In March 2020, I think most of us thought we were going to be in quarantine for three or four weeks. No one knew that it would be extended for months, and all the changes that would entail.
If you have a teen who is stuck at home and missing their friends and other highlights of teen life, here are some things that may help.
First, validate their feelings. Be empathetic. I think most of us have felt sad, lonely, angry, or out of sorts, at some point during this crisis. Acknowledge their feelings of having lost out on special things such as homecoming, a summer job, the big party that had to be cancelled, etc. Gently, help them try to find a way to move on.
Let them know you understand how important their friends and activities are. Give them time to do a virtual Hang Out with friends. Perhaps you could even have a few friends over in the back yard with social distancing.
Try to reframe the situation and point out the positive. “Look how creative you are in finding ways to make use of your time.” “I’m so proud of how you’ve supported your friends who are struggling.” “You’ve sure grown up a lot as you have learned to be more independent and responsible getting your school work done.”
Help them figure out how to make an opportunity. Give them a challenge. Help them think of new ways to make memories, or come up with special projects that will help them remember something good about this time. For example, a kid who loves music could arrange a virtual concert for friends.
Keep open communication in your home. Don’t demand that your teen talk to you, but make opportunities that foster communication. Keep at least one family meal time so that everyone can sit together and share their daily activities, funny stories, difficulties, goals, frustrations, and needs.
Keep a set schedule. Leave room for flexibility, of course, but try to stick with the same bedtime and wake time. Have certain hours set aside for school work, others for recreation, family time, and electronics time. It wouldn’t hurt to offer a reward every once in a while. “If you finish your school work before 2:00, you can have extra time on your favorite video game.”
Find shared family activities. This is a great way to make memories. Take walks in a nature area, shoot hoops, play board games, have movie nights, play video games as a family, have Nerf gun battles, listen to a new song together. These are just a few examples of things families can do together to make use of the time and to make memories.
Keep healthy boundaries: First, if you are working from home, don’t let work and home get blurred together. Put away the work and enjoy your family. Let them know how important they are to you.
Second, don’t let feeling sorry for your kids cause you to give them too much leeway. Be sure they have real responsibilities, such as, caring for younger siblings on occasion, keeping their rooms clean and orderly, helping with lawn work, scrubbing the bathroom. Jobs for teens may be more scarce these days, but there are still some, so encourage older teens to look for a part-time job.
Keep fit! Encourage your teen to stay active. In addition to getting outdoors, or using fitness equipment you have at home, there are also great fitness apps one can use. Turn on YouTube and dance to music. Fitness not only keeps a body looking good, it helps fight depression.
One great way to diminish your own cares is to find ways to help others. For example, if you have neighbors who are handicapped or elderly, have your teen deliver groceries or run errands. How about mowing the lawn or weeding for a neighbor who is unable to do it for themselves? Encourage your teen to be creative in looking around for ways to bless others.
Help your teen look forward to delayed celebrations. Talk about what they will do when life gets back to normal. Help them think of creative ways to plan fun activities for the future.
Finally, keep an eye out for depression. Sadness is a feeling that can come and go, but one can still carry on with life even when having times of sadness. Depression is deeper and more chronic. Here are some signs of depression:
- Constant feelings of sadness that can’t be shaken
- Changes in sleeping or eating habits. For example, sleeping a lot more than usual or having trouble sleeping. Eating a lot less or a lot more.
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of interest in things that they used to enjoy
- Feelings of worthlessness
If you see persistent signs of depression, your teen may need professional help. We have therapists who can help them through this time. Give us a call at 302-738-6859.
As parents we have a unique time to spend more time than usual with our kids and get to know them in a way we would not otherwise have had the opportunity. Make the most of it, and find ways to enjoy your teen. We’re all in this together!