Older siblings take on more responsibility during pandemic


photo courtesy of Naomi Gould

Junior Naomi Gould helps her brother, Freshman Jonathan Gould, with distance learning.

Sela Wertlieb, Guest Writer

For many students, getting their own work done is challenging under normal circumstances, but now during the pandemic, some students are taking on the responsibility of helping their younger siblings with tasks as well.

Freshman Ari Werbin-Gradel takes breaks while doing his homework in order to take care of his younger siblings: eighth-grader Cati, third-grader Naomi and first-grader David. 

“For my younger siblings, I prepare meals,” Werbin-Gradel said. “For Cati, I would do a little bit of everything. If she needs help with tech and homework, then I would help her.”

Werbin-Gradel’s parents work a hybrid schedule that requires him, as the oldest, to be available to help his siblings. 

“There have been times where I wanted to hang out with friends, but I couldn’t because I had to take care of my siblings,” Werbin-Gradel said.

While those with young siblings now have their hands full, families with multiple students at the high school age puts less pressure and responsibility on the older sibling. 

Junior Naomi Gould has a full plate with academics and extracurriculars, but she enjoys taking breaks to check in with her brother Jonathan, a freshman. One of the perks of COVID-19 for Gould is that she can rely even more on her siblings as her support system during quarantine.

“I was feeling super overwhelmed and couldn’t stand sitting in front of my computer, so I went over to my brother’s room across the hall to say hi, ask if he needed any help with his work and to ask him about his day,” Gould said.

Parents have also noticed that their oldest children are pitching in and are grateful for the extra help. 

Ben Greenblum, parent of freshman Dalia, seventh-grader Maya and fourth-grader Tova, works from home with very long hours: from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. His wife Heather is the Upper School nurse, so she is on campus every day. Because of this, his three daughters are frequently left at home during distance learning with a lot of time to be self-directed during the school day.

Greenblum said that Dalia has taken on a lot more responsibility since the pandemic began. She helps her younger sisters with homework, but she may be most helpful when it comes to their dog, Kingston. In addition, Maya, the middle child, contributes by helping Tova, the youngest, when it comes to planning social gatherings. Greenblum is grateful that his daughters have taken on more responsibility, but he is also sad to see them grow up so fast. 

“It’s a hard time to be a parent in that respect, but I would say for the most part it’s a good thing that’s helping them grow up faster and learn more responsibility faster,” Greenblum said.

Under these circumstances, Greenblum and Nurse Heather Greenblum appreciate any opportunities their daughters are given to have social gatherings and encourage them to continue seeing friends outdoors with masks on. Greenblum wants to make sure his daughters aren’t burdened with the responsibility of taking care of one another when the chance to hang out with friends arises.

“Whenever those opportunities come up, we also make sure that Dalia can go to those social experiences,” Greenblum said. “We think that it’s really important for kids’ mental health to still be seeing their friends in a healthy safe way during the pandemic.”