• Cara Parker

Teenagers Need a Routine, Too

There's a lot of posts out there with ideas for routines for children during the school shutdown for COVID-19. But, teenagers are going to need a routine, too.

If given the choice, most teenagers will default to their phones. Many will binge Netflix shows and play video games. It's an easy choice, but is it the best choice?

With some limits and other options mixed in, I think it's okay.

We want our kids to stay connected to their friends. Teenagers are social by nature. Even though their way of hanging out looks different than the way we hung out with friends, they still will need to be connected to their friends.

But does being connected to friends have to mean being connected to their phones and computers all day?

Work with your teen to create a routine that allows them time to be connected, but also sets some limits on that.

Some teenagers are going to have to take the lead on caring for younger siblings. Have a conversation with them. Help them understand how and why you need their help. Work with them to come up with a schedule that will allow them some privacy and time apart from their siblings, while also helping the family to function.

Other teenagers are looking at this two week period, realizing how challenging it is going to be. Having some goals and a rough plan is going to help them to pass the days.

Here are some things that should be part of the discussion:

Sleep: Set expectations for bedtime and wake-up time.

Fitness: Walk outside for at least two miles. Do an exercise video. Use your home gym equipment for at least 30 minutes. Play basketball or hockey in the driveway. Throw a baseball. Practice lacrosse. Go for a run. Currently, there are no limitations on outside time, and people in Asia who have been shutdown for two months are reporting that getting outside and getting exercise was so important for their mental health.

Pet Care: They are home and they are not busy anymore. This task can easily be transferred to them.

Clean Room: Since they have all this time, there is no excuse for a minimally clean room.

Reading: 30 minutes a day, minimum. Your house probably has hundreds of books and magazines that they could read. Or, order something from Amazon today.

Creative: This is the perfect time to get in the required practice for an instrument. If they have an instrument that hasn't been used in years, pick it back up. Do you have a guitar or piano just sitting around? Youtube has great tutorials. Make a drum set out of buckets in the garage and order some drum sticks on amazon. Use youtube to learn some basic beats. Paint. Draw. Find a photography challenge online. Write poetry. Write a play. Write a story. Make bracelets.

Hands on: Learn to use tools in the garage and build something out of scrap wood. Do some minor house repairs (with the help of youtube, our 16-year-old did some deck repairs and fixed the washer and dryer.) Take out the sewing machine and learn to sew. Bake.

Chores: It's only a few years before your teen is off to college and has to do "adulting" skills. How prepared is your teen? Now is the perfect time for them to learn laundry, meal planning, cooking, vacuuming, dusting, cleaning the bathroom, and dishwasher duty. Hopefully, they are already doing some of these things, but if not, now is the time to start so they don't look helpless in front of their college friends.

Mandatory Family Fun: Every night at 9:30 in our home, we play a game. We call it Mandatory Family Fun, because everyone has to do it. Phones are away, and we play a board game or card game. The teenagers groan, but they do it anyway. (And, we think that they secretly like it.) It's a chance to reconnect and do something screen-free before bed. It's true that we have to give up something in order to fit it in, but we understand how quickly time moves, so we have made it a priority.

In our house, we are going to take it on a day-by-day basis. We'll talk about what the next day might look like, based on the weather. But we will also set some expectations about what needs to happen before screen time, and once screen time happens, when it gets shut off to do something else.

You know your teen best. They are looking for you to take the lead and even if they groan and complain, they will appreciate some sort of structure.

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