How A Pandemic Changed Akwesasne
By: Jaclyn Hall
We are over two months into this pandemic, and while banners are being hung and billboards showcase the graduating classes of 2020, let's not forgot about the little unsung heroes of Akwesasne. All of Akwesasne's youth, from babies to young adults, have been impacted by this isolation period, and they deserve as much praise as their older counterparts.
It appears we have reached a sort of calm during the storm, and families have adjusted to the new normal in their own unique ways. While parents scrambled to make ends meet and readjust their whole lifestyle, many young people were blindsided with the forced isolation this pandemic brought. Some will joke that our young people have it so easy because they do not have to attend school. What people do not realize is that for many young people, a major aspect of their well-being came from being around their peers and interacting with people their own age. You take school away, and they are left with few outlets to sustain their friendships that were made possible through attending school.
Before this pandemic, young people's use of modern technology was almost always frowned upon unless it was for education. Now, that attitude has begun to shift in their favor. As parents, we have begun to recognize the positive impact modern technology could have for our children during this pandemic. As parents we have also begun to recognize just how resilient our children truly are. Seeing our children wake up every day with smiles on their face, ready to take on the day is a huge contributing factor in our attitudes as their parents. Just as they say our children mirror what they see, who's to say that does not work both ways. During these unprecedented times, our young people carry a positivity that is contagious to those around them, and that is something to be celebrated.
Going into this graduation season, our young people would normally have celebrated with ceremonies and graduation parties. As parents we know our children are eager to interact with one another. While Akwesasronon have found creative ways to recognize the graduating class of 2020, how they will be celebrated is still up in the air.
The warmer weather has arrived, and our young people want to get out and socialize. Many of the normal outlets our young people enjoyed are currently inaccessible. So, how do we as parents mirror our children's creativeness and adaptability, to find new ways for our youth to enjoy themselves.
Fortunately for us, some awesome people work within organizations who have the capacity and capability to host events focused on our families well-being. So far, there have been multiple interactive events hosted through social media, focused on getting families to spend time together. Learning, playing and being physically active are some of the ways these organizations have encouraged family time.
So, how do we take it a step further and find innovative and creative ways for our youth to interact with one another at a safe distance? We were all young once and we know if we wanted something bad enough, we would find a way. As role models, we should help our youth find a way to sustain their real-life friendships, and not solely depend on video games and social media. Our young people need to know that we support them and their social life, and together find ways to encourage their lifestyle in a way that keeps them safe.
If we took the time to sit down with our young people and asked them what they missed the most, 9 times out of 10 they will say their friends. We can only guess how the absence of any physical social life impacts our young people's well-being. We are at a point where social interaction will be solely through a screen, unless we bring our minds together and find other ways to interact and encourage those bonds that are so important to us all.
One suggestion would be to sit down with our children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews and ask them what they miss the most, and how we can help them and support their social lives. Keeping our young people involved in some of the decision making can help them feel important; finding ways to celebrate their accomplishments will help show them they are seen and loved. If we allow our youth to take the lead in some aspects of their life while we sit back and keep them safe, they may just surprise us.