BVH students with divorced families face effects of COVID-19

Senior Ethan Alba lives with his mother full time alongside his uncle and grandparents since he ceased communication with his father. He says he has a positive mindset about his family situation.

Grace Na

Senior Ethan Alba lives with his mother full time alongside his uncle and grandparents since he ceased communication with his father. He says he has a positive mindset about his family situation.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there has emerged frequent coverage over its effects on students’ academics, but for some, their home life has also been heavily disrupted. For students with divorced families, their circumstances differ from the usual narrative of simply staying home. Withstanding any difficulties that have emerged due to the pandemic coincide with their necessity to frequently travel between houses and persevere through any significant concerns for their family. Bonita Vista High (BVH) sophomore Dorien Geske-Wilson, senior Courtney McDaniel and senior Ethan Alba are all students whose separated families have needed to adjust their routines due to social distancing guidelines. 

Despite any possible issues that may have emerged from the pandemic, McDaniel explains that her family has maintained their structured routine. Every Monday she switches between households where she stays for the next week. Geske-Wilson’s current routine has not changed since the pandemic began and includes spending the week with his mother and his four siblings while spending the weekend with his father and step-sibling. Alba lives full time at his mother’s home alongside his uncle and grandparents since he ceased communication with his father. The progress of their communication seemingly halted after the pandemic.

“[My family] just [goes] about their daily business and [tries] not to let the pandemic bother them. They just have to work through it, but it still sucks having to deal with it,” Geske-Wilson said.

When the COVID-19 pandemic emerged earlier this year, these students anticipated abrupt changes to their lifestyle. As Alba remained in close contact with his elderly family members, a significant concern of his was their safety. According to Geske-Wilson and McDaniel, a major concern was their habit of constantly moving between houses and ensuring they had all necessary home and school essentials in case any immediate situation arose.

“If something happens that I have to pack up and leave, it’s nice to know where everything is. I know a lot of people I’ve talked to say they are disorganized and do not know where everything is, [but] that does not work in my situation,” McDaniel said.

While Geske-Wilson and Alba did not see much disruption of their family amidst the pandemic, McDaniel claims her family is a lot more cautious of putting anyone at risk of contracting coronavirus. After her father’s girlfriend had one of her children contract the virus, McDaniel and her brother were unable to see extended family on both sides to keep each other safe. 

“It was eye-opening because we’re not just responsible for ourselves and the people in our family; it’s everybody else that we see because my quarantine is pretty big,” McDaniel said.

Although McDaniel’s mother works from home, her father owns a construction company that warrants customer interaction. Despite her father staying safe, his recounts of unsafe customers leave her with concerns of exchanging germs when she goes to her mother’s home.

Moreover, McDaniels details her father’s concerns by explaining that early on during the pandemic, she and her brother were required to shower to avoid potentially spreading the virus when arriving at the other parent’s home. In an effort to limit outdoor exposure, her father has also used Instacart, a grocery delivery service, and due to these precautions, her family goes out to eat less regularly. 

“We’re very hesitant to see other people,” McDaniel said. “Very cautious about what we’re doing and how it affects other people.”

McDaniel remains conscientious of her family’s safety by being cautious when in public considering how concerned her father and brother are about the virus. 

“When we physically switch houses sometimes we’re wearing masks even though we’re going to live with the other person just to be safe,” McDaniel said.

While Alba understood the importance of constraining social interaction, he now feels it is “ridiculous” for the pandemic to still be occurring. Since he lives in a household with four other people, Alba believes solitude from his family members can be a great stress reliever. 

To combat any further stress, Alba makes sure to create a schedule that helps him focus more on distance learning while setting time for personal endeavors including video games and social media use. In anticipation of these difficulties, Alba simply remained optimistic for the future since he believes staying positive will benefit him overall.

“I guess if I were to say something, [it would be to] keep a positive mindset about your family situation. Even though I say that I think nothing’s going to change, it always could and it could change for the better,” Alba said.

I guess if I were to say something, [it would be to] keep a positive mindset about your family situation. Even though I say that I think nothing’s going to change, it always could and it could change for the better.”

— Senior Ethan Alba

To assist his family during the pandemic, Geske-Wilson helps maintain stability at his mother’s home by taking care of his three younger siblings while his mother is working. Although the stressful workload at home coincides with distance learning, he has been able to maintain a proper routine and successfully balance his workload. 

“I think everyone’s doing good; we’re all tired of each other, but I mean [we’re] family. Regardless of how tired we get of one another and how much we get on each other’s nerves, we’re still family in the end and I think that’s what’s keeping us going,” Geske-Wilson said.

While it is unclear when the world will go back to normality, McDaniel expects her family dynamic to further improve as she claims this shared experience brought her family closer together. She also believes they will find greater value in the time they spend together since the pandemic has limited their interaction with extended family. Geske-Wilson hopes that his family will soon be able to return to a more regular social life that enables them to go out and spend time as a family. 

“I definitely think that our relationships will start to be closer than before. We will have that break throughout the day where we would all go to work or to school or be separate instead of being together at one time,” Alba said. “I also think it’s going to help our mental health, frustrations and stress.”