Working Together While Being Apart

Carys, from FLARE, talks about her experience of being at home due to coronavirus and the importance of recognising that you are allowed to be struggling with your new routine.

After a long and tiring day, you’re shattered from schoolwork. You’ve been working from home, trying to navigate your way through various online classes whilst trying to find a quiet corner you can sit in, so you can manage your workload in peace.  

Over the last few days, you’ve seen your parents slowly get more and more bogged down as they cope with the changes to their lives. They’ve been looking after your siblings, they’ve been working from home themselves, they’ve been trying to help to make sure their parents are ok. This is the fifth night you’ve spent practically sleepless, fretting over what you can do to help them and whether you have enough provisions for the next few days, the next few weeks, however long you think this may last.

Seeking refuge from the chaos that seems to have devoured normality, you turn on the news.

Tired of hearing about the pandemic, you switch channels.

And again.

And again.

And again.

The problem is, is that while we’re shut inside our houses, the news also shuts positivity out of our minds. Over the last week, we’ve been hit with not only a violent virus but also a whirlwind of fear as we over-think and over-complicated things. Where are the positive news stories? I’d like to see people reporting about the amazing sense of pride I felt whilst clapping for our carers. Groups have sprung up all over the country, full of people desperate to help each other. For what may be the first time for a while for some of us, we’re becoming a community. Every post about every small act that people have made to make someone else’s life better fills me with joy. It’s these little acts that will make a big difference.

How many reports have I seen on this? Too little, but it’s not too late.

Instead, some of our media sites have cultivated a sense of fear and mistrust- “I have a cough, do I have COVID-19? What if it’s me next? What if I pass it on? What if, what if, what if…”.

But what if there is something we can do? Staying home is essential, I don’t doubt it. Yet self-isolation does not mean you have to be alone.

If there’s one thing I’m already learning from this, it’s that there’s an amazing sense of love and community that’s being developed. I’m simply astounded by the amount of people volunteering on Facebook groups to deliver food items to those in self-isolation, to phone call those suffering from loneliness. Maybe some of us are even getting to grips with technology and video-calling! As a young person, I know that a lot of young people (including myself) are finding the situation difficult. Many of us are used to being busy and now find ourselves desperate for something to do. People with special educational needs and disabilities are particularly struggling to cope. Some young people will only eat some foods and now these things are out of stock, or the place that served them has closed. Any familiarity or routine has almost certainly been changed and that as well as loneliness can be particularly distressing for them, as well as those with mental health difficulties. They’re stuck, their entire world flipped on its head. Yet, they’re expected to cope and to keep marching on- showing no weakness to the outside world.

It's simple. You’re allowed to struggle.

For all those parents struggling to cope with getting their children to do work, please don’t worry. Home-learning is crucial. You can learn things without it being schoolwork. For example, teach your children life-skills or just simply spend time with them. Get them to dance, to sing and cook with you. Keep them active. You can even teach them sign-language through YouTube and learn some yourself. That way, you’re not only spending time as a family but also developing life skills that could open you up to a whole new world and whole new language you never really considered before. Having been through exams myself and knowing the pressures young people face, I know that many parents will be worrying about getting their children to do work. But I also know that, as a young person, occasionally you need time off. Push and push and push and you’re both only going to get burnt out. This is a difficult time for all of us. If your child would rather bake to get their mind off things, let them. You can incorporate lessons in another way, another time. This home-learning takes things outside of the normal rigid curriculum and encourages learning for life. Home-learning, therefore, can be equally (if not sometimes more) important than home-schooling.

Of course, respect is due to our wonderful key workers and it’s amazing to see people finally giving them the recognition they deserve. For all of them, from the delivery drivers to teachers to NHS staff to care workers- you deserve not only a round of applause occasionally but every single day. This show of respect gives me hope but I hope this is not only for this pandemic. This amplification of respect should become the foundation on which our thanks is built. When the pandemic finally finishes, I hope we continue to support and admire our key workers and their commitment, building on these foundations bit by bit until we never again forget the sacrifice these super-heroes have made and act accordingly to that principle. For, although I call them super-heroes, they’re actually super humans and many are already feeling battered from the physical and emotional demand placed on them, yet they continue fighting on the frontline for us. If you’re a keyworker and reading this, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

For everyone reading this… we will get through this and we will get through it together. Let’s not panic-buy toilet roll but spread happiness and joy. Just a small thank you to someone working on the frontline against the pandemic can brighten someone’s day. A small picture can make a big smile.

Stay safe, of course, but also stay communicative, stay positive, stay resilient.

Let’s work together despite being apart.