By Oliver Crandon, Aim for Success Speaker with Just Say YES
My 14-year-old son recently asked my wife and I, “Is there a medical term for losing your mind from being stuck in the house?” We all chuckled, though somewhat agreeing with his sentiment, and said, “No, son, not that we know of.”
I’m sure that we’re not the only parents dealing with similar questions or concerns. The rapid spread of the Coronavirus has, without a doubt, disrupted all of our lives in some way. Precautions are being taken everywhere to help slow the spread and flatten the curve of this new pandemic. However, the change that’s probably affecting us the most as parents is the closing of schools. There is growing uncertainty from parents and students alike regarding when school can safely resume. Only time will tell, but in the meantime, what a great opportunity we all have as parents to focus on what matters most – connection.
With teens, this can be a bit tricky. They are not a one size fits all group. Each teenager is unique, and the ways we connect with each of them during this time will need to be unique as well.
So how we can stay connected, while simultaneously giving our teens their much-needed space?
1. Maintain Structure (Kind Of!)
Most of us have probably never had to parent during a pandemic, so it’s natural for there to be some uncertainty. I can recall a few times during this extended spring break, where I simply do not know what to do with my teenager. In those moments, I try to recall the words of one of my college professors who often said, “When you don’t know what to do, do what you know to do.” That has helped us to keep a business as usual mindset wherever possible, which has really kept a sense of normalcy in these abnormal times. For instance, we have negotiated a new bedtime that we all agreed upon. His reading/homework, family time, chores, free time (yours and theirs) all still hold somewhat of a structure, with lots of room for flexibility. We are learning that keeping a structure and routine tends to reduce the stress of having to create it daily, which gives us more time as a family to focus on connection.
2. Reinforce Family Values
Your teens are living through a time unlike anything they have ever experienced. If they have access to current headlines, they have no doubt been inundated with daily news of local and national disruptions. They have to process weighty information at an alarming rate. This is where your family values shine best! As a family, reinforcing the values of hope and resilience, compassion and togetherness, can provide a powerful lens through which they process this ordeal. Your stories of a crisis you overcame, or difficult challenges that molded you into a better person, are desperately needed now to encourage them. At Just Say YES, we have always reminded parents to never neglect face-to-face time with their teens. Well, in an ironic twist of fate, we have all found ourselves having endless opportunities for face-to-face time with our teens. Let’s leverage that time wisely and come out on the other end of this pandemic more connected than we were before it began.
3. Help Expand Their Horizons
Times of crisis often catalyze creativity, and this generation of teenagers has endless outlets to be creative. Unfortunately, they also have endless outlets to be stagnant. Phones, video games, TV shows and movies can all be good, but depending on how they are consumed, these good things can get in the way of our teens doing great things. Cue the need for an older, wiser adult such as yourself! Our job as parents is not to only explain how things are, but also to help expand their minds on how things could be. As a rudder is to a ship, so are we to our teens. So during this time of quarantine, we can have amazing moments of connection as we steer them into new ideas. Your teen may enjoy writing essay online free (and video games), so why not help them start a blog about their favorite games? Instead of just consuming YouTube and TikTok videos, why not encourage them to start a channel where they can be a content producer, not just a content consumer. You can give them something to watch, or read, that will inspire them and trigger their own ideas. As a family, you could learn a new dance together, or even have a swapover, which is like a sleepover, but instead of leaving the house, they would just swap rooms with you or a sibling for a night. If they don’t know how, you can teach them to cook their favorite meal, or even challenge them to cook dinner for the entire family (the only stipulation is you have to eat what they cook!)
So maybe your teen, like mine, is starting to feel like they are, “losing their minds from being stuck in the house too long.” And most likely they are really missing their friends and activities. Nevertheless, the majority of this experience does not have to be negative. There are ways that we as parents can lead well during these uncertain times, even if it means going viral on your teen’s TikTok account!
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