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Parents: Is COVID an occasion to inspire the next ‘greatest generation?’

Members of the Christian young men's organization Trail Life USA.
Members of the Christian young men's organization Trail Life USA. | (Photo: Courtesy Trail Life USA)

If you’re a parent of boys, you know that keeping them pent up inside the house for long periods is like trying to keep a kangaroo in a box.

Boys are designed to be outdoors – exploring, running, climbing, even falling into the occasional prickly bush. Their God-given drive is to get out in creation, to get wet, to get their hands dirty, to climb the tallest tree, to take the next hill.

COVID-19, however, has added many obstacles to boys getting together to do the things they love. As parents, we have a choice: teach our boys to live in fear, or teach them to rise above life’s challenges and find purpose in difficulty.

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Courtesy of Mark Hancock
Courtesy of Mark Hancock

Right now, our boys don’t need to hear more “you can’t do XYZ.” They need opportunities to positively overcome the restraints imposed by the pandemic... creatively, safely, and responsibly.

The outdoors – with its wide-open spaces and fresh air – is almost certainly the safest and healthiest place for kids to be.  According to the Mayo Clinic outdoor activities pose a lower risk of spreading COVID-19 than indoor activities.

The outdoors offers many benefits to emotional health, too. According to a recent article in TIME magazine, being penned up indoors for weeks on end is taking its toll on children’s mental health. The negative drain on kids’ mental and emotional well-being is deepening as they spend more time indoors, isolated from their friends and regular healthy outdoor pursuits. Many of the planned 12,000 summer camps across the U.S. were canceled this year, increasing episodes of depression and anxiety among kids, according to the TIME article.

As parents  – and grandparents – we have a powerful antidote to the spirit-crushing home imprisonment imposed by this pandemic. It’s called the Great Outdoors, and it’s calling to us right now.

Our Actions Today Shape Their Tomorrows

COVID-19 is serious – but we can’t make our children pay the price for our fear. Parents, this is not a moment to go weak-kneed. If we can’t show our boys how to overcome difficulties with innovation, boldness, and creativity in the midst of adversity, then what can we expect from them in the future?

“The Greatest Generation” – those who endured and survived the Great Depression and World War II – faced greater hardships and sacrifices than our generation today, including food rationing, hunger, and often-devastating loss. Fear did not define them. We call them “The Greatest” because of their character, their guts, and their determination to rise above fear.

We will never be able to shield our boys from every difficulty, but we can model for them how to live in spite of difficulty – courageously, with purpose, likely to lead people out of their fear rather than enhance it.

“Difficult times make strong men,” the saying goes. But if we fail this current generation, it will be because we caved to fear.

At Trail Life USA ( – a Christian boys’ adventure organization with troops in every state – we’ve had our own pandemic-related challenges. But we’re determined not to allow current difficulties to break the spirit of the 30,000 boys in our program. We reject fear and aim to use this pandemic to instill perseverance and a never-give-up attitude in our boys in sensible, responsible, practical ways – skills they’ll need to succeed in life and the world outside their bedroom window.

COVID-19 could be with us for months – even years. But, for the health and betterment of our boys, let’s rise above the pandemic and let’s find safe, fun, and creative ways to get them out into the Great Outdoors where they can grow into men of true character.

Need ideas? Consider your boys invited to join us for an outdoor adventure! Our local troops will have sensible activities throughout the fall. Find a troop near you at and see how we can help your boys develop into young men with the grit and qualities of "The Greatest Generation."

Who knows? This period of difficulty may be their training to become the greatest generation yet.

Mark Hancock is the CEO of Trail Life USA, a Christian boys’ adventure and character development organization, with 30,000 members in 830-plus troops across all 50 states, and author of Let Boys be Boys, 5 Critical Needs of Boys, and Why Are We Sitting Here Until We Die?

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