Are you coping or thriving with your teenager during the lockdown?
by John Fletcher, LPC
At the beginning of this year no one, unless perhaps you worked at NIH or in Government Intelligence, had any idea that within 3 months millions of families would be isolated within their homes and neighborhoods. No one imagined that whole school systems would close for the year, that restaurants would close or only offer take out, that people would only be allowed to move around for essential needs. Almost all of our economy has been shut down in order to save potentially millions of lives from the ravages of the COV-19 virus.
This once-in-a-century-event has brought much of our nation to a standstill. Some of us (myself included) get to experience a somewhat slower pace to our lives and can sleep in a little later, take more time in the things that we do that were more regulated and time sensitive before. Many of us however are already going stir crazy within our own homes and have no idea how to survive this lockdown especially if it is extended in the months ahead.
I wanted to encourage parents and their teenagers with some sweet opportunities during this bitter time that many of us must endure. Here are several opportunities that we as parents have with our teens during this time to both get them to take advantage of their break and maybe even thrive in some manner!
1. Communicate the situation with calmness and confidence
First, and as a foundation, I believe we as parents must communicate to our kids the seriousness of the situation our country finds itself in while also demonstrating calm and confidence instead of fear and anxiety during this trying time. Communicating the gravity of this pandemic to our older teenagers and college students is especially crucial. We do this ending with the truthful hope that this dangerous time will end but in the meantime they need to be aware of how their choices affect those around them, especially their older parents, grandparents and neighbors they can come into contact with.
2. Use this an opportunity to improve grade and finish the year well
Secondly, this time is an excellent opportunity for high school students who are finishing the scholastic year at home to really improve their grades. With less, and sometimes no testing, most grading will be based on assignments, projects and open book exams. This puts the student in total control over their grades. High school juniors should especially pay attention to this opportunity since the grades at the end of this year are the grades that colleges will see when they apply this coming fall. For high school freshmen, this focus allows them to improve their grades to form some padding that will benefit them when they take on their more difficult classes in the years ahead.
3. Encourage your teen to learn a new skill
Thirdly, millions of teenagers, and many of us dads, will see this as a time for entertainment, especially our gaming teens! Now, there is nothing wrong with gaming especially since consoles these days have morphed into social hubs over the past few years and our teenagers can remain connected to their friends socially. However, spending all of their time on entertainment is both detrimental to their neurological development while also erasing an outstanding opportunity for personal growth through skills training. There probably will never again be such a time where our teenagers can take the time to learn a new skill. This may be something that your teen has always wanted to learn but never took the time. It might be something that you as a parent could stake out as a goal or assignment for them or it might even be a time where they can hone their skills and take their talent to another level. In either case challenging them, even through using entertainment as a limiting factor, can be a great encouragement for them to pursue a passion. My own son was taking piano lessons and was just not connecting with them and we communicated to him that he could quit but had to replace the piano with another skill based hobby that required lessons. He pushed back on this somewhat until he learned that one of his best friends and son of one of my colleagues had fallen in love with the saxophone and he decided to learn how to play the mandolin and is now taking lessons online. This has brought joy to his life and actually allows him to enjoy his gaming more and allows him to focus more on his homebound academic studies.
These are trying times and if parents are willing to incorporate some of these suggestions into their family’s daily life this time will move by quicker and in the end your teen will be happier, stronger, and better prepared for their future!