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Article contributed by guest author, Melissa Mayes.
I don’t know about you, but on more than a few occasions, I’ve caught myself mindlessly scrolling on my phone while my other family members are just a few feet away doing the same thing. Technically, we’re together, but far from connecting with each other.
Although sheltering-in-place definitely has its challenges, it has given us the gift of family time. With our social and extra-curricular calendars on pause and many of us no longer making long commutes, we do have more opportunities than ever before to bond as a family. Time with family isn’t always easy (especially when we’re continually in close quarters) but with some intentionality and planning, we can be sure that during this pandemic, we’re growing closer, not farther apart.
Maintaining a sense connection is critical to both our own well-being and that of our teens during this challenging time. Below are some tips that both you and your teen can use to bring you together and also support your own wellbeing:
Prepare a meal together. Heading to our favorite restaurant for a speedy family dinner is quickly becoming a distant memory. As a result, many of us are cooking more, which can be challenging and stressful (after all, we can only go so many days eating cereal in a row). With everyone at home, we have a great opportunity to involve our teens in the process of feeding the family. Cooking a healthy meal or baking together is a great way to spend time together, get the help of a sous chef, and teach your teen important independent living skills. Have your teen pick one of their favorite meals and schedule a night this week to prepare it together. If you have more than one child at home, give them each a chance to spend one-on-one time with you in the kitchen.
Get some GREEN time to balance out your screen time. While technology is allowing many people to continue their education or jobs and connect with friends and relatives, we are likely using more of it than ever before. Seemingly endless Zoom meetings or virtual lectures can leave us feeling lethargic and disconnected from the physical world. Connection to nature is critical to our personal well-being and we can certainly meet this need with our teen. Simply going for a walk in your neighborhood to get fresh air or spending time in your yard can be mood boosting and rejuvenating for both of you.
Schedule something to look forward to. Designate one night per week or more that you’ll play a board game, solve a puzzle or watch a movie together. Having something planned can help us maintain a sense of optimism and normalcy while sheltering-in-place. Let your teen choose an activity that they enjoy and spend time doing it together. Better yet – let them teach you how to play one of their favorite games (yes, even if it’s Minecraft orFortnite).
Kindness is more contagious than COVID. Our teens may not have the same philanthropic interests as us parents, but chances are, they are passionate about something. There is also a possibility that whatever they hold dear has been impacted by COVID-19 in some way. For example, if they are an animal lover, research ways that your family can support a local animal shelter from a distance. If they don’t have a cause of their own that motivates them, you can include them in ways you are supporting your community (checking on elderly neighbors, putting together care packages, mailing letters, delivering groceries, etc.).
Family dynamics aren’t always easy and they are challenged even more by the circumstances of COVID-19. Voltaire said, “Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” By intentionally connecting with our teens and practicing healthy habits that support our wellness, we are more likely to look back on this time as one filled with fond memories that brought us closer together as a family.
About the author, Melissa Mayes from Teen Therapy & Family Therapy Center:
Melissa joined Teen Therapy Center as the Executive Director in April 2020. Previously, Melissa worked for Fusion Academy as a District Vice President and before that as the head of their private middle and high school in Los Gatos.
In these roles, her passion has been supporting the health and wellness of young people and their families. She views social and emotional well-being not as an extracurricular activity, but as the essential ingredient to academic and, ultimately, life success. Working with parents/caregivers and professionals involved in the care of young individuals, she experienced firsthand the adage that it takes a village to raise a child—the greater the social/emotional support, the greater the flourishing.