Don’t social distance from your teen during lockdown

Reading Time: 5 minutes
Why not have a DIY ‘fine dining’ experience and cook a three-course sit-down dinner with your teens.
Why not have a DIY ‘fine dining’ experience and cook a three-course sit-down dinner with your teens.

Ok, so you might be pulling your hair out right now in lockdown. You may even be daydreaming of socially distancing from your teenagers … but if you’re interested in having a little more hair volume without having to invest in hair products, continue reading.

Teenagers respond well to quality time, to being shown that you as their parents care not just about meeting their needs, but about building a relationship with them.

So here’s a few suggestions to get that relationship-building happening. Let’s face it, if you don’t have the time to do this now, when will you?

  1. Exercise together: If you have more than one child, consider taking turns to spend ‘one-on-one’ exercise time, such as going for a walk. Try to leave your phone at home and have some ‘talking points’ in your head to ask them about.
  2. Personality test bonding: Normally we don’t have time to sit down and evaluate ourselves, but personality tests can be a game-changer in terms of how we understand each other’s inner world. It also helps us to grow compassion as parents for the differences in our children. Make time to do the Myer-Briggs personality test (this is a non-official free version: www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test) as an activity together, then compare results. There are also some hilarious videos on YouTube of the different personalities interacting with each other.
  3. Social Media: Consider doing something that involves the both of you on Social Media. Not as some deluded attempt to be a ‘cool’ parent but rather to embrace the cheesy and show your teen you don’t value your ego more than getting out of your comfort zone for their sake. One of the easiest ways to do this is goofy videos; TikTok and Instagram stories provide the best platform. You could do an ‘isolation life hack’ video, a silly dance or show a snippet of you cooking together.
  4. Cooking: Speaking of cooking, you could have a DIY ‘fine dining’ experience and cook a three-course sit-down dinner with your teens. You could divide it into one course per person, or do it all together. Sit down and plan it out, then put some music on in the kitchen as you cook. You could even go all out and set the table based off the theme of whatever it is you’re cooking.
  5. Ignore ONE pet peeve: Last but not least, this is the hardest challenge. Try a social experiment for one week targeting one pet peeve you have with your teen that gets constantly triggered in lockdown. It could be something objectively annoying or unhelpful, such as not cleaning up after themselves, or a grumpy tone of voice, but rather than nag about it, for one week, do the exact opposite. When your mouth opens to form the words ‘Can you just’ or ‘Why don’t you’ or ‘I told you to’, PAUSE. Say something positive and affirming instead. If it feels like you are downing a cup of bitter lemon juice then you have successfully conducted the exercise. Some examples of things to say are: ‘I like how you’, ‘It’s nice to see you’ or ‘I’m proud of you for’.

Persisting with this is one of the most powerful things you can do to grow or heal your relationship with your teen.

They might seem like they don’t care what you think or say but in reality, they are testing you.

Consider doing something that involves the both of you on Social Media. One of the easiest ways to do this is goofy videos; TikTok and Instagram stories provide the best platform.
Consider doing something that involves the both of you on Social Media. One of the easiest ways to do this is goofy videos; TikTok and Instagram stories provide the best platform.

Do not be fooled into thinking they don’t care … they do!

And they are putting everything you do or say into a file in their minds, which is teaching them about the way they are viewed and valued by the world.

Think back to when they were very young. There is a certain innocent beauty to a young child naively assuming the world revolves around them and they confidently make their desires known with an unapologetic air.

This changes when a child enters the tween and then teen years.

One day, they wake up, and suddenly they have an awareness about themselves. They become conscious on a very visceral level of what others are thinking or might be thinking about them. They experience a dawning realisation about the reality of the world and their rosy childhood glasses are put away in a drawer forever (for me, this happened at aged eleven).

“Unfortunately, many well-meaning parents make one grave error. They give all that they have in the tank to their children.”

The cross-over into adulthood begins and with this comes one of the most terrifyingly vulnerable feelings, which turns into a thought and then finally into a question, which is this: am I worthwhile, accepted, lovable just as I am?

Trust me, I have built an educational program that revolves around this one core, underlying factor and for over a decade I have seen the plight of this ‘awakening’ in teens. I’ve experienced their overflowing desire to have their intrinsic worth be validated and affirmed.

Unfortunately, many well-meaning parents make one grave error. They give all that they have in the tank to their children, they sacrifice everything to try to provide them the best life through their blood, sweat and tears. And when after all of this is said and done and feel they can’t possibly give any more, they are met with a seemingly ungrateful (note: I said seemingly) teen who doesn’t appear to be aware of this sacrifice in the slightest.

And it’s in this precise moment of absolute gut-wrenching pain/anger/frustration that the option of two parenting patterns can form with you and your teen, which will determine not only your future relationship but the way your teen views the concept of this little old thing called ‘unconditional love’.

If you have more than one child, consider taking turns to spend ‘one-on-one’ exercise time, such as going for a walk.
If you have more than one child, consider taking turns to spend ‘one-on-one’ exercise time, such as going for a walk.

The first pattern is of the parent who reacts negatively to the ingratitude and makes it known to their teen. This sends the message that it is now time for the teenager to pay their dues. This teaches the teen that they will be loved if they ‘do this thing’ or if they ‘act this way’ but deep down, they know the world will hold them to account and expect them to prove why they should be considered ‘lovable’.

The second pattern, the harder one, is where a teen experiences unconditional love by you.  When you consciously bite your lip and choose not to react negatively to their ingratitude, by not letting out your frustration on them. It’s where the theoretical idea of God being a loving father, of Jesus being an unconditional lover, is transformed from an idealistic theory into an actual reality for your teen. YOU become Jesus, dying on the cross, dying to yourself, for the sake of your child. Your teen learns that they will always and irrevocably be unconditionally loved and this sows the seed of self-worth deep within their hearts.

Even though my daughter is only young, I understand that once you cross the realm into parent-land there’s no going back. You’ve signed up for one of the scariest rollercoaster rides of your life, with all the beautiful highs and heartbreaking lows.

But hold onto them for dear life because, at the end of the day, these little people are your dear lives.