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What kids are telling us about their pandemic lives

As more children get to head back to in-person school after a year of virtual learning, they bring with them the lessons learned from a year of living under the threat of a once-in-a-century virus.

Our kids have learned a lot during the pandemic. Many have gotten closer to their siblings and others fought more with them; they have loved spending more time with their parents at home and gotten sick of only having their families to talk to — just like adults.

Some of these parents have cancer. Others are first responders or live with lupus or other health conditions. In quarantine, these children have worried about losing their parents to the pandemic. These kids have seen if their communities mask up and practice social distancing — and if those communities want to keep them safe — or not.

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“As a mom, I’ve seen firsthand how hard this past year can be for kids,” photographer Kate T. Parker told CNN. “My own two struggled, fought, learned and grew like so many others. It is hard to find an area of their lives unaffected by this pandemic. I was curious to hear from them, in their own words, exactly what they thought about life during quarantine.

“Due to Covid-19, we’ve been forced to create smaller, safer worlds for ourselves. I was so thankful for this project to push out of our own bubble to safely see how other families and kids are experiencing this virus and the ensuing change of life,” she said.

“Kids are overwhelmingly resilient. I remain in awe of their perspective and think Kaitlin really summed up the general response of the kids: ‘I learned a lot this last year,’ she told me. ‘Follow your dreams, and do it now. … Don’t wait, because you never know when you won’t have a chance.'”

Here’s what several children told Parker about their lives during the pandemic.

Kaitlin, 12: I have asthma. I’ve had it since I was a baby, so we had to be pretty strict in quarantine. It wasn’t all that bad, though. I learned how to skateboard and how to cook better. Also, because we had totally new routines, I formed a bond with people I might not have before Covid. I’ve gotten to know and make friends with people I might not have before this.

I learned a lot this last year. Follow your dreams, and do it now. … Don’t wait, because you never know when you won’t have a chance.

Abrianna, 13: When quarantine first started, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was so busy before, running from school to dance practice to home. I realized I needed some hobbies. I started to learn how to do hair and make bracelets and put in extra work into my dance.

And then two weeks turned into a month, and then we were out for the summer and now a year. I am actually happy to be virtual because my mom has lupus, and I don’t want to go to school then get sick, and then you pass that onto her and everybody else in the house. I did start to miss it some because it’s my last year before I graduate (from middle school), and I wanted to spend it there with my friends, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.

Virtual is harder for sure, but I just focus on my work because if I do the work, I’ll have good grades, and it will make my parents proud. It can be lonely though, because sometimes, I’ll be honest, I don’t want to talk to my mom or I don’t want to talk to my dad. Sometimes I don’t even want to talk to my counselor at school.

I’ve learned more this year about myself and about to not take things for granted — 2020 was a rough year, but I would rather say that it was a year that changed everything more than it was a bad year.

Charlotte, 11 (right), photographed with her sister Rosemary, 9 (left): It was good and bad. The bad part was virtual school, which is really bad because it is annoying and boring. But the good part was I got to spend time with this little monkey (my sister). And I also learned how to finger knit and how to play soccer. So now my sister and I sit in bed together, listening to podcasts and finger knitting.

I just wish everyone would wear masks and use hand sanitizer.

Leela, 6 (right), photographed with her sister Parima, age 4 (left): We moved to Atlanta in July, but before that we were in New Jersey. We had to stay in the house for five months straight and we couldn’t see my friends or my Nani or Grandpa. But, we did learn that we could slide down our front yard on cardboard boxes (in summer) and we made a fairy house in the basement. So, that was fun.

Maddox, 7 (middle), photographed with brothers Jackson, 13 (left), and Bennett, 9 (right): Well, the pandemic has been hard for me.

My dad is a doctor, so he couldn’t stay with us for three months at the beginning of the pandemic. It was just me and my brothers and my mom, he was trying to keep us all safe, especially me. I have leukemia, so we had to be really careful since I have to do chemo still.

He’s back home now, which is good, and both my parents are now vaccinated. I also get to go to school in person, which is great. But, because of my cancer it’s not safe to go on the playground equipment. It’s hard when I see everyone having fun on the equipment. I have to stay on the ground. And just because I can’t go on the equipment, nobody plays tag with me. Like nobody ever tags me. But, my best friend Andrew is really nice to me.

Yesterday I heard something on my mom’s phone, something that made me super happy. It said lots more people are getting the vaccine. I think that is good news.

Ryan, 10: Quarantine has been good and bad, the good is because I’ve got to spend more time with my family. And the bad is I don’t really get to see my friends that much and my grandparents. We don’t really get to go out much. Taekwondo was shut down for a couple months. I missed the chance to move up in my belt rankings, I was supposed to have my blue belt.

My mom is a teacher and she’s getting her shot next week. I am excited for that.

Sam, 7: The worst part of quarantine was that you couldn’t go places. I couldn’t see my friends and I had to do school at home. The best part was that Dad was home, all the time. We also rescued a dog, and I named her Biscuit after a book I love, and I helped my mom bake cookies and cupcakes.

My Mimi and PopPop (Sam’s maternal grandparents) both have the shot now, which means I can finally hug them after a whole year.

Nyla, 10 (front), photographed with (from left) Grayson, 5, Macoy, 8, and Perryn, 5: I thought that quarantine absolutely sucked because I didn’t get to see a lot of my friends. And then soccer was canceled, and I thought that absolutely sucked, too. I love soccer.

Digital learning was hard. Sometimes if you had a question, and it couldn’t always be answered, and if you were done with your lesson you still had to stay on the call. I am so glad to be back in person.

I am the oldest of four kids and we spent A LOT of time together during quarantine. I think we probably argued a lot more just because we were around each other so much. But, it was really nice to have people to play with.

I learned how to turn on the stove and make eggs by myself during quarantine.

Salena, 11: Some parts of quarantine were really good because you get to be with your family and your pets a lot. You get a lot more family time. And I wasn’t able to see my friends, and I was on the computer a lot more, but quarantine wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

My brother kept me company. He has autism, and even though I’m not able to talk to him because he doesn’t know how to talk, I’m able to play with him. And he likes to collect sticks with me, and we like to go on hikes. And he’s just become closer to me, and it’s really nice.

I learned how important it is to wash your hands and social distance because some people believe it’s not important, but the funny thing is it’s really, really important, and it can save your life. You could be saving a lot of money by just washing your hands, wearing a mask and using hand sanitizer and gloves rather than paying $50,000 for being in the hospital with Covid, or having to stay inside and not going to your favorite party or not even going to school. So that’s really important about quarantine.

Aiden, 12: I started middle school this year, but I have not even gone into the school once. I’ve been at home the whole entire time for schoolwork. It’s weird, and it’s new, but it’s been 10 months now, so I’m pretty used to everything being online.

I just really miss not being able to see friends in real life as much. Normally, I would have been having a sleepover every weekend. I would tell everyone to please wear your mask all the time.

Harrison, 14: I’ve been (in) 100% virtual school since quarantine started. It’s hard, I miss my friends and being there in person. It can be tough because school is meant to be in person. Things get missed, or hard to understand. So, usually I have to figure out the math by myself, and I’ll teach it to my friend during lunch because he wasn’t able to learn it virtually. I’ve definitely got to build some online relationships with friends that I didn’t really talk to before just because it’s more comfortable online for me and also met some people online, which has been good.

Article Topic Follows: Health

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