As standard procedure, we must begin by addressing the new “normal”. There is nothing normal about it and its consequences while disruptive to everyone have a particularly disorienting effect on teenagers.
Friendship, socializing and connecting are very important elements of teen life. Although we, the old school are constantly questioning their social skills due to the sometimes terrifyingly digital nature of their interactions they still need and want to be in the physical presence of their peers (and occasionally us “old school” adults)
Having free time is healthy for development but unsupervised and for all we know infinitely prolonged free time is dangerous! Left to their o devices, most of our young ones will welcome late nights, unstructured days and months made of “doing nothing”.
While we do understand the helplessness of the situation given that we don’t know how the next few months will unfold, here are a few activities that should make the basic structure of your teen’s day
Set wake up and bed times
Despite this being a less “busy” time it is still important that they get the required amount of rest for developing bodies and minds.
Allocated daily chores
Responsibility for operations in the home should be shared among all family members. Everyone can contribute and more so the big “small people” that are teenagers since they have both the mental and physical ability to take on many responsibilities on the home-front.
Set meal times
While in school there are bells to remind us where to be (the lunch time bell is a particularly welcome one), being in the home with access to a bite whether from the fridge or the shamba means that meal intake can easily go unregulated. However for health and organization purposes the growing ones need to have their meals at regular times.
Feeding the brain
With or without school, learning must continue in whatever form is practical or available. Whether it’s revising previously covered work, learning a new skill or solving a problem around the home, teenagers especially in this season need to engage in activities that activate and stimulate the brain positively. After all if you don’t use it you lose it.
It’s the season of social distancing. While this is the case with outsiders, there tends to be a feeling of “lack of space” among family members since we are spending more time than ever in the same shared spaces. Teenagers are known to prefer to keep to themselves and their gadgets while socializing with the rest of the world online. While a healthy amount of gaming, social media and online engagement is allowed, time with the family is very important. As a family, make time to connect through different activities e.g game nights, worship, movie night, outdoor activities, cooking etc. When possible take some time out to engage with your teen directly, especially in this season. Get to know their worries, hopes and even their opinions on the current situation. This is truly a stressful time for most but an 18 year old who was set to finish secondary school this year and begin their adult life next year is probably experiencing some level of anxiety and stress. Don’t just speak to them, listen and encourage.
All work and no play makes Jack indeed a dull a boy. So outdoor activities; be it in the form of games or chores are important. Ensure Jack and Jill spend a good amount of time outdoors. Physical activity is crucial not just for physical development but for brain development as well.
Structure and routine can be hard to achieve and maintain during this very strange period. However, the above are just basics to retain and grow the sense of responsibility in tomorrow’s future leaders.
How is it going with your teen?