Pandemic parenting: Starting new with your teenager and young adult kids

Staying at home and social distancing has become the new norm. Parents, along with their teenagers and young adults, are settling in for long-term, life-together existences. I’m one of those parents, and I want to remind myself and anyone who’s willing to join me to make this current reality more than only “enduring” or “surviving.” This shift can be an opportunity to start new habits that could transform our lives and relationships. Here’s what I’m committing to, and I’d love your support and company.

I’m cultivating new relationships.

Yep, that’s right. We are now in a season that brings new relational territory with my older, growing kids. We’re well beyond the familiar “holiday break” existence and are now re-learning how to live together. I’m trying to treat this as a season for new relationships to bloom. This requires an intentional shift in my mindset, or I’ll default to familiar patterns.

Here’s what we’re trying:
  • We have decided to dedicate one night each week when we meet all together to talk about our lives, pray for the world, and check in on how we are each doing. Our daughter and son-in-law who live out of state are joining us via video. Even though we’re living in close proximity, we want to ensure we’re still growing relationally.
  • Beyond our scheduled connection, my wife and daughter have decided to read a book together.
  • The young adults and I have agreed to take turns daily sharing favorite music recommendations.

A new relationship outlook can broaden our connection points and expand our own lives.

I’m committing to new language.

I’ll be honest, I’m already a bit tired of the social media posts where parents poke fun at their kids. It’s all in good jest, but I know well enough that these seemingly light-hearted commentaries can downward-spiral into biting sarcasm. I don’t want to perpetuate a sarcastic climate in our already close quarters.

This means:
  • Asking questions before jumping to conclusions.
  • Assuming the best rather than expecting the worst.
  • Communicating rather than cloaking my feelings.
  • Empathizing rather than demanding my way.

Likely this will mean me apologizing a lot more—I have already had to do this. It may mean learning to talk about new topics or working through old patterns that trigger me. And it will certainly mean I resist taking out my frustrations on my kids or expressing them on social media. The relational environment we create is seeded with the language we plant. I want to contribute to a positive home climate through life-giving words.

I’m working on new authenticity.

As we are all in close proximity, our kids will see the best and worst in us. In less relationally-saturated contexts, I can curate my image. Not now.

I’ll be honest, I don’t want anyone to see me at my worst moments. Yet, I also think this season is an opportunity for our growing kids to see that we’re human and, even more, hear us admit our limitations. When I reveal my rough edges, let my best self show up, or admit my anxious moments, I level the relational playing field and create new opportunities for connection.  Perhaps one of the best ways we can connect with our kids is through our shared humanity. This will lead to both embarrassing and beautiful moments that can bring us closer together.

One of the ways we’re cultivating authenticity is to regularly check in with each other. Over dinner together we ask each other these questions:
  • On a scale of 1 (the worst) to 10 (the best), how would you rate your day? (We also say 5’s are not allowed!)
  • If you could do something to make your day one point better what might it be?

This simple engagement challenges all of us to reveal how we’re doing and to share why we might be encouraged, frustrated, worried, excited, or disappointed. It also enriches our life