Family Life 2020—in photos

Photograph by JOSH EDELSON / AFP via Getty Images
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Kids and families get creative practicing social distancing at Dolores Park in San Francisco on May 22.

 

Photograph by JOSH EDELSON / AFP via Getty Images

For parents, 2020 can't be over soon enough. Juggling remote learning and work-from-home, helping children deal with unfair pandemic protocols, and explaining racial protests and contentious elections has made family life this year something many would like to forget.

But as parents stepped up to manage crisis after crisis, one thing became clear: They were teaching their children crucial life skills that will stay with them throughout their lives.

For instance, parents helped kids find their resiliency throughout 2020 as they adjusted to at-home learning, overcame disappointing cancellations, and embraced the knowledge that even though their lives were being disrupted, their new way of living was helping to bring an end to the pandemic.

“The key is to be mentally flexible, learn how to problem-solve, and accept change as a challenge rather than an obstacle,” says Mary Alvord, co-author of the Resilience Builder for Children and Adolescents.

That resiliency taught children about kindness, empathy, and creativity. Thank-you cards were sent to healthcare workers and first responders. Drive-by birthday parties kept grandparents safe. Mysterious sidewalk chalk messages brought messages of hope.

“Children are instinctively empathic,” says child psychologist Lisa Damour. “We should build on those instincts by asking them to imagine what would make another person happy.”

Children learned about racial justice when protests erupted across the country after the May 25 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, giving parents an opportunity to talk to kids about race and racial discrimination, no matter how difficult the conversation.

“As parents,” says Ibram X. Kendi, executive director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center in Washington, D.C., “we should raise children who can express notions of racial equality, who can see racial disparities as a problem, and who can do their own small part to challenge this big problem of racism.”

Kids learned about tolerance and critical thinking during a contentious election season, as parents found teachable moments to help children process what was often an ugly campaign.

And it was a year that children learned that even their heroes aren’t invincible, and parents had to explain the deaths and illnesses of several famous people. But kids also learned about bravery after a year filled with natural disasters, in which parents helped kids face their fears as well as inspired them with heroic rescue stories.

Through it all, children learned that the world could still be an amazing place. Wildlife showed up in weird places. Pandemic puppies were adopted. SpaceX launched. And new species were discovered.

“Most kids are going to end up being fine,” says Lindsay Malloy, associate professor of psychology at Ontario Tech University. “The most important thing for kids who are adjusting is having loving, close, and secure relationships they can count on.”

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Volunteer Minka Macaule, 14, feeds an injured koala joey at the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park in Australia on January 8. Reports estimated that about three billion animals were affected by Australia's devastating wildfires.

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A few days after the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, a young boy raises his fist during a demonstration in Atlanta.

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On May 30 in Cape Canaveral, Florida, SpaceX launched the first U.S. astronauts into space from U.S. soil since 2011.

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Five-year-old Abby Martin and her mom, Jackie, visit a makeshift memorial to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg outside the U.S. Supreme Court on September 21. Ginsburg died September 18 from complications of pancreatic cancer.

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Magellanic penguins Izzy and Darwin take a trip from their home at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium to visit dinosaurs at the Field Museum of Natural History in July, when both facilities were closed to visitors.

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A dolphin takes advantage of nonexistent sea traffic in the Bosphorus Strait and frolics close to the Istanbul shore on April 26.

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A boy sits under a polling booth while his mom votes in Portland, Maine, on November 3.

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Let's end 2020 with something sure to make kids smile: a new animal discovery. Found in forests along Australia's east coast, the great glider was once thought to be a single species. But new DNA sequencing reported in November shows that the marsupial is actually three species. That means that scientists have discovered two new adorable animals.