Columnist

Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski is the founder and director of the Washington Health System Teen Outreach. She responds to 6–8 questions from young people daily and has written 'Ask Mary Jo' since 2005.

I just finished an article about young people’s mental health needs. While interviewing teens, I asked a question: Did you learn any positive lessons from the pandemic?

Here are a few responses:

I think I learned it’s important to have consistent habits when the world is in a constant state of uncertainty.

17-year-old

I discovered my mom can be fierce. She became our teacher and then an advocate.

She fights to make sure my brothers and me are safe and get a good education.

I loved seeing her that way.

15-year-old

I learned being afraid of other kids in school is foolish. I can stand up for myself. There are a lot bigger things to be afraid of.

14-year-old

When we weren’t in school, I made friends with people I didn’t know well because we were thrown into online classes. I didn’t really enjoy learning online, but I did like meeting kids who never crossed my path in high school.

16-year-old

I learned we have many ways of communicating. Even though we had to be apart physically, we didn’t have to be alone.

19-year-old

The pandemic brought up a lot of self-discovery scenarios in my head and led me to the need to discover who I truly am.

18-year-old

I learned how much my granddad means to me.

He has cancer and the thought of him getting COVID-19 made me think about him more than I thought about myself.

15-year-old

I learned homework makes a huge impact on your grades.

16-year-old

I leaned I can learn online and do well without a lot of prompting.

15-year-old

This was the first time I felt kind of grown up. I took over a lot while my mom worked.

14-year-old

A lot of people work from home now, so some families have been saved by it.

16-year-old

I learned how much music calms me. 13-year-old

I learned how to cook!

14-year-old

I discovered how much I like to write stories. I like to create universes and make up stories about the characters in those universes. It makes it easier to stop worrying about real life.

17-year-old

I re-discovered how much I love art. I made a lot of art during the lockdown.

18-year-old

I ate a lot of pizza but, seriously, I learned how to plant a garden and make recipes using fresh tomatoes, like soup, which goes really well with grilled cheese.

15-year-old

I learned how much we can help one another, even if we’re young.

13-year-old

The pandemic reinforced how much I love sports. I missed playing when we weren’t able to form teams. I also missed when football wasn’t happening. That was real hard for me.

17-year-old

I missed live theater, but I discovered streaming “Hamilton” and online theater camp.

14-year-old

I read a lot. I knew I liked to read but the lockdown showed me how much.

16-year-old

The pandemic taught me to appreciate things like sleepovers, eating out and shopping. I won’t take those things for granted again.

13-year-old

Have a question? Send it to Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski’s email podmj@healthyteens.com.

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