Helping Teenagers Maintain Important Relationships During Social Distancing
Physical distancing requirements during the Covid-19 pandemic mean that a lot is being asked of your teens at the moment. We’re now in a climate where every single person has a social responsibility to look after the health of the community. Our teenagers are seeing, for the first time in their lives, how interconnected our world is. When a disease can go from person to person and spread around the world, it is easy for them to see how their actions affect others.
Relationships with friends and romantic interests are really important to your teenager, now more than ever. Their sexuality is emerging and they are beginning to mature and discover a sense of self that is separate to their family and to you. Being physically distanced from their friends, partners and family is especially challenging because they are still learning about how relationships work.
ReachOut also has a whole heap of other tips on how to support your teen during the Coronavirus crisis, covering topics like routines, study stress, uncertainty and family wellbeing.
Ways to stay connected:
Partners and friends
Encourage your teenagers to stay in touch with their friends, even when they can’t see them in real life. FaceTime, Snapchat, phone calls and Tiktoks are all ways that teenagers are able to communicate, and offer them moments of creativity and connection while still remaining safe.
Now that visiting other people in their homes is allowed, support your teenager to do this safely.. Now’s the time to have a conversation and remind our teenagers that they still need to be keeping their distance from their friends. Teenagers naturally want physical contact; they instinctively shake hands, hug their friends and, of course, want to be affectionate or sexual with their partners. We have to remind them that they, too, have a responsibility to keep everyone safe.
Team sports give teenagers access to a lot of social as well as physical interaction and they are sure to be missing it. Dancers spend a lot of time in each other’s arms, football players bump up against each other as they scrabble for the ball, and most teams encourage camaraderie through high-fives when points are scored or putting their hands in the centre of a circle for a chant.
Encouraging your teenagers to meet their teammates (following state guidelines, of course) for runs or bike rides, can be a great way of making sure that those connections remain, even when sport is cancelled. It will give them a chance to blow off some steam, have some fun and perhaps even allow them to support each other around what’s happening in their lives.
There’s a lot of extra time at home at the moment and it’s ok if you let your teen play video games a bit more than usual. There are lots of games that teens can play in teams where they can utilise the same skills they would use if they were playing a physical game. In games like Roblox or Minecraft have shared experiences where up to four players work together to build worlds. Their decision making, responsibility and strategy-building skills are all being used while they communicate constantly over their headsets. What a great way to still feel part of a team!
Online classes are also a good way for teammates to keep connected. Your child and their friends can all do yoga or a workout class with their coach by Zoom. We’ve even heard about teams doing online cooking lessons or skill-sharing sessions, not related to sport. Not only will they connect with their friends, they’re maintaining their fitness levels and team camaraderie for when sports resume.
Grandparents and the elderly/vulnerable
It’s hard for kids knowing that their grandparents are locked away, even if it is for safety reasons. FaceTime and phone calls are great ways to stay in touch but technology is not always as appreciated by the more senior members of the family. We’ve heard from lots of young people that they’re looking for non-screen related activities to keep them occupied at the moment (yep, teens can get Zoom fatigue too!). Encourage them to write letters, paint or draw – it will create connection but also allow them some time away from the computer.
Facilitate visits to the homes of elderly people in your life. Just because you can’t physically touch, doesn’t mean you can’t sit outside in the fresh air and have a conversation while dropping off their groceries.
Siblings and your own household
Now is the perfect time to forge stronger connections between family members. The people who live in your house are the only people teenagers can be affectionate with. Encourage them to engage in physical activities that do include touch. Basketball or a game of Twister are good examples of shared experiences which gives siblings the opportunity to interact with each other in positive ways.
Other bonding activities include:
- Working together on a garden project
- Having a family game night
- Doing a dance challenge on Tiktok as a family (embarrassing as it may be!)
- Creating a Bin Isolation Outing video
- Having an Action Hour where every family member works hard to complete the most number of chores
- Collaborate on a family vision board of everything you want to do once this is over
Family and friends who live elsewhere
At present, most states and territories have closed their borders which means that visits to beloved family and friends are not possible, and no one really knows when things will change. This can be especially sad for teenagers who usually see their loved ones regularly.
Utilise the technology available to maintain close relationships. Make sure you encourage and facilitate daily conversations with your loved ones. Physical distance doesn’t have to mean emotional distance. You could also try encouraging your teen to get creative with the ways they let these loved ones in on what’s happening for them. Some ideas include: writing a blog, creating videos together, cooking a meal on Zoom and watching a movie at the same time and messaging about it.
This is a really uncertain time for teenagers and one thing that will make it better for them is to maintain relationships with those close to them. Make time for your teens to talk with you too and think of this as a perfect opportunity to connect with your teenager in a really meaningful way.
This article was provided by our friends at ReachOut Australia
Reach Out is a not for profit organisation in Australia which helps parents support their teenagers through everyday issues and tough times.