What Living Through a Pandemic Is Like for Kids

The children of Slate writers and editors describe how they’re feeling about all of this.

Kids looking bored.
Boring. Getty Images Plus

Thanks to coronavirus-induced isolation, countless kids are cooped up at home right now, trying along with the rest of us to make sense of what’s going on around them. So we asked the children of Slate writers and editors to write about what they’re feeling, what their days are like, what they’re afraid of, and what they miss about school.

Sam Cook, age 9, Maplewood, N.J.                                              
All this stuff about the coronavirus is really weird. A couple of days ago I was going to pick up my mom and I saw someone wearing a mask even though there aren’t any cases in my town (yet). My dad came in from a run and said, “There’s nobody out on the streets.” I feel like it’s getting very chaotic, you know, everything closing. My parents are worried that the stores and restaurants we like will go out of business. I’m really annoyed that we have to take two-hour classes on our Chromes at home. Some family friends of ours have to take classes all day on Skype, so I guess I shouldn’t be complaining. I’m not anti-screens, don’t get me wrong, but I would rather see my friends all day. I really don’t like that kids are spreading rumors about COVID-19. It’s annoying and it’s scaring some kids. Well, uh, bye.

Harry Cook, age 11, Maplewood, N.J.
My friend just texted me that the schools are closing! Yesssssssssssss noooooooooooooo. I don’t know how to feel about it. On the one hand, ThIs Is EvErY yOuNg BoYs DrEaM! But on the other hand, I’ll have to occupy myself for two friggin weeks. I know that everybody hates school, but whether you like school or not, it still occupies a kid for six hours of the day. So if my calculations are correct (robot voice calculating. X x Y + A = G), school occupies around 25 percent of your day, depending on how long your school day is. And sleep takes up anywhere from eight to 11 hours of your day, which is somewhere around 45 percent of your day. (I have an A in math, not tryna brag though.) Which leaves you with somewhere between three to five hours to occupy yourself, not including weekends, half days, delayed openings, etc. My family and I went on a hike together. The day was actually pretty good. I’m still upset at my parents though. They won’t let me listen to music with bad words in it. I’m in sixth grade! MIDDLE SCHOOL.

Naima John, age 9, Chicago, Ill.
Yesterday my mom was going to go to the grocery store. And she didn’t really want me to come because it was dangerous. But my stepmom has a fever so I couldn’t go to my dad’s house. So my mom had to take me to the store. She said for me to keep my hands in my pockets and I shouldn’t touch anything at all. Mom had to wipe down the cart before she used it. Usually I help my mom out with putting the food on the little conveyor belt thing so it can get checked out. But she said that I shouldn’t help her this time. Some people were wearing those weird rubber glove things. And I saw one person wearing a mask. A lot of the aisles were really empty, especially when my mom went to go get some toilet paper. Everyone’s stocking up on toilet paper and I don’t get why.

If you could rate me from like one to 10, and one would be I’m totally calm, nothing to worry about at all, and 10 would be I’m totally freaking out, then I would probably be like a six or seven. I’m really worried that my stepmom might have it. Until my stepmom gets her test back, I can’t go back to my dad’s house. I really miss them and my sister. I’ve been wondering if my Grandma Dunkelbarger is OK. She’s my great-grandma and she is 104, which is kind of crazy. And that’s why I’m worried about her because she is really old and she could get really sick. I always kind of wanted to be in a historical event, but nothing like this. This is a bad historical event. For homework last week I read this article about a girl with anxiety. Anxiety is being scared because you don’t know what’s coming next. And yeah, I’m kind of having anxiety. To keep my mind off that, I have been doing some of the assignments on Google Classroom that my teachers posted for me. I have been reading good books, The Wishtree and Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. I painted watercolors yesterday. That was fun. And I’m going to bake chocolate chip cookies later today. I think that might help.

