I have listened to a lot of webinars this summer about COVID-19 and teens. When it comes to coping, the overall recommendations hold true for all of us:
Acknowledge the losses that have occurred. The lost sports season, the canceled spring play, the missed internship or summer job, the socially distanced graduation ceremony, and, of course, the ongoing isolation from friends – each of these losses has an impact. Acknowledging what’s been missed is the first step in getting past it.
Accept the things over which we have no control. Most of these things are nobody’s fault. Colleges understand that student grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities will not be the same as usual.
Accept the coming uncertainty. This doesn’t mean that the future is all negative. Whatever it turns out to be, it is not helpful to worry endlessly about what may occur.
Know that you are not alone. We are all in this together. Remind your child that this will not go on forever and that adversity builds resilience. We will all be stronger for having lived through this.
Find the opportunity. Where are the benefits? How can the additional time that has been made available be used productively to learn something new, dive further into an existing interest or hobby, etc.?
Be aware: For your teens especially, it’s important to stay connected and keep an eye on their mental health. This may be a good time to contact a virtual therapist so your child has someone to connect with on a regular basis.
Maintain social connections. These are so important for teens. Remind your child to keep reaching out and interacting (safely!) with friends, cousins, grandparents, etc. Helping others is also a meaningful way to distance ourselves from our own problems as we focus on the needs of someone else.
Establish family time. Are there some new traditions that you have begun since the pandemic (e.g., baking together, watching movies, playing board games)? Can you continue as the school year starts? In addition, try giving your teen some new family responsibilities to help keep the household running smoothly and increase their independence.
Agree on expectations. Set up a family meeting to review plans and expectations for the coming year. Discuss sleep (teens need 8-9 hours per night), chores, daily exercise, distraction-free study areas and times, weekly fun family activities, etc. Begin now to move them towards the coming fall schedule, starting with setting an alarm and getting themselves up. (Good practice for college!)
Ramp up college application work (for rising seniors). As always, this work needs to be completed thoughtfully and on time. Set up separate family meetings on a regular basis to discuss college-related issues. Then make a point to not discuss college outside of these meetings, so your child has some college-free time at home!
All the best to you and your family in making a smooth transition back to school!