The thought of quarantine with your teenager can be daunting. If we are all honest, quarantine with a teenager will result in one of two ways: World War III or a stronger family. Your actions will be the guide that determines the ending point. Here are a few suggestions for making the coronavirus quarantine your friend and not your foe:
1.) Make your “commute time” the new family time- If you are working from home now rather than going into the office, it is important to stick to your normal schedule. Since you do not have a commute, however, it is a good time to make that family time. It does not matter if your normal commute to work is 15 minutes or 1 hour it can be a great time for family time with your teenager. Your teen may think since he/she is out of school or doing online school that it is more sleep time. It’s vital to have your teenager to stick to their normal routine just like you need to have a routine. Why not get them up for “school” and have a cup of coffee with your teen and talk about the day ahead.
St. Teresa of Calcutta said, "If you want to bring happiness to the world, go home and love your family." The pandemic has given us all an opportunity to "go home" and love our family. We are in a time where we need happiness brought to the world. Go ahead and start today in your own home.
2.) Give everyone a voice in the family- Teenagers are very vocal and opinionated. Most likely they have not experienced the government ordering them to stay home and “ruining their life”. It’s important for your teen now, more than ever, to feel as if you are listening to them and respect them. Ask them to help you set boundaries and guidelines for the home while in quarantine. Ask them to list one or two things they would like to be a “rule” during this time and then make sure everyone else in the family respects that “rule”. However, make sure you get your say as well when it comes to “rules”. A mutually agreed upon set of rules is more likely going to be followed than you just creating them without your teen’s input.
3.) Have family prayer time- It does not matter if you normally have a family prayer time or not. These are not normal times and prayer is essential. It is important for your teenager to see you valuing prayer as a priority and making a specific time each day where the family gets together for prayer. Let everyone voice a part of the prayer. If you pray the rosary, take turns doing the decades and leading them. If you just want each individual to voice their heart to God during prayer, encourage your teen to do that as well not only privately but during family prayer time. That also requires you to voice your feelings and fears as well during prayer time.
"Prayer is the best weapon we have. It is the key to God's heart." (St. Padre Pio)
4.) Have family meals together- A Stanford Children’s Health study emphasized the value of family meals. It can be difficult, between career demands and school/athletic schedules, to have family meals every night. The gift the coronavirus has given you is the opportunity to have family meals. According to the Stanford study, there are multiple benefits such as strengthening communication, building self-esteem, and increasing family dynamics.
5.) Hold movie night- Having a family movie night could be difficult considering the varying views between perhaps you and your teenager about what a “good” movie entails. It could be a good idea to agree to a certain day of the week for movie night and then allow your teen to choose the movie one week and you choose it another week. Although you may not be thrilled about watching a movie your teen chooses, it could give you a significant insight into what your child is watching and open up doors for discussion between you and your child about faith and values.
6.) Have game night- When planning a family game night it is crucial to ensure that cell phones and electronic communication or entertainment, including TV on in the background, are put down or turned off. It should be an agreed upon rule that there be no cell phones during game time. When determining game night, you can set a start and end time to allow your teen to know exactly when game night will end so they can get back on their cell phone. During game night, make jokes, tell stories, and just communicate with your family members. This is a good time to spend quality time with your children as well as your spouse and it does not feel as if you are forced to stay home.
7.) Attend Mass together- Even if your parish’s weekly Mass is cancelled, it is important for you to ensure your teenager understands your commitment to attending Mass weekly and its importance—even if it’s virtual Mass through the internet. Your teenager is more accustomed to doing things online than perhaps you are so it will not be difficult for them to accept. What may be different, however, is their understanding of spiritual communion. As a family, create a place where you can make a family altar. It does not need to be anything fancy, but ensure you have a view of a computer screen or television where you will view Mass. As you watch Mass on TV or the internet, teach your teenager how to participate and encourage them to do so. When it is time to kneel, go ahead and kneel as if you were at Mass. If it is time for a response, go ahead and say the response as if you were there. Then, during the Eucharist, lead your family in a spiritual communion prayer.
"What a source of grace there is in spiritual communion. Practice it frequently and you'll have greater presence of God and and closer union with Him in all your actions." (St. Josemaria Escriva)
8.) Be honest with your teenager- Do not hide your frustration, stress, fear or disappointment from your teenager. They have lived with you and they know when something is bothering you. If you are honest about your feelings with them then it opens the door for them to speak honestly to you about their feelings. If you are afraid, tell them you are afraid but then follow it up by encouraging them and emphasizing the faith and teachings of scripture. If you are stressed, tell them. It is likely they are stressed too and they would be more willing to share with you if you opened up with them.
9.) Encourage and promote ways for your teen to connect- One of the greatest stressors for your teenager is not having social time with their friends. No matter how “connected” teenagers are through social media and texting, it is not like getting to see them and hang out with them. Even the most social media savvy teen could feel isolated from their friends. Encourage your teen to have time on video chat apps, phone calls, and other ways for them to feel like they are connected to their friends more than just on a screen.
10) Have daily family Bible reading time- Life gets so busy and crazy that most of us do not have adequate time for Bible reading. At the end of the day we are all so tired that we just want to crash and go to sleep. Take the extra time at home and set up a routine time for about 30 minutes or an hour in the mornings or at night and read the Bible as a family. This opens up talks about faith and discussions about God. Encourage your teen to ask questions and be honest if you do not know the answer then tell them you will find out and then follow through with it. Text or call your priest or use another Catholic resource that is reliable and find their answer.
Quarantine does not have to be a time of war between parents and teenagers. Like anything else in life, we can use it for the good or for bad. Your teenager may just believe the government, employers, and everyone is overreacting about COVID-19. Nonetheless, by choosing to allow this to be a time of strengthening your family rather than dividing them, when the smoke has cleared and life returns to normal then your teen could perhaps be able to tell others “it wasn’t that bad.”