The world has a very post-apocalyptic vibe to it right now. It kind of feels like you’re in a zombie movie where the family has to hunker down to survive and every mission to the outside world by the designated shopper is a selfless act of heroism. However, despite the cliched and ‘worst-case-scenario’ stories circulating on social media, anyone in lockdown with teenagers soon discovers that the battlefield isn’t overseas, in the hospital or at the airport. It can feel more like the real battle is happening right inside your own home.
Sharing your bubble with a teen, raging hormones and wild mood swings inclusive, can seem worse than any armageddon scenario but it doesn’t have to be a month-long conflict. Teenagers are not the enemy, COVID-19 is. You are brothers in arms, united to defeat this invisible enemy by binge watching a series together and arguing over who should empty the dishwasher.
Is your teenager stuck with you or are you stuck with them? It’s a bit of both. Here are some useful things to keep in mind next time you catch a whiff of decomposing rat carcass and realise it’s just your teenager’s socks.
You were a teenager once
Once you have a fully developed adult brain, it’s easy to forget what life was like without one. But this is where your teen is at – they have a great brain, but it’s still in development. Teenagers are still ruled by their emotions and hormones, plus they’re hungry all the time. So take a moment to really think back to your own adolescent years of acne and growth spurts. It’s embarrassing when your body changes, so teenagers will want more privacy. It’s awkward trying to be an adult, so expect them to still be immature while gently encouraging them towards a higher standard. And every teenager feels insecure at times, so don’t comment on how they look. All of this becomes more obvious if you reconnect with what your own teen years were like and then imagine having to be cooped up with your mum or dad for weeks on end. It would be really hard.
Encourage creation of content, not just consumption of it
It can be tricky to keep an eye on everything your teenager watches but one thing that should raise concerns is if all they do is watch stuff. Not all screen time is bad (a fact you already know because you’re reading this super helpful article on a screen!) so encourage your teenagers to spend their screen time well. Suggest that they use all this amazing technology we have access to for more than just watching other people have fun. Creating content as a family is a great way to connect with each other. You could create a daily “Daily Quarantine Updates” Vlog/blog/YouTube with them. Create a new family Instagram account. Go Live on Facebook as a family.
Be their student
Teenagers don’t often get to be the experts so create opportunities for them to teach you stuff. They probably know more about social media, gaming and how to use the tv remote than you do. You could set up one ‘class’ a day where they are the teacher. Let them set you homework like create a meme or learn the ‘Renegade’ TikTok dance. Don’t be too cool to make a fool of yourself for them. You’re their parents. You’re not meant to be cool anyway.
Give them space
Tonnes of it. Let them have a whole morning or afternoon to themselves. You don’t have to plan out a full-on schedule and recreate a school environment for them where you’re the principal/janitor/office lady. Instead, this time is better spent creating positive memories together. It’s not a contradiction – allowing each other plenty of space will enhance your ability to grow closer as a family. If it’s possible at your place, let your teenagers create a seperate lounge for themselves – even if it’s just putting a TV and deck chair in the laundry. That way they can give you a break, blow off steam and chill. The whole whānau will benefit from these human recharge stations.
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Try only feeding them in communal spaces
Food is a great way to lure teenagers out of their caves. You don’t want to become a waiter. Resist the urge to slip food into your teenager’s room to keep them happily sedated in their solitude. You actually want them to ‘need’ to crawl out of their room eventually for some kai, which subsequently encourages connection with everyone.
Appreciate the moment
Most families never get an opportunity to spend this much quality time with teenagers. One day your teen will leave home and then you might even miss this time you’re stuck together. Teenagers are not like kids. They’ll have a better understanding of what’s going on in the world right now than you may think. But they aren’t adults yet either. You still have a great opportunity to have a huge influence on the way they think about the world, others and themselves. Don’t be surprised if they end up being your best resource to chat to about the situation we all find ourselves in.
One more thing, keep telling yourself this over and over and over under your breath, especially as you glare at the unfolded washing all over the floor and the piles of dishes in the sink: this is not going to last forever. And your teenagers are looking forward to the end of lockdown as much as you are.
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