lunch with the kids. “This has brought us a lot closer together than I would have ever expected.”
Samantha Myers mom to a first grader and co-owner of Let’s Dress Up, a kids play and party space agrees that while the negative effects of COVID have been well documented and the pandemic has been hard on families, there are some bright spots. Parents and children, for example, got to spend more time together. “The lockdown provided parents with the opportunity to spend lots of unstructured time together with their children. We did craft projects, learned new subjects, read countless books, learned how to cartwheel and tie shoes, and made tons of new recipes. This was an opportunity we may not have had in busier, more structured times,” says Myers.
“Parents also got a behind-the-scenes look at what their kids are really learning in school. We got to see (and sometimes teach) the subjects they were working on; how they were taught; where our kids might be struggling, and so on. Instead of waiting for a 10-minute parent teacher conference, you had a firsthand, inside look into their education. This really gave me insight into how to best help my daughter excel,” says Myers. “I found some amazing outside resources along the way, which I will continue to use even after I hand the reins back to the professional teachers.”
More Positives: A Richer Environment, More Family Time
Mom and parenting expert, Veena Crownholm says that the pandemic translated to a richer environment and more family time. “For us, the positive side of the pandemic, is how we’ve enriched our children’s education with cooking, art, more reading, and more conversation,” said Crownholm. “There was also no rush to go anywhere or do anything, so we have been able to have some serious quality time. Daily life can get very transactional, so it was a nice break from that.”
Francisco Remolino helps his Canadian clients navigate debt in his capacity as a licensed insolvency trustee. But the pandemic has Remolino relishing the slower pace of life. “Pre-pandemic, I’d often travel for weeks for business and barely had time to spend with the wife and my three teenage girls. With work-from-home in place and social distancing encouraged, I feel grateful to be home with them all time. I also really appreciate the slower pace of life we now lead. In fact, this has led me to reassess work and career priorities. Early retirement is definitely on the horizon.”
Greater Resilience, Better Tech Skills
Natalie Mangrum, former teacher and the founder of Maryland Teacher Tutors (MTT) says the pandemic has taught everyone a lesson in resilience. “We have all become so much more resilient, especially our students. Just look at what we have all survived in the past year!”
Students, says Mangrum, have also improved their tech skills. “A big positive side effect of the pandemic for our students is that our kids are the most tech savvy they have ever been. With all of the adjustments and use of new platforms due to distant learning, our students are the most prepared they have ever been for our ever-changing digital world both at home and at school.”
Our Teachers Prevailed Against All Odds
Dr. Justine Green, a mother of two and the principal of Tamim Academy in Boca Raton, believes that teachers, parents, and children, have all benefited from the positive side of the pandemic. “Teachers, for instance, have worked in ways they never anticipated, and prevailed despite everything working against them. They had their entire ideology flipped on its head and did the unthinkable, and succeeded for the sake of the children. Our teachers definitely deserve respect and love for their hard work and dedication this year.”
Green says that parents also faced innumerable lockdown challenges. “Parents have had to work from home while helping to homeschool children and/or deal with virtual school. Some parents were let go due to the pandemic. Some were essential workers/ No matter what your family situation was before the pandemic, every parent has had to deal with these life challenges,” says Green.
“One positive for parents that came out of the pandemic is that although the days are tough, we get through them and we push on for our children. We have created a community of parents during the pandemic who are honest about their experiences rather than only showing the ‘photogenic’ side of parenthood. We finally got real about our struggles and found that others are struggling with similar issues. We are all there for one another and that support is crucial as a parent during the pandemic.”
As for children, it became apparent to Dr. Green that days jam-packed with pre-pandemic activities aren’t really necessary, and may even cause sensory overload. “Parents and children are spending more time outdoors and taking it slow. We have learned from the pandemic that children are just as happy spending time with you looking for bugs and using magna tiles on the garage door, than going to amusement parks or the movies,” says Green.
Students Learned Life Skills, Problem-Solving
Lindsey Wander founder of WorldWise Tutoring says that school closures resulted in many students gaining life skills that they may not have learned otherwise. “They learned how to problem solve technical issues and how to more efficiently search online. They learned how to use their imagination when they were bored and they learned practical skills, like cooking, cleaning, gardening, and caring for animals. Children had the freedom to explore their personal interests, learning more about topics not taught in school. And, perhaps most importantly, they learned that they are stronger, more resilient than they may have thought,” says Wander.
Kids Became More Creative, More Confident, Better Readers
Curtis Forbes founder and CEO of Forbes Music Company, says that instrument sales have skyrocketed during the pandemic. “Kids finally have time: time to play, time to think, time to improve, time to practice, time to explore, and time to discover a love for music. In difficult situations, we need an outlet for expression and self-discovery—and in this case, one that doesn’t require gathering in public.”
For Emily Tiernan, mother of a 5th grader, the benefits of lockdown meant her son becoming a better reader, which in turn made him more confident. “I noticed that being home so much and not having the ability to play with friends led my son to more creative with his time. He has gotten into reading and read over a million words in the first quarter. Since he has read books that are above his grade level his confidence has increased.”
Possibly the Most Positive Side of the Pandemic: We Learned to Better Read Our Children
Finally, the positive side of the pandemic means getting to know and understand our children, better than ever. Gert Mikkal M.D, founder of DadProgress, a website for working dads, talked about his own experience with the positive side of lockdown. “Last spring, our daycare was closed, and I stayed at home with my boy. We ended up taking short daily hikes. I often look fondly at photos from last spring to marvel at how many different places we managed to visit. But the extra time together also taught me a lot about the temperament of my little buddy. And I don’t need a manual anymore to read his facial expressions.”
We can all point to the negative side of the pandemic. But it’s nice to know there’s a bright side, too. Why not stop for a moment and take stock of the positive side of the pandemic in your own home with your own family? Observing parents as they find a silver lining to COVID-19 is just one more lesson in resilience for our children. And that can only be good.