The current pandemic is likely the biggest disruption in your child’s (and possibly your) life, so far. As hard as it is for us, as adults, to take this in stride, it is even more challenging for our children. It is a good idea to allow them to grieve and vent about their canceled sport season, spring musical, art show, music competitions, spring break trip, etc. These are real losses.
And there are additional losses for seniors in high school or college who may not get to enjoy their prom, senior week activities, and graduation ceremonies and celebrations.
Once your child has been able to mourn the loss of these life events, it is time to help them move on and ask themselves an important question:
What do I want to have learned, accomplished or contributed to my community by the end of all this?
Some high school students are continuing to have online classes while others have a looser schedule with enrichment activities and optional assignments. Either way, with extracurricular events all canceled, your student will have way more downtime than usual.
It is easy for teens to fall into an extended vacation mode, where they stay up until two am, wake at noon, and have more screen time than usual with Netflix or video games. This can work for a vacation week but it is not a good longer-term plan.
Teens are often resistant to parental nagging about this type of issue. My suggestion is to set up a meeting with each child separately and help them think about how they want this time to be structured. Help them realize that no one knows how long this will go on and they don’t want to lose ground academically.
I would ask your child to print out a schedule and agree on a time that they will set a wake-up alarm each day. Then have something important early in the day that will encourage them to actually get out of bed! This could be a walk with a friend (with physical distancing) or a group video call where all the participants are following an exercise video or workout plan.
It is then critical to schedule some hours of academic work each weekday. Hopefully, this is being guided by your child’s school, but if not, there are many online platforms to help. The one many students already know about is Khan Academy (a free resource), which helps with SAT prep and most subject areas. They have put together sample schedules with course work for different grade levels on their site.
Your student should have a designated, distraction-free area for schoolwork. Research shows productivity is best when a 10 min break follows every 50 to 60 minutes of study.
Juniors and seniors who planned to visit college campuses this spring can sign up for virtual information sessions and other remote admissions events at each school’s website.
In addition to academics, it is critical to talk to your child about how they can keep up (or start) good habits in the areas of sleep, diet and daily exercise. This will help to lower anxiety and keep spirits up. Getting outside daily is also helpful – woods walks with family or friends, bike rides, dog walks, wall ball for lacrosse players, etc.
In addition, this meeting is a good time to ask your child what they would like to begin or dive deeper into during this period?
Here are some ideas that may appeal: photo projects, exchanging letters with a relative, learning to play an instrument, take an online coding class (or online class in any subject), art projects, learning to cook or bake, writing a short story / poetry, starting an online book club, woodworking project, etc.
This can also be a time to encourage your child to see how they can help at home and in your community. There are lots of suggestions out there – one is grocery shopping for elderly neighbors.
Finally, it can be helpful to share with your child a time in your life when something fell through or you encountered a big disappointment. Often, there is a story to tell about the “silver lining” of a positive turn of events that you can relay to your child. That may help them think about what they hope their “silver lining” will be as they look back on this period in their life.
I hope you and your loved ones all stay healthy and productive.