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What’s to become of the Covid generation?

While the young are at less risk of the severe forms of Covid-19, the under 25s may feel the fallout of the pandemic more harshly. Consequently, the term ‘Generation Covid’ has been coined; a label to highlight that the pandemic may leave a permanent scar on our young.

Deputy Head of Co-Curricular Andrew Murfin from Bryanston School looks at why we need to change the narrative about the so-called ‘Generation Covid’.

For many years, generations have been labelled: from the ‘Baby Boomers’ (c.1946–64) to ‘Generation X’ (c.1965–79). I, myself, am part of a micro-generation called the ‘Xiennals’ (c.1977–1985) and characterised by having an analogue childhood and digital adulthood; oh, and, importantly, quality music when indie mixed with grunge to give rise to the likes of Oasis, Blur and the Verve (you’re welcome!).

Back to the youth, and ‘Gen Z’ (c.2000–10) and ‘Gen Alpha’ (c.2010+) being labelled as ‘Generation Covid’. Adolescence and growing up is tough at the best of times but the pandemic is making this harder. It is easy to see why the under 25s feel disgruntled. The impacts of national and international economic and geo-political issues will affect them more acutely and with greater longevity: curtailed educations, diminished job prospects, housing poverty, climate change, leaving the EU, and both them and their educators not high on the vaccine priority list and therefore difficult to see an end in sight.

There have been grim reports about teenagers and their mental health. A narrative that tells children – especially in the media – that they are a lost generation and that Covid is a disaster for them is not helpful. Sure, Lockdown 3.0, through what seemed like an endless January and February, generated extra feelings of boredom, worry, loneliness, annoyance or confusion. It’s okay and perfectly natural to feel these things.

As challenging as it is, let’s try our hardest not to catastrophise, rather, to emphasise hope. Let’s change the narrative: our young people should take pride in the self-reliance and inventiveness they have drawn upon to deal with the pandemic so far. These along with creativity and the resilience to bounce back from setbacks are highly sought-after attributes. This generation is more connected, more technologically developed than any other.  Let’s not allow them to be labelled as a snowflake generation, or the lost Generation Covid. They are so much more than that.

A proverb, modified from Plato, comes to mind: ‘Necessity is the mother of all invention.’ Lockdown has highlighted many more needs and our young have invented creative ways of coping. Learning a new skill, or refining an old skill, has been important and we may find that many lost skills are given a new lease of life. Knitting anyone? Banana bread? Sign language? Setting up a radio station? Walking 100 laps of your patio like Sir Tom?

It has often been said that 65% of children will work in jobs that don’t currently exist; creativity and adaptability will help prepare them for an ever-evolving world.

We all look back fondly on our own generation’s upbringing – did I mention the Xiennials gave you Oasis? – and today’s young people could, in time, look back and reflect upon how they overcame the adversity of home-schooling to strengthen important characteristics, to develop new ways of living… and went on to become the best prepared for life as a result.

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