Eliza Roth, age 9, Brooklyn, N.Y.
I first read about the coronavirus in the New York Times for Kids. I thought it was just another type of cold or something. Then my mom told us that we should be more careful about washing our hands and other stuff we’re supposed to do anyway, and I thought, “Still just a minor disease.” Then she said that schools might close and we might be put under quarantine. That confused me. This was NOT just a minor disease anymore, I told her. She said everyone was panicking because it was new. She told me “corona” meant crown, and it was called the coronavirus because when you looked at it through a microscope it looked like a crown. I thought that was wrong. Why should something so horrible look like something that was the symbol for monarchy? Then schools DID close. We had canceled our spring break plans because of, of course, THE CORONAVIRUS. We went to my grandparents’ house. (They are not here.) My dad told me that people in the future would learn about the coronavirus in school. For some reason that made me think of Anne Frank. Then a thought hit me like a dodgeball. Anne Frank died. I almost grunted a short, blunt oof, right then and there.

Julia P., age 10, Chevy Chase, Md.
The coronavirus is knocking on all of our doors. They need to do a deep cleaning for my school. It’s considered a health emergency, which is a little scary. The NBA is out for the season, and everywhere I am I hear the word coronavirus. My soccer tournament got canceled, and I was looking forward to that so much. I thought it would be the highlight of March, and I got new cleats just for it. I guess, looking on the bright side of things, it could be good that I now have online school. I can do all of my schoolwork in one week and won’t have to go at the slow pace of my classmates. I did learn something new about the word corona. “Corona” means crown in Latin. Crowns sound so cheerful, but it’s just because the virus looks like a crown. That just goes to show you, you learn something new every day, even when there’s a health crisis at hand.

A kid's drawing of the coronavirus
“The Coronavirus,” by Madeleine P. Madeleine P.

Here are the three things I’m feeling most: curious, bored, and annoyed. You probably couldn’t imagine how many times people constantly tell me, “Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and stay away from people who look sick or are coughing.” Like I don’t know to do these things. I also have questions, though, like: Who was the first person to get the coronavirus? How did he/she get it? Also, can you spread it by tears? For example, if you cry into a stuffed animal, and your friend hugs it, would any germs spread? The coronavirus is going to be a part of history now. Last year, I had to interview a relative about something like Y2K, or the Holocaust, or the Great Depression, and I feel like this will be considered some important part of history and someone could interview me about this someday. Right now we have a schedule for each day and that includes a walk just to get a break from our house and some fresh air. Other than knowing if I get the coronavirus I could pass it on to someone who’s old and could die, life is between good and OK. If there are other kids in the world who feel worried or scared, or whatever they feel, they should know they are not the only ones feeling this way.

Madeleine P., age 8, Chevy Chase, Md.
I miss my friends so much. There’s so much to tell them! I am so used to going to school, so I can tell my friends everything I’ve done over the weekends or at my house. And in addition to that, they are always telling me things as well. These are my feelings about the coronavirus. Now, let’s move onto what I’m doing. The first two days were cuckoo, so we made a schedule. At 8:30, our mom will wake us up. At 9, it is time for breakfast. At 9:30, a walk to get our blood pumping. At 10:05, we will practice our piano and do some schoolwork. 12:00 is lunch. 12:30 is the real activity of the day—an outdoor activity. 2:30 is FREE TIME. 4:00 is tea in the parlor and reading. 4:45 to 5:10 is helping with dinner (or you can just nap). 5:10 to 6 is outdoor play. 6 or 6:30 is dinner. 7:15 is take a shower or bath to wash up after a long day. At 7:45, maybe a movie. Last, it is bedtime. Now I am starting to feel more relaxed. Overall, I feel OK about this break that we are having because of the coronavirus.

