Congrats, Parent – you’re now a math teacher, the principal, the social events coordinator, and you’ve been promoted to full-time chef. Oh, and don’t forget to download and learn how to use Zoom before your meeting. Our extrovert, Enneagram 7 friends are about to bust down the doors to get back into the world, and we introverts can’t wait for quarantine to end so all the people will leave the house! (I’m fine. It’s fine. We’re all fine. Insert nervous laughter.) But all jokes aside, we all have basic needs that are more difficult to meet and maintain right now. And while you might assume that your teenager should be happy and thriving now that they HAVE to use their phone and devices all the time, the truth is that their world has been upended, too – this is wearing on them. Here are a few things to keep in mind that might help you navigate these confusing times together.
Their struggles (and yours) are relative. Empathize with what they’re going through. As I’ve checked in on my students from church, there’s a consistent thread in their reports: “I’m irritable… I love my family and all, but I miss my friends. I just wanna mix it up a litte, ya know?” It’s easy to downplay their struggles because “everyone else is going through this” and “so many people have it way worse!” But you’d be surprised at the insight you can gain when you ask questions! Not the investigative type, either. The kind that invite them to share what’s on their heart and give you some perspective on their world. What’s been the hardest part about all of this? What or who are you missing the most? If your senior trip/graduation is cancelled, what would you like to do to celebrate?
You can find a list of these and other questions at the end of this post. Pro tip: LISTEN. It’s exciting when kids start talking, and sometimes we get so excited that we start talking and take over the conversation that was supposed to be about them. Short answers from your teen are ok, too. The point is to let them know you’re there, you see them, and that what they have to say matters.
Be Real, Be Humble. Is there anything more frustrating than knowing you’re a little lost, but the person leading the expedition pretends its ok and they know where you are? Don’t be that guy! Your kids have never needed perfect parents, and that’s never truer than when things are hard. We’re all trying to figure things out right now. This doesn’t mean you have to share all details of the things you’re navigating, and what you do share should be age-appropriate. But when you create an atmosphere that allows for imperfection, your teen then has permission to ask questions and talk about the reality of life, and you’ve now ushered in genuineness and authenticity.
Provide Space & Grace to Process. At this point in quarantine, some of you may be wishing you had a She Shed. Or maybe your teens wish you did! We already know that the CDC has a handful of recommendations for maintaining our physical and mental health during this time of isolation. When the walls are closing in and tension is rising, it’s time to get creative on how you attack some of these recommendations. Work with your kids to create space for each other throughout your day. Encourage them to sit on the porch or take the dog for a walk. Maybe it means that you make a point to leave for a bit to gather more essentials so they can have the house to themselves for a bit. I’m sure they have ideas about how to make this happen also – ask them! And in as much as it falls in line with the guidelines that have been put in place, try to honor what they’re asking for.
Ultimately, what each teen needs during this time may look a little different. While they may not have the language to ask for what they need, we can do our part by being approachable, asking questions, and allowing space and grace for them to process their new normal. You’ve got this, Mom and Dad.
What’s been the hardest part about all of this?
What’s been the best part about all of this?
What or who are you missing the most?
If your senior trip/graduation is cancelled, what would you like to do to celebrate?
If you were in charge right now, what would you ask people to do? Why do you think that’s important?
What will you do with your first day of freedom?
What things do you think will stay the same when this is over?
What things will be different going forward?
Would you rather have 1 million dollars and have to stay home another month, or be able to hang out with your friends today?
What restaurant should we go to first? Who should we invite?
What do you think people are doing with all the extra TP that they bought?
Do you think the toilet-paper hoarders are on to something, or are they missing a big opportunity to buy up something else??
Get creative! Hypotheticals and “would-you-rather” style questions get people thinking, and they give you the most insight on their world view.
By Joanna Gilford Student Ministry Leader & Teen Mentor
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