Do make a schedule. Without the threat of tardies and detention, high-schoolers studying at home might not start their day until 11 a.m., but they can still have a schedule to help them feel secure. Set specific times for breakfast (or brunch!), lunch and dinner. Include times for online learning, homework, chores and socializing.
Do encourage your teen to get dressed, even if it’s switching from PJs to sweatpants. It might feel like an extended weekend, but online learning often includes video conferencing and virtual classrooms with students looking at each other and their teacher. Putting on an outfit that might normally be worn to hang out with friends, or go to practice, lets their brain know it’s time to wake up.
Do let your student talk to their friends. Whether through phone calls, FaceTime, a video conference, or interactive video games, find a way you are comfortable with for them to communicate with other students their age. Remember, most students are used to being with friends anywhere from seven to 12 hours a day (including after school activities and practice times). Letting them blow off some steam with friends suffering through the same circumstances can boost their mood and make them feel less isolated.
Do make sure you are connecting as a family during this time. It’s easy for everyone to be on their individual electronic devices, talking online to friends and doing their homework in isolation. Gather together at least once a day without electronics in a relaxed setting to eat, joke, share concerns, pray and express gratitude. You have a captive audience, it’s a great time for family movie nights and to share your favorite cookie recipes. When you make the cookies, eat them together!
Do pray for guidance. When you catch yourself being caught up in the stress of work and school and everything that usually happens in separate places, all going on at your kitchen island or dining room table, take a deep breath and ask the Holy Spirit to show you the next right thing you can do to keep your family moving in the right direction in this uncharted territory.
Don’t be too hard on yourself if your kids don’t keep their schedule. There will be another day to get yourself, and your teenager, back on track. With the uncertainty and anxiety over the coronavirus pandemic, you are teaching your child that it is OK to take a moment, or the day, to let yourself relax, be still, and find peace by just being together.
Don’t do the hard work for them. High school teachers and administrators often set up situations that are designed to encourage the students to be independent and responsible for their own work. Make sure that you are doing the same.
Don’t expect perfection, from yourself or your teen. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to become a teacher or expert overnight on the subjects your teen is learning. Many teachers are offering online office hours and encourage students to ask them questions and discuss potential learning difficulties. If your child is struggling, encourage him or her to contact the teacher and seek out online educational resources.
Don’t forget to have compassion. Our students are critically aware of the unprecedented times they are living through. Many are mourning the loss of abandoned sports seasons, prom dates, daily interaction with friends and favorite teachers and maybe even their high school graduation. Now is the time to pray for patience, wisdom and the ability to understand there could be a real reason for all that teenage angst.