The covid-19 pandemic has been tough for all age groups, but reports suggest that it is generation Z (born between mid-1990s and early 2010s) that has been hit the most emotionally by the events of last year. According to Prerna Kohli, clinical psychologist and public speaker, a sizeable number of teenagers have said that the pandemic has affected their outlook about the future. “We are a product of the environment around us. And the pandemic will surely have a huge impact on their identity. After all, we have seen unparalleled uncertainties in education, healthcare and careers,” says Kohli.
For a lot of youngsters, who entered early adulthood last year, 2020 was marked with financial instability and concerns for the family. Climate change too became a huge cause of worry, as it became more visible in one’s everyday life. The paradigm shift from offline to the virtual space changed the way they negotiated their romantic relationships and social life. “Those are really important milestones in a teenager and young adult’s life, be it a first date or heartbreak. However, for Gen Z, means of coping and finding solace now emanate from the virtual world,” says Kohli. Added to these are ongoing logistical concerns, such having only a single laptop at home, or at times only one room out of which all the family members work. This sometimes leads to a feeling of helplessness.
Kohli sees a lot of parallels between the youth, who underwent the trauma of the Partition, and those of today. “My mother still harbours fears of loss and displacement, resulting from the Partition, which she has passed on to me. The young adults of today also have that same unsettling feeling,” she says.
Some of the questions she is contemplating are: will this generation start hoarding? Will travel and adventure still have the same kind of spontaneity as before, or will there be a fear of being stranded at a particular destination due to uncertain climate? Will people look for long term relationships now or instant emotional gratification? The kind of impact that 2020 has had on Gen Z also depends on the family’s response to the crisis. If the environment around was calm, the impact would be more cushioned. However, if family members faced loss of a job, or there was a death of a loved one, the impact would be far more deep. However, these changes are likely to make Gen Z more resilient as well. “If this generation can survive this, it can go through anything. This will be a tougher and stronger generation. Now the onus is on the adults in the family and caregivers to hand hold them through the events of the coming year,” says Kohli.