Reading other narratives can help children think about their stories, and writing things down is powerful. Dr. Amy Shriver, a general pediatrician in Des Moines, Iowa, has daughters who are 9 and 12. Her older daughter is reading Anne Frank’s “The Diary of a Young Girl,” she said, and talked about feeling trapped.
Since I was asking these questions around the July 4 holiday, “Hamilton,” which premiered in film form over that weekend, was a reference point for a number of children. Dr. Radesky said it had helped her family through what would otherwise have been a difficult holiday, and Dr. Shriver’s 12-year-old, a fan, said to her, “Mom, this is what it’s like when the world turns upside down.”
Dr. Shriver said in an email, “I’m encouraging my kids to journal every night about life during the pandemic. I’m telling them how incredible it is that *everyone* in the world is experiencing the same stress and worries at the same time. Even though we are physically distanced, we all feel closer to one another due to this shared experience.”
Dr. Ken Haller, a professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University, said in an email that he has been asking parents versions of this question since 2014, when many of his patients were affected by the Ferguson uprising after Michael Brown was killed. “I was especially asking parents of babies and very young children what they would tell their children in 10 or 15 years about what life was like during the protests.”
At that time, he said, most parents would say they hadn’t had time to think about it, but when he asks the question now, parents are interested in keeping track — writing in a diary, saving social media posts, maybe even making videos talking to their children when they’re older.
“As pediatricians and people who care for children, it’s been a fascinating time in our history,” said Dr. Ruchi Gupta, a professor of pediatrics and the director of the Center for Food Allergy and Asthma Research at Northwestern and Lurie Children’s Hospital. “How can one virus stop the world?” She wanted her children to tell me their own stories of this time. There were disappointments: Her 18-year-old son missed out on his senior year festivities and his in-person graduation, her 14-year-old daughter on her eighth-grade graduation after spending 11 years in the same school.
But her son, Rohan Jain, talked about how important it’s been “to write every day about what’s going on in the world and what my thoughts are.” It was important to him to march for racial justice, he said.