It’s the middle of week 3 of a nationwide slow-down. Our household has gone through a few stages, and each person has had their own joys and struggles with all of the changes, disappointments, and opportunities this situation has presented us with. With two teenagers and a 12 year old, we are not having to stress over teaching anyone to read or learn long division, but there are unique issues that teens are facing that younger kids are not.
Our oldest daughter is a high school Senior, and is a part of the group that is unsure of whether prom or graduation will happen. Her college preview weekend was moved online. She had plans for visiting churches and college ministries all spring and summer so she’d have a chance to meet some Christian friends before moving away- and decisions about where to live, intern, and work were all in the works, but have now been put on hold. Our son, who is a high school Junior, has had a few amazing opportunities for the summer open up- most of which cannot be “postponed”. We have just heard that one of them was cancelled, and the others very well may be. Our youngest daughter just misses her friends, many of which are new as she began middle school this year. We are grateful to have our health, and for the safety measures our state and national leaders have taken to protect all of us. But these lost milestones and opportunities are still worth grieving.
Many of you are in similar circumstances as parents, and are trying each day to find what works best to encourage, motivate, and give a strong foundation for your kids as they do life from home, while being so close to leaving! Many of you, like me, are also working from home. And some are still having to go to work while still parenting kids and teens! My heart goes out to you, especially. Here are a few ideas that we have found to be helpful- and most should be somewhat adaptable to whatever situation you find yourself in with teens:
1- Provide flexible structure. Every family has their own tolerance of how much chaos they can handle. For me, I learned with homeschooling for 10+ years that letting my kids wake up “on their own” did not work for my sanity, or their productivity. It usually meant they would wake up, go back to sleep, or begin reading or texting in bed until 11 am. So, we began this quarantine time with one main rule (and a consequence of losing their phone for the day if didn’t comply): 8 am: WAKE UP, Monday through Friday. If they want to get up at 6 am, that’s great. If they want to set a daily alarm for 8 am, that’s fine. But no one sleeps in during the week. It only took 2 days of losing phones for everyone to get in the rhythm. Other than that, here is our loose schedule for weekdays:
8-10- Dressed (“able to answer the door ready”), breakfast eaten, devotion, and room presentable.
10-12- school or quiet work
12-lunch, clean up
1-3- schoolwork, music practice or help clean up
3-5 move somehow- exercise!
No one, not even my 6th grader, needs help with their schoolwork, so I do not feel like a homeschool parent. However, it is my responsibility to provide enough structure that they have ample time and energy to complete their work. We believe it also does our teens good to know that they are valuable contributors to our home life. They each have “kitchen jobs” after dinner, do their own laundry, and clean their own rooms/bathrooms. Our son does all of our mowing/weedeating/edging (with pay), and they all help take care of our pets. These habits are already in place, but now is a season when I’m so glad they have things to do to keep them from feeling “bored” that truly help out!
2- Reminisce. A few things at least one person in our family has done to pass the time/help out are:
• acrylic painting • reading • photo taking • baking • song writing • video gaming • Netflix watching • gardening • music playing (guitar, mandolin, keyboard, singing) • wall painting (hello, new dining room color!) • decluttering/organizing • mask sewing
But one of my favorites is…we have used this time to reminisce. We have introduced them to our favorite songs when we were their ages, looked at photos of them when they were younger, and shown them some family heirlooms that are special to our family. They have a relative who received a Purple Heart Medal! We have three generations of favorite pocketknives, and a favorite watch their great grandfather wore daily, that had to be frequently rewound. Things that aren’t inherently valuable, but that mean so much to our particular family, and won’t be valued unless we take time to explain their worth to our kids.
3- Get them thinking. Finally, and probably most importantly: get those teens thinking! What a gift we have been given to have extra time to disciple them in their faith and prepare them for adulthood without the distraction of busy schedules!
For our family, dinner together has always been a big priority. Now, things are no different, except that instead of having a goal of 4 times per week, we dine together daily, sometimes for lunch and dinner. Like everything else, these times are different now, as no one is having issues at school or with friends they are having questions about, so what else do we talk about?
For us, it is usually something that comes from someone’s devotion time of Bible reading and prayer. We also have assigned the kids a few books to read, before their schools gave assignments or along with, that have provided great conversations! Sometimes it is just glancing at what they are learning about, and speaking into it. And wow, the current events are great discussion starters, and teens need to process what is happening as much as adults do.
Some questions we have either answered, or asked, recently:
• Is it better to read a big chunk of the Bible each day, or just a small part?
• How do I remember what I learned? What do I write in a journal?
• Were angels created before or after the the world?
• What is the gospel?
• How is the Catholic faith different from Baptist/Evangelical faith?
• Where was Augustine from? What was he like as a teenager?
• How was Anne Frank’s life while in hiding similar to our life now? How was it different? (Thanks to a teacher for great content about this!)
• Your online presence is building your own brand/resume. Is your social media heading in the direction you want it to go?
• What is the electoral college, and should we keep it? (This was an assignment, but turned into a great discussion starter!)
• Should pastors be arrested for having church services during this time? Is a precedent being set by this happening, on either side?
• Why is getting a college education important?
• How can we be grateful in this season?
And perhaps the most effective question, ” How are you doing with all that’s going on?” We want to be sure they know they can process all that’s happening in the world with us. I mean, we are the only face to face people in their lives right now. The only ones able to give hugs and reassurrance, in person. This season of “slow” will be over before we know it, and normal life will probably feel extra busy for a while! So let’s keep our teens home and safe, and make the most of this tough and unusual season.