I know it is not what any of us thought it would be pre-virus. There are lots of things teens don’t have this summer; bar-b-ques, sleepovers, camp, parties, crowded pools, summer jobs and internships. While we do need to be mindful and receptive to the negative emotions and grief our teens are understandably experiencing, we can also help them see the opportunities in a quieter summer. We will need to pivot and make lots of adjustments with the onset of an uncertain school year. Until then, let’s capture this moment, an opportunity to recharge, by making our home and community environments fun, serene, and well, basic.
Enjoy Downtime The pre-COVID world was a whirlwind for teens trying to keep up with academic, social, extra-curricular and other demands. Rarely did they have time to listen inward and ask themselves, “what is important to me? what do I want?” Now is a great time for them to explore the things that bring them joy and engage in movements or causes (there are plenty), leisure activities, and just playing. These pleasantries and value driven efforts serve to feed a sense of purpose and meaning. Parents often say things like, “I just want my kid to be happy.” Helping them find what is meaningful to them is a great start.
Be with Family and Close Friends While our teens are not feeling pulled in so many directions, they have the opportunity to spend time with those most important to them. After months of feeling cooped up together, some families may feel done with each other. In those moments of exasperation, try to ask yourself instead how to cultivate your family relationships. This time together will not last forever. Do you know who they are as people? Do you know what they think and how they feel about all the things happening around us? Enjoy time together on vacation (away or in place at home). Vacation is a mindset as much as a location. Teens also really need time with friends, so when possible, allow them to socially distance in outdoor settings with a few close friends at a time (and limit the number of contacts in general.) It’s times like these, we learn who we most appreciate our time with.
Get Outside and Move Let’s remember that we could be enduring this pandemic in colder times and while the weather is nice, encourage your teen to get outside. Studies show that being in nature changes our brain and creates a greater sense of calm. Movement is also a great way to stay balanced and manage emotions. Bike, hike, swim, run, dance, and even yard work, cleaning out and washing cars, or playing with pets. Anything where the body is in motion counts! Adding sunshine is a bonus!
Do Projects Now is the time to clean out backpacks, rearrange or redesign teens’ rooms or recreational spaces, and have them help with projects around the house. We are in this more restricted pandemic mode for the long haul so begin to think about how you can make your living space more pleasant and functional for more time at home, especially into the Fall and winter when we will be spending more time indoors. Is your teen creative? Is there a free wall in the house for them to work on a mural? Is there a space indoors or out to build an obstacle or training course? Dancers? How about a wall of mirrors and Bluetooth sound system (which can be inexpensively realized courtesy of Amazon)? Done with things for them within the home? Then seek to contribute to a project in your local community. Engagement is the name of the game, however achieved.
Take in the Tastes of Summer Watermelon, corn, Maryland crabs! Whatever you love, get creative and bring your teens together around a table of seasonal favs.
While we as helping adults and parents of teens need to be tuned in to signs of struggle, this is a valuable opportunity to model appreciation for those summer moments that will soon fade away. A variation on Gratitude through intentional planning and taking advantage of seasonal opportunity! Enjoy… while it lasts.
Julie Baron, LCSW-C