There are many things about the past year we are ready to leave behind. For teens who have been hit hard by the pandemic, it’s hard to imagine wanting to keep any reminders of quarantine around. But it’s worth pausing before we dive back into the way things were. Here are just a few things your teen should consider keeping around in post-pandemic life.
1) Keep a Slower Pace
For many teens, pre-pandemic life was fast-paced and overscheduled. Widespread closures and canceled events in 2020 forced us all to slow down. This new pace provides an opportunity to think about priorities. So, encourage your teens to set boundaries and not overcommit themselves. Before they jump right back into their old routines, discuss which activities they missed most and least. Ensure they have time to pursue hobbies, relax, and get enough sleep (8-10 hours for teens, 9-11 for tweens). Regular breaks from structured activities can help improve brain functioning and mental health. Help your teen find a balance, so they don’t burn out running from one activity to the next. Dr. Christine Koh, co-author of Minimalist Parenting and co-host of the Edit Your Life podcast, suggests doing a family calendar check. Review your calendar before the start of a new week and “edit out” unnecessary items to create space for downtime. This skill will serve teens well as they continue to gain more responsibilities in the future.
2) Have Uncomfortable Conversations
During the pandemic, deeply rooted social injustices came to light in new ways. Young people were watching. They continue to watch and want to talk about it. Dr. Joanna Lee Williams, Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers University says, “We have to be aspirational when it comes to racial identity, racial pride, and moving towards a world with equity. We’ve got to leverage who adolescents are. Adolescents get injustice, and they want to fix it. Talk to them about it.” It’s ok not to have all the answers. There are plenty of books and movies to help fuel discussions. Encourage your children to ask questions and express their feelings about what they see in the news. Check out this article for how to approach the topic of racial injustice with teens. While these conversations can be difficult, we must continue to have them.
3) Seek Joyful Moments
Positive moods have a big impact on both mental and physical health, especially during challenging times. Happiness can boost your immune system, lower your heart rate, and reduce stress. The widespread closures during the past year forced us all to find creative ways to have fun. From drive-through birthdays to virtual book clubs, and parent-child TikTok routines, families found ways to cheer one another up or share a good laugh. Kind gestures like the “hearts for healthcare workers” initiative or sending cards to the elderly brought joy to others with the added benefit of lifting the giver’s emotions. There was also a spike in outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and bird watching — and spending time in nature is known to have a range of health benefits. So whether you pick up a new hobby or reinstate a good old fashioned family game night, teens and adults alike will benefit from continuing to find joyful moments moving forward.
4) Connect With Others
Social interaction with peers is an essential part of development during the tween and teen years. But opportunities to connect were limited during the pandemic. The good news is that a recent report from Common Sense Media reveals many teens went online to connect with friends, get health information, or find comfort. According to CPTC’s Director Dr. Ken Ginsburg, this is a moment in time for young people to recognize that connection to others is critical to their ability to get through tough times. “The seeds are in place for this generation to understand the power of human connection,” he shares. As youth return to school, faith communities, sports, and after-school programs, they will come with a renewed appreciation for the people in their lives. And this recognition is a crucial element of resilience.
In every generation youth are shaped by what they’re exposed to during their formative years. This generation has lived through an unprecedented time. Many of them experienced tremendous loss and still need our support to deal with it. This may include helping them grieve the loss of loved ones or guiding them toward professional help. Teens can begin to mend and move forward with purpose if we are there when they need us most. Turn lessons learned into action and model resilience for your teens. And before you kick all aspects of pandemic living to the curb, incorporate a slower pace, conversations about injustice, laughter, and appreciation for others into post-pandemic life.