So how’s your quarantine been going? If you’ve got a teenager at home, I’m betting there have been some…challenges. But I’d also bet there have been some unexpected bright spots. Every kid I work with in my role as a life coach for teens has uncovered gems in the midst of the Covid pandemic. At the start of their coaching sessions, they’re now smiling and ready to share the good events from the past week. What a shift from the pervasive academic anxiety that has long haunted high schoolers!
With an eye toward an eventual return to normal, let’s look at the wins teens have found in the midst of the current strangeness, and consider ways we can help them bring these goodies into their regular routine.
-Kids are sleeping past 5:30 AM. (And parents are letting them!)
You’re probably familiar with the research on adolescent circadian rhythms, and the fact that teens have a biological drive to go to sleep later, and wake up later, than 7:15 school start times allow. With virtual schooling, kids are able to match their sleep to their natural clock. A well-rested teen is a happier teen. That’s a win all around.
-With virtual classes, distractions are removed.
My teen coaching clients report that they are getting their schoolwork done in one-fourth of the time, because there are no interruptions. They don’t have to worry about peer dynamics, or obsess over their appearance, or wait as a classmate asks questions designed to derail the teacher’s lesson (or as the teacher talks about their kids or cats or athletic team!).
-They have free time to explore personal interests.
Why does every teen suddenly play the ukulele? I don’t know, but I’m not complaining. With the zillion competing must-dos scrubbed from their schedules, kids now have time to let their brain drift. To pursue hobbies with no pressured outcomes. To do activities for simple enjoyment. If I was to offer an antidote to adolescent anxiety, brain drift and simple enjoyment would be among my top two prescriptions.
What can we do with this knowledge? If you’re a kids-rights warrior, maybe you’ll storm the next school board meeting and demand that the high schools push out their start times. But if Sisyphean tasks are not your jam, here’s an easier idea: ask your teen what’s been good for them about this epic break from normal. Ask them if they’d like to incorporate any of that good into their days over the long term. And together, brainstorm ways to do just that. In the rearview, this weird life-on-pause phase will look like one big bright spot, illuminating a better way forward.