20 sixth graders living in one cabin for five days, supervised by two sleep-deprived teenage girls. This was the daunting task set before my fellow The Shield writer, Madeline Crowley, and me. Although we had an amazing time laughing and learning with our young roommates, we noticed an important difference between their science camp experience and what we had experienced at their age. During the nights, multiple girls could be heard sniffling from their sleeping bags. The main office, also known as the Hub, reported an influx in nightly visitors asking to go back home to their parents. Many of these girls told us that this was their first time ever sleeping away from home. The reason? COVID-19.
While elementary school may not seem important in the overall development of mentally strong members of society, the activities that often come with that age are extremely important. Sleepovers, sleep-away camps, and overnight events are all crucial in helping kids work towards independence. They allow developing minds to understand how to take care of themselves and how to be responsible without the watchful eyes of a parent. When the pandemic hit, children now in middle school never got to experience that first step out of the comfort zone of their own home. These children have quite literally never spent a night away from their parents. Ever. While this may seem absurd to some–and nothing out of the ordinary to others–it does represent a significant issue for the mental health of the younger generation. The absence of healthy time away from home has led to increased separation anxiety in both children and adults. Now more than ever, kids are unwilling to explore new opportunities on their own. The reality is, eventually these children will eventually have to experience life without the comfort of their parents. Similarly, parents will eventually have to let their children leave the nest and try things on their own. While the post-COVID mental health crisis continues to emerge in young people, it is important to be aware of the impact of isolation on the minds of the world.