Young people may appear to be less at risk from severe Covid-19 symptoms, but the pandemic has significantly disrupted their lives in other ways. Social distancing and the interruption of typical school and college routines can be especially challenging for young people.
Columban Missionaries are reaching out to young people around the globe in this time of pandemic and inviting them to take part in a Columban International Youth Encounter. This is a new initiative to connect with young people in the countries where we are working today on mission.
The greatest impacts felt by young people stem from school and college closures, being all the time in the house with family members, and not getting to see friends and peers. Young people have different developmental needs than adults.
Young people are at the stage in life when they are very invested in social connections and in separating from their parents. So, Covid-19’s social distancing requirements have a different emotional impact on them than on adults.
Depending on their age and developmental stage, some young people may have a hard time understanding what the pandemic really means and how it impacts their world.
Some of the developmental challenges for young people are to develop social skills and empathy and a sense of identity. These happen through interactions with peers. Disconnection from social outlets and peers because of the pandemic will have implications for when we return to social settings.
Schools and colleges are much more than just places delivering educational content. It is increasingly recognised that when students return, they will not only have suffered educational setbacks but also setbacks to their social and emotional skills.
Helping young people develop a consistent schedule is important for maintaining a sense of normalcy. It should include time to get homework done, class assignments and participation in distance learning as well as time to exercise and get outside of the house, even if it is for a short amount of time. A routine should help young people to feel grounded and reduce stress to some extent.
On 16 January 2021, our first online Columban International Youth Encounter took place in a very relaxed manner which gathered 24 young people and seven young Columban missionaries and co-workers from six different Columban mission areas.
We hope that this gathering will be a space to meet and encounter the “other”. And that this would be the beginnings of an encounter that leads to friendship. We have seas and oceans between us, huge time differences but through technology we can gather and meet online.
The experience of Covid-19 has led us to even greater isolation and wall-building. Pope Francis exhorts us, “Isolation, no; closeness, yes”.
“In the hope that in the face of present-day attempts to eliminate or ignore others, we may prove capable of responding with a new vision of fraternity and social friendship that will not remain at the level of words.” We need physical distancing but not social distancing. We need to look out for each other.
If you would like more information about this new initiative: Columban International Youth Encounter, please email Padraig at [email protected]