Parenting Teens in a Time of Social Distancing

by Brad Aldrich on March 26, 2020

All of us are facing disruptions and challenges during the Corona Virus outbreak and while we as parents are running around trying to make sure that we have enough toilet paper and our kids don’t forget to wash their hands, it can be hard to know how to help teenagers through this time. I decided to go ask the experts — my own four teenagers — how parents should be helping the kids through this time. Their answers might surprise you and will at least give you some things to think about and talk about with your teens. 

“Give Us Something To Do. Even Chores!”

Yep, that’s right one of the first things they said was that they need to have something to do. The same teens who love to sit around on a Saturday and do nothing, are right now craving some normalcy. It might be tempting to just let them relax, but you can also give them some structure and tasks to help take their minds off of everything going on. 

“We Need Time with Our Friends!”

We all have had to adjust to this social distancing reality and your teens are no different. Socialization is particularly important for teens and even though our teens are pretty technologically savvy, they might not have the resources, screen time, or ways to connect with many of their friends. 

Do they need unlimited screen time? No! 

Do they need to have the latest app? Maybe, you need to check it out first. 

Do they need to find a way to connect with friends? YES!  

So help them think through those ways. Maybe allow them to use Zoom, or FaceTime to do some online chats with approved friends. Talk to your kids about how they are connecting with their friends and help them find ways to do so, even if they can’t be together (Converge’s Instagram is a great way for kids in 7th - 12th grade to connect)!

“Try to be Normal!”

Yep, it is only a few days into school being canceled and already kids are craving some normal. Don’t make every conversation about the virus. Turn off the news, get out the board games! Talk about normal things, not just what is going on in the world. Your kids may have had their whole schedule canceled, but they are still want to know what the day’s schedule is. Help them know (to the best of your ability) what the plan is. When is dinner? When will you be home? What is expected of them? Try your best to give them a schedule and stick with it!

“Ask Questions”

Your teens probably know just as many details about what is going on as you do, however they might not know all of the right facts. Ask them if they have any concerns or questions. Let them share with you their worries and fears. Then you can correct any misinformation and reassure them with how you are helping your family stay safe without having to go over all of the details every day.

“Be Present!”

Many of us might be working from home so it can feel like we are always there but time with a laptop in front of us is not the same as time with our kids. Make sure that you actually end your workday and take advantage of this time to create family time together. It is easy when we worry to focus only on the things that keep us safe. Instead, stop and just focus on spending some time together too! That emotional safety is probably much more valuable than anything else you can give. 

“Some of my friends are really worried”

All teens are worrying now. Some a little, and some quite a lot. If you know that your teen struggles with anxiety or worry, make sure to do some extra check-ins with them. Anxiety and fear tend to come in waves, they might be feeling fine in one moment, and then an hour later feeling a ton of anxiety. Make sure your kids have an open door to talk to you about how they are doing and what they are feeling moment to moment. Many of their normal coping skills have been taken away during this time (friends, activities, busyness), so you can be a part of helping them to find new ways to cope with the anxiety with support, prayer, and extra hugs. 

It is important to remember that for our teens this is probably the first big “where were you when ____ happened?” event in their lives. No matter what the days ahead bring, your kids will be talking about this time for the rest of their lives, “How old were you during the coronavirus?” will be something that they will remember. So how you respond and care for them during this time, will be an important part of that future story!

Want to know how to connect with your younger kids during this time? Click here.

Tags: students, fear, anxiety, parenting, covid-19

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