Sometime in early 2020, I wished I could just “disappear” from earth because there was just too much work to do. I actually prayed for it!

Then, it happened!

Due to the spread of Covid-19, the movement control order (MCO) was implemented in mid-March in Malaysia (we’re presently in the fourth phase of the MCO).

Lo and behold, time stood still! No more rushing to work! No more having to rush to complete stuff! All my plans had to be rescheduled.

At first, I felt disbelief. Was this really happening in Malaysia?

A week after the first MCO, I sat down and started reflecting. I have since caught up with what I was supposed to do and now have a breather. The more I reflected, the more I felt it’s a blessing in disguise because the “forced” stay-at-home is a good “downtime” to:

  1. Re-flect
  2. Re-charge
  3. Re-juvenate
  4. Re-invent
  5. Re-prioritize

It is certainly a time of re-programming from the “old” to the “new” normal.

I Like It…For Now!

Time with family, time with God, time with myself, time to pick up a new skill and gain knowledge, time to do things differently. Everyone can be online now!!! I am just so amazed how “online” seems to be the new way of doing things especially in education. I remember struggling to start an online tuition with some Sabah students and each time, I would pray that it would go well.

I asked some of my KL students whether they enjoy this new normal of not going to school and just “duduk diam-diam di rumah”. Some of their answers:

  • “Yes! I love it. I wish it would be forever.”
  • “I’m dying of boredom!”.
  • “Oh no, MCO is extended. I feel trapped at home.”
  • “I miss my friends in school.”
  • “I like it if I can play games the whole day and not do homework given by teachers via online.”

“You know it won’t last forever.” I sounded like a wet blanket to those who were actually enjoying it.

“Cheer up! You can watch movies and go online to chat with your friends.” For those who found it a “torture” to stay at home, I tried, and still am trying, to keep their spirits up.

“You will never have this kind of moments again, so do make the most of your time at home.”

“Ok la…” some of them would reluctantly tell me.

Right now, what I treasure most is:


Of course, I do miss my exercise routine and “social” without the “distancing”.

“What Things Matter Most To You Now?”

Here are the answers to the above question posed to a few teens during this MCO:

Teen 1, (M), 16 years old 1.    Food

2.    Sleep

3.    Movies

Teen 2, (F), 14 years old 1.    Friends

2.    Phone

3.    Family

4.    Piano

Teen 3, (F), 13 years old

(M=Male, F=Female)

1.    Food

2.    Phone

3.    Stay at home

4.    Health

5.    Family and friends

6.    A place to stay

2 things they certainly don’t miss are studies and exams! I guess teens, like any adult, do value family and friends besides the phone to stay connected “socially”.

The Best Time To Re-Connect!

No doubt parents now have to struggle to work from home and at the same time be the “school” to guide the children do their learning online, the “daycare” to take care of the children’s needs and other roles they have to play to ensure their children stay at home and are “occupied”.

In the midst of all these, I would say this is the best time to connect with your children, especially the teens, though sometimes you and “them” can get on each other’s nerves. We may never get an opportunity to do a “forced stay-at-home” again, so why not make the most of it to re-connect with your teens (for those with teenage children) if one has not done so pre-MCO.

I was having a hard time connecting with a teen recently. He doesn’t seem to bother about his studies, what more his life. After a lengthy conversation, I gave one last try to encourage him.

“If you don’t care about yourself, at least care for your parents. Do it not for yourself, but for your parents.”

And suddenly, “Ting!”.

It struck a chord in him.

He started to change, not a drastic change but yes – it was a change! I gave him a small task to do and told him to submit his work and he did! I hope this positive change sticks with him!

Parents Do Matter

In fact, parents mean the world to their children.

So, parents, why not show unconditional love to your children, especially the teens whom you may have a hard time with, during this time at home? They need you to be the role model. Not money, not material things. But rather time with them. It’s okay if they messed up, show them love and start all over again.

So many times, we feel hurt because of negative words spoken to us. As an adult, I still cannot take negativity, what more a child or teenager. Take this time to connect and speak affirming words to your children.

And, of course, control the “freedom”. I hear some parents say, “Let them decide, it’s up to them”. But seriously, do they know what’s the best “decision”? I would say, guide them to make the choice you think they should be making from a range of choices.

As for teens, do care what happens to you now! Most children nowadays are quite privileged and some may not really care about the future. What you do now will affect what happens to you in the future.

Tim Elmore, CEO and Founder of Growing Leaders posted in an email that “The Biggest Lesson We Can Learn from This Pandemic” is “trade-off”. A trade-off is a decision you make that enables you to capitalize on something in exchange for forfeiting something else. He says:

3 Keys To Making Trade-Offs

  1. Make a pros and cons list of what you gain and lose – both short and long term.
  2. Long-term benefits often equal short-term consequences. Short-term benefits often equal long-term consequences.
  3. Never give up what you want most for what you want now. Never compromise values.

Now, we enjoy the new normal (short term benefit).

Remember, the “season” will soon pass.

Then, we get back to the routine but must re-set to do things differently for a better future (long term benefit).

Irene Lai gained much wisdom in her journey from the corporate world to being an educator. She authored the book “Awesome Kid: The Secret of Confident, Not Coddled Kids” from her vast experience of teaching children and teenagers. She introduced online classes at her education center when it was still a novelty and pioneered online tuition for marginalized students in Sabah, Malaysia. Irene hopes to make a difference in the lives of today’s children and youths so that they too, will build their legacy of contribution to society. Connect with her at visimu12@gmail.com.