A drawing of Naima Lemieux-Giles's family.
Naima Lemieux-Giles

Naima Lemieux-Giles, age 6 (almost 7), Los Angeles, Calif.
If I were in school, I would be learning a lot of fun things. The schools will be closed for two weeks so you don’t get sick. Two weeks without education makes me sad. What if my teacher planned to teach new things? I really want to be with my friends and I don’t get to do that. Yay family, and at least my teacher sent home some activities . You should stay inside right now. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. We should not let Donald Trump be our president because he is just letting people get sick. He should be making sure that we are all OK. We have to get a new president who will do that and take care of us. My mom and I were supposed to go back to Brooklyn for my spring break. Brooklyn is my hometown. Now we can’t go and I feel sad. Being a writer is hard. It looks more fun on a computer. Now I see how my mom feels. I will try this again when I get older.

Elliot C., age 11, Silver Spring, Md.
With the schools being closed due to the virus, it has gotten very boring. Even on days where I do go outside, barely anyone talks or looks at one another. It is as if everything and everyone is a ghost. I miss school and having other people to work with besides my mom and sister. I by no stretch of the imagination like school but sitting at home and doing work is not particularly pleasant. Being in a house with people that can drive you insane at times can be less than ideal. If you get to know someone for long enough and see them for long enough, they get your goat. For example, I wanted to voice-type some questions about a book I was reading. My mom and dad both shot the idea down because they thought my writing should be more formal. Had this been Friday afternoon, I would have been fine. It was Monday however and I had just spent loads of time with my parents. I got furious. Right now all I want is to go back to school or at least get to interact with people without them treating me like a ghost.

Sylvie C., age 8, Silver Spring, Md.
I feel happy and sad. I am feeling sad because my teacher is having a baby and last Friday was the last day for her to teach me. The reason why I am happy is because I am being home-schooled by my mom. Sincerely, Sylvie!!!

Dominic Scocca-Ho, age 8, New York, N.Y.
I kind of enjoy the school shutdown, but the only bad part about it is now I don’t have that much stuff to do, except for go outside, run around the house, do my homework, watch movies like The Fast and the Furious (true story, by the way, I did watch The Fast and the Furious), watch videos on YouTube, and play video games. And when I go outside we’ve been avoiding people (except for my friend I played with at the playground but don’t tell anyone). For now I’m fine with how life is going except for having to do short and long responses to prepare for the state test (Ahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!! Please don’t tell anyone I’m scared because my teacher said on a scale of one to 10 how prepared we are for the test and I said 9 and 9/10ths). But anyway life is good and bad in different ways and I still have tons of fun playing and running around the house (not to mention playing with Legos sometimes). Mostly it’s been nice.

Mack Scocca-Ho, age 12, New York, N.Y.
One morning, my mom decided we should go to Central Park to eat breakfast because 1) the weather was supposed to be better in the morning, 2) there was a spot that she thought would work nicely for this, and 3) schools were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. But this school shutdown feels really weird. Yes, there is a feeling of having all day to do anything, but it also just feels wrong that I get this much school off not because of a holiday, or summer vacation, but a pandemic. I can’t see ESPN or for how well the Orioles are doing today because the MLB season is shut down. I can’t go anywhere farther than Central Park because of fear about coronavirus transmission on the subway, and if I try to get my practicing viola done so I can entertain myself on the internet, I inevitably end up procrastinating and doing everything at the last moment at 8 p.m. (Yes, even without school!)

Simon Berner Alam, age 10, Brooklyn, NY
The coronavirus is a very serious thing and you have to be very cautious around people. When I first heard about this I said, “Oh, no big deal, it’s all the way across the ocean.” And now I feel overwhelmed. How did it spread this quickly, in only a matter of weeks? And it gets even more crazy: not only did it spread just anywhere, it spread to New York. And that’s scary because we live in New York. I heard that schools would be closed and I thought “Yay, no school!” I love school, but sometimes you just need a break from it. But when I realized that we can’t have play dates or anything like that I said “Nooooooooo!” Staying home from the corona has a few downsides to it. Instead of learning at school we will have to learn at home. The second downside is that I miss my friends and they are the reason why I am the person I am today. And without them I’m not myself anymore. I try my best to stay away from people because you never know if they have the coronavirus or not, but it’s hard especially when they’re your friends. You just feel like you want to give them a high-five or a fist bump or even a hug.