Worried for the Next Gen

feelLet’s discuss our worries for our younger generation.

A significant proportion of us is worrying. This is more than the usual low rumbling parental concern. One doesn’t have to be a parent to see the tough reality facing our younger generation now. It is not overstating to say we are in a global crisis that will have a profound and lasting impact on our next generation’s mental and economic health. Wherever we live in the world, our youth have faced huge repercussions from the pandemic and governments’ responses to it. These consequences are worrying and must be further addressed. Let’s remember the saying “a worry shared is a worry halved” and let’s hope it’s correct.

Wherever we live in the world, our youth have faced huge repercussions from the pandemic and governments’ responses to it.

I’m voicing our collective concern now. Let’s hope another voice shouting may help encourage further focus and practical action steps regarding our collective concern for our younger generation. So shouting is what we will do today.

The Shout:

In England, we are living under restrictions still. We hope they may finally be lifted on 19 July. The previous deadline of 21 June saw yet another delay in returning to normalcy, this time due to the current prevalence of Delta strain. But what is the exact reason for another delay? It is no longer clear to me. What is clear is that Britain has one of the highest levels of immunizations, but simultaneously one of the strictest and longest periods of restrictions than many other countries. It’s time we ask: Is this still really necessary?

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Most importantly, where has our right to use our own judgment gone?

We all have personal issues that press our buttons and reduce our patience with this lockdown. I don’t understand the inconsistent policies here in England. Why are 10,000 people allowed to gather in stadiums to watch professional sports but simultaneously not more than 30 are permitted in gardens? Why are some travelers quarantined and some have business exemptions since the virus can’t read a passport permit? What is going on with the Department of Education? Are our leaders unable to devise and implement creative solutions which mitigate our disappointments and worry?

Most importantly, where has our right to use our own judgment gone?

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve dutifully followed the guidelines over the last 15 months. Or is it 17 months? I’m losing track. I did this with less griping and complaining than many of my friends. I believed the lockdown was the best strategy for our collective health and safety. Britain did an impressive job rolling out the vaccine. But this hold on our lives is getting old now and is no longer justifiable.

We want to sensibly enjoy the summer months, to attend – with caution – birthday celebrations, weddings, and graduation ceremonies. Some wish to go to the theatre of their choice. But in the UK, we still can’t. We aren’t allowed. Other parts of the world can. But not here. Some may yearn to travel abroad for a holiday or to see family. But we face strict, anxiety-inducing restrictions. Other countries don’t. I echo Theresa May‘s comment reported today: why do we in Britain face travel restrictions that are “incomprehensible” in one of the most vaccinated countries in the world?

Living in hope has become tiresome. It is no longer logical to me that we simply accept missing milestones in our lives. We all deserve to be treated like sensible adults.

The Worries For Our Younger Generation

The young adults in their 20s: We are right to worry for our youth. The under 30s in the UK have been hit hard. Life has been altered for them for no fault of their own. At best, their young lives have been interrupted and put on hold. At worst, their paths have been permanently affected and altered. There are fewer jobs and apprenticeships. Socialising has ground to a halt. Expected milestones are canceled. The repercussions of this are hugely concerning.

Restrictions on seeing people and being able to go outside, the impact of loneliness, and worries about the health of family and friends were key factors in driving the increase of mental health concerns. According to the ONS, one in five young adults in Britain says they experienced some form of depression during the pandemic. This is concerning as this rate has doubled since pre-pandemic levels. Equally concerning is that many people are not seeking medical help at the pre-pandemic levels, due to restrictions and changes in health service use. Whilst overall GP diagnosis levels have decreased, depression is making up a larger percentage of the overall diagnoses. It is clear the lasting effects of the traumas and economic pressures of lockdown will be felt for a long time.

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According to the ONS, one in five young adults in Britain says they experienced some form of depression during the pandemic. This is concerning as this rate has doubled since pre-pandemic levels.

The kids aged 18-22: We worry for university-aged kids in Britain. Those attending university, are contending with life in virtual lessons which isn’t a real uni experience. They have been resilient. However, enough is enough. The fact that some unis in England have announced they are continuing online lessons for the next year – not just autumn term – seems simply unjust.

