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Engaging Your Social Distancing Teen

During the current COVID-19 outbreak, being active can be difficult. It can be very easy to retreat to our rooms or the couch and this might especially be true for your typically anti-social teen. Breaking them out of withdrawal behavior is important during this time. What can you do to help them to survive being stuck with their families for this time?

1. Give them control the menu for a week


Make your teen feel that his or her choices are important and welcome. Let him or her plan the family menu for a week. You can set stipulations such as each meal must contain x number of veggies or fruits; each meals budget is x, with x amount of people in the home. Whatever the boundaries are is up to you. You have to agree, however, to making whatever meals they choose. If it is a difficult meal or takes a while to make, have them help. 2. Teach them a new life skill


Teens are preparing to leave home before long. Let them help you create a new chore chart, cook dinner, plan the weekly budget, or plan weekly groceries. Teens can be very creative. They also need to know how to do these things. We often hear that teens should learn to do these things in school, but the school curriculum cannot cover everything. Take this time to show them how to garden, organize mail, iron, or do laundry. They also may learn to appreciate things more if they got to plan and execute it. 


3. Allow them have some “private” friend time


This one may seem a bit counter-intuitive, but teens have time at school where they have one on one conversations with friends. Let them have some alone time with friends to decompress. 


4. Encourage them to take up a new hobby or craft


Find YouTube or SnapChat videos of a new dance challenge, how to do their own manicure, fix a bike, or something else. Do this new hobby with them. You can let them choose the hobby. Be sure to let them laugh at you when you trip over your own two feet, or glue the photo upside down. They might learn a new hobby and get some well-deserved laughs. 


5. Motivate them to do a how-to video and post it to YouTube or just share it on Snapchat


Your teen is good at something and has a purpose. Encourage them to share that talent with the world. Offer to be their videographer with your cellphone. Hey, what if it goes viral? It might just go to his or her best friend, but it might be fun. It doesn’t have to be a high-quality dialog either. This is just to keep them from hiding in their rooms. Share the video with us and we will put it in next weeks news letter.


6. Plan a family game night with  family virtually


Let your teen set up a competition with a friend’s family through Zoom, Google Hangouts, WebEx, or some other video chat feature. Play board games. Each family can have the same game and “move” for the other family or each family can have a set of dice and the family with the game can take the moves. See who does the best. Be creative. Charades might be fun here too. If the teen feels like they are in a competition with a “rival” family, he or she might be more apt to participate than a regular game night at home. 


7. Let them experiment with their look/ style


If he or she has always wanted to dye his or her hair, buy temporary dye and try it out. Let them rearrange their rooms. Let them help rearrange the living room or your bedroom. If he or she is a fan of fashion, let them give you a makeover or make themselves over. Encouraging creativity can increase self-esteem for many teens. 


8. Promote movement


Challenge them to a dance-off. Have them see if they can improve their mile run. Get them outside for yard work. Do anything to get the blood flowing. Exercise helps people retain information, and most schools are sending homework for the time being. Get them moving to improve the retention of the information. 


9. Develop a routine


Listen to their behavior. Teens who are melting down or hiding often miss the routine of their days. Help them determine a new routine for the duration. Let them feel that they are controlling things that feel out of control. It doesn’t have to be a perfect routine—it only needs to make them feel there’s some normalcy. If they feel more normal, they may be more likely to participate in life around them.  


10. Give them time to decompress


Let them know that their mental health is important to you. Don’t try to constantly engage them. Let them know that it’s okay to crave a little alone time. They also need to know that they can ask for what they need. It’s hard to perform all the time. If they feel heard, they will try harder to hear you.


These ten things are not an exhaustive list. Some of the ideas seen here might be useless to you and others may be perfect. The point is to get your creative juices flowing. You know your teens and what they like. One of the keys to engagement with others is to make them feel significant. Listen to your teen. Participate with them. Be there when they need you.

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