12 lessons my kids can learn from the pandemic

Posted by ~Summer~ on June 08, 2020
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It's been more than two months since the circuit breaker began.

For the past over 60 days, we have been staying home for as much as possible, we wear masks when we have to be out, we use sanitisers and wash our hands regularly, we meet up with our family and friends virtually through video conferences, we practise social distancing everywhere we go, we take our temperatures, fill up forms and check in and out of every place we visit, we do full home-based learning when schools are closed, we watch the news littered with COVID-19 updates from all over the world and feel our hearts sink a little at times, we tell ourselves to embrace the new normal, we try our best to stay hopeful and positive yet can't deny the apprehension that is lurking somewhere in our hearts.

The kids and I have been talking a lot about the coronavirus and its unprecedented impact on the world and its people. Even though the news might at times feel negative and disheartening, I hope for them to find the silver lining, understand why our lives are changing and know that we, being safe and together as a family, are very blessed. Amidst all the tragic stories and devastating events, I also want them to hear the touching stories and witness how heroes are born, how people learnt to care and how many brave ones have stepped up to make a difference and bring hope to humanity.

Here is a heartfelt letter to my kids which contains 12 important lessons I think they can learn from this global pandemic.

Dear kids,

Life hasn't really been the same for the past couple of months, has it?

Let's see. We couldn't drink bubble tea, couldn't have McDonald's, couldn't go to the playground, the zoo or anywhere to sit and relax, we couldn't go out as a family, we couldn't even go to school for many weeks on end. Yup, you guys had to stay home with me for that long a time but amazingly, we survived better than we thought we would, didn't we?

You had a thousand questions for me during this period, be it regarding your school work or why things had to be the way they were, and still are. As best as I could, I explained the situation to you and the rationale behind it, so have your teachers and the government. While you might be too young to fully understand everything (I didn't even understand much about SARS and I was 20 at that time), I hope that when you look back one day, you will see the bigger picture and realise that this is so much more than not being to visit our favourite places, eat our favourite food or hang out with our favourite people. In fact, there are so many lessons that both you and I can take away from this whole ordeal.

1) Life is unpredictable
We never know what will happen tomorrow. For all the grand plans we dream of and how we hope our paths in life will turn out to be, the truth is we never know what the future brings and everything we hold dear can vanish in an instant. But you know what we do have? We have today. We have now. That is why we need to make the most of it.

2) We are all equal
We have been talking and hearing about racism in the past few days, one that you still don't really understand because your hearts are pure and you don't discriminate. That is a virtue which I hope will stay with you in your lives. The fact is regardless of our social standing, colour, culture or religion, we all stand equal in the face of the virus. It does not distinguish, and so shouldn't we.

3) The best, and worst, things in life are invisible
That are many things in life that we cannot see with our eyes, only felt with our hearts. Some of the best things include joy, health, family bliss and love. These are the things that bring hope, warm our hearts and make life worth living. Yet, some of the worst things in life are invisible too, like the virus, hatred, discrimination and depression. Remember, while some things might be out of our control, there are many other things that are within and we have the power to decide how we feel and how we react.

4) Technology is a double-edged sword
All of us are familiar with Zoom now, aren't we? The thing about technology is that it works both ways - it brings people closer yet drives them further apart. While it's still nice to be able to meet up with our loved ones virtually when we can't be there physically, don't forget that hugs, kisses, holding of hands, talking face-to-face and just being present means so much more. Yup, that means I still hope to see more of you, not just receive your messages and calls, when you are grown up. And yes, the household rule of being device-free at mealtimes will still stand.

5) Attitude is important
At first, we all dreaded the thought of staying home for such a long time, didn't we? It wasn't something we are used to and it's normal to feel anxious, frustrated or even a little scared of the unknown. Then, we focused on creating meaningful activities, making the most of what we had and cherishing the time we had to bond. When you told me "Staying home is so fun because I have my family", I knew you felt what I feel too. Having a positive attitude is very important, my dears, as our mindsets determine everything from the start. As unlikely as it might seem at times, we always have a choice and I hope you choose joy.

6) Appreciate what others do for us
More often than not, we fail to show our appreciation for others because we don't realise just how much goes on behind the scene. This includes the tireless teachers, the principals, the doctors, the nursers, the volunteers, the security guards, the janitors, the delivery workers, the foreign workers, the government and everyone else who is working day and night to keep lives going. Even though we might not be able to contribute much, we can still make small donations, write Thank You cards, give the loudest applause and sing at the top of our voices, and have gratitude in our hearts. Every bit counts.

7) Some things are non-essential
You asked me what are considered essential and non-essential services, to which I wasn't that sure myself either. I suppose this circuit breaker made all of us realise that many things that we thought we needed, are actually things that we can live without. Yes, that includes french fries, ice cream, boba, toys, flowers, stationery and many more tangibles. But you know what we can't live without? Each other. Sure, we still need food, air, water and a home to survive but other than that, in hindsight, we actually don't need all that much, do we?

8) Count our blessings
Instead of lamenting on what we don't have, we need to focus and be thankful for what we do have. I always teach you to learn to be contented in life and count your blessings, right? That is one of the my secrets to staying happy. We just watched the movie "Life is Beautiful", this title happens to be one of my biggest mottoes and has guided me all along since I was a kid like you. See the good in your lives, my little ones, and always have a thankful heart. For now, we are all safe and sound, we feel blessed to be Singaporeans and no matter how slowly it takes for life to get back to normal, at least we are in it together and no one is left behind.

9) Imagination works wonders
I never thought I would say this when I was younger but you know what, staying home and being bored can be a good thing. You taught me that. I see how your imagination conjures the most fun games and takes you to faraway places, I see how your creativity flows when you make something out of nothing, and I see how your minds work in the most incredible ways when you are given the time, freedom and opportunity to do so. As you grow up, don't lose this sense of wonder and curiosity, okay?

10) Don't take things for granted
There were many things we did in the past that we took for granted, such as taking a stroll at the beach, eating at a kopitiam, going for a haircut or having a family picnic in the park. It is only when these simple acts are forbidden that we realise how we had failed to hold them dear. It's not the big things but the little things in life that count at the end of the day. Let's all try to better treasure the simple luxuries and the little moments we have and not wait till they're gone.

11) Everyone can play a part
All of us have a role to play. By staying home, not flouting the rules and encouraging others to do the same, you are playing your part too. I love hearing the three of you sing with pride to "Singapore, Unite as One" - a song written by a Primary 6 schooler named Jacob Neo to encourage our frontliners, patients and fellow Singaporeans - which inspires you in many ways. You are never too young or too small to make a difference, all you gotta do is have faith in yourselves.

12) Cherish our loved ones more
We are lucky that we have not had much experience with grief, other than the time when your great grandmother left us. But one day, we will, for that is just part and parcel of life. It's going to be so hard for you to understand and I can only imagine the devastation it will bring to your hearts, and mine, when the day comes. Well, I guess even the most optimistic person will have morbid thoughts when catastrophe strikes. To look on the bright side, we still have each other to hold onto and that is why we ought to make the most of every day that we are together. You have grandparents, uncles, aunties, cousins and friends who love and adore you. Let's make sure we hold them a little tighter and let them know just how much they matter to us, yeah?

Remember, I love you more than you ever know and I am so thankful we could spend so much time together in the past few months. Having all of you with me turned my world upside down yet made it a sweet haven that I would gladly stay in for the rest of my life. For all the mean things I've said or the times I've lost my cool, please know that I love you so much and no matter how the world changes, that will always be the one constant. 



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