Now that two graduating years are competing in a smaller job pool, the students graduating this year face fewer job prospects than usual. That’s tough. For students applying to uni this year, they are facing more anxieties than usual in this normally stressful process. Kids are getting rejections outright or course offers that they didn’t apply for. I’m sure the dropout rate this and next year has increased. What a nightmare for these kids.

I see children in the US are enjoying relatively normal life at uni. They are actually enjoying graduation ceremonies. That’s a big personal button presser for me as my kids in the U.K. can’t enjoy theirs. They are not getting that option. We are hearing we need to wait a year and celebrate next year with the last 2 years. When I see on Facebook all the celebrations abroad, there are feelings of frustration, perhaps even jealousy, and I wonder why kids in Britain can’t enjoy the important milestone of graduating?

Our youth is resilient and gets on with it, but at what cost? We need to allow them to resume their lives. We need to provide jobs so they can be functioning members of adult society like they want to be. And we need to listen, address, and provide support for their mental health issues which is an undoubted result of this lockdown.

Teens in Britain: I also worry for the children that are in their school years.

School closures are significant and still impacting lives. Now that schools are open again, the Department of Education’s inconsistent messaging and lukewarm responses to this pandemic are negatively affecting the students. I worry for the kids taking their National Exams both because they’ve had to contend with more assessments than usual as well as the uncertainty and inconsistency of this current system. Will their “assessed” grades be accurate and fair? Will some schools have more lenient examination procedures than others? Of course. Good luck, kids. I can’t help but wonder if in a few years we will look back and simply negate these years’ results as not defensible. It is an understatement of the year for us to say the Department of Ed needs to get it together or be expunged. The brain drain from Britain is inevitable.

I worry that the line between values being instilled from home and those being supported at school is blurry. Perhaps neither segment is doing its job in instilling appropriate social behavior boundaries. The pandemic is not the sole cause but it is not improving the situation. Both home and school are pointing the responsibility finger to the other. What is that about? Providing functioning processes for communicating and instilling BOTH home value codes AND school behavioural codes is fundamental to the raising of healthy children. We’ve lost this focus and until we partner in this again, our kids will continue to suffer.

So what can we do about it?

We can’t control this dismal narrative, but we can control our response to it.

Whilst there is no concrete solution one person can propose to fix all this, we can loudly discuss our grave concerns and insist collectively that they are addressed. Let’s tell the decision-makers enough is enough and to get focusing on establishing practical solutions to rebuild the lives of our younger generation. Let’s believe that will accomplish productive end results. We have to try, right?

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Let’s each also make an effort to increase the communication within our families and communities to continue showing support, building resilience, and teaching the importance of coping mechanisms, and praising the little wins.

We can’t pin all our hope on actions by elected politicians, obviously. Let’s each also make an effort to increase the communication within our families and communities to continue showing support, building resilience. We can reiterate to our kids that this is indeed a particularly tough time, the hardest time in many of our lives. Let’s reiterate that it’s OK to not have achieved what they had hoped to. Maybe uni didn’t happen this year. Maybe we can’t find an apprenticeship or a job. But we will if we keep trying. Disappointments happen and the results are often out of our control. That’s part of life. But the key is to learn from the setbacks and to move on.

Let’s continue to teach the younger generation the importance of resilience, of learning from disappointments, seeking help when needed, and moving on emblazoned. Fortified. Stronger.

Let’s simultaneously keep our fingers crossed.

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Kirsten Kulukundis
Kirsten Kulukundis

Kirsten brings 30 years of expertise in Finance and Business Strategy to the world of corporate advisory, coaching and blogging. Her humorous anecdotes, thoughtful missives and helpful tips can be found on her blog, the next half (www.the-next-half.org). Kirsten is a transplanted New Yorker who has lived in London for over 25 years. Her menagerie includes three sons, one husband, a collection of amazing friends and a client list of over 200 fans. Kirsten believes passionately in spreading the power of positivity and the importance of taking a moment to laugh.

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