10 Ways Parents Can Help Teens Manage Feelings During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Free time is a foreign concept for most parents, especially during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We long to have time to relax – time not spent parenting, caretaking, working, cooking or cleaning. But free time is not always liberating. For adolescents, it may lead to feelings of boredom, loneliness and anxiety, especially at a time when their daily lives have been upended by school closures and stay-at-home orders.
How can parents help their teens be as happy and healthy as possible during the COVID-19 crisis? Here are 10 ways to get you started:
- Reflect on memories. The school year has ended abruptly and without its defining moments, like school dances, graduation ceremonies, competitions and performances. While these events cannot be replaced, it may give your teen closure to reflect on their year by making a scrapbook, memory box or homemade yearbook their friends can sign once physical distancing recommendations are lifted.
- Start a family movie or TV series. Whether your teen is into superheroes, romantic comedies or fantasies, there is endless content available. Make popcorn and set the date: maybe your family watches one movie or show per week, holding a post-viewing discussion or giving the episode a rating against others in the series. Even if their choice is not your favorite, take the opportunity to understand and participate in your teens’ interests.
- Make a meal together. This can be a great way to break up your routine and do something as a family. Try a new recipe, attempt to mimic their favorite restaurant meal or cook a family favorite. To avoid an extra trip to the grocery store, use websites like Supercook that suggest recipes based on ingredients you already have.
- Stay mentally active. During remote learning, your teen will have more downtime than usual since they will not be following a typical school day. While more screen time is inevitable, it’s important to encourage engaging in off-screen activities as well, like drawing, reading or playing a musical instrument.
- Stay physically active. Encourage your teen to get outside for at least 30 minutes each day if they can do so while socially distancing. Otherwise, there are countless workout classes they can take online for free, from yoga and dancing to Pilates and kickboxing.
- Evaluate their space. It is important that your teen feels comfortable and peaceful in their space, especially since they are spending more time at home. Help your teen rearrange their bedroom, de-clutter, hang art on the walls, print and frame photos or order indoor plants online.
- Do something different. There’s a lot of monotony in staying at home. Let your teen choose an out-of-the-ordinary activity for the whole family. Whether they want to spend it learning a viral dance, solving a fictional murder mystery or having a self-care night, commit to dedicating one night to them.
- Include them in household tasks. While no teen enjoys chores, most households need help from every member of the family to take care of the home and one another. Work with your teen to find how they can best pitch in, giving them choices: would they prefer to walk the dog or make lunch for their siblings? Would they rather vacuum weekly or unload the dishwasher daily? This can give structure to their day, create a sense of productivity and relieve you of some housework.
- Give them space. Teens still need their independence and social life while at home. In place of in-person hangouts, encourage your teen to maintain face-to-face virtual communication with friends. Give them privacy to spend a weekend night with friends online – just like they would under normal circumstances.
- Help out. Volunteering can help teens explore their passions and supplement college applications. Ask your teen what excites them and brainstorm ways they might volunteer their time and efforts from home. Can they sew face masks for neighbors using fabric from old t-shirts? Can they start a vegetable garden or create a composting bin? What about writing letters to residents of an assisted living home or offering online tutoring? Many organizations are offering ways to volunteer virtually, so talk to your teen and find an option that fits your family.
In this unprecedented time, so much of our lives feels uncertain and out of our control. Our children are feeling the same way: in a recent survey by Common Sense Media, teens reported feeling lonelier, less connected to friends, and more concerned about schoolwork, health and family finances. As parents, we must help our teens focus on what they can control, by encouraging them to stay home and healthy, doing what we can to alleviate stress and fostering creativity, productivity, and healthy habits.
How has your family coped with the stress and free time brought by COVID-19? Share your tips for teen-friendly activities in the comments below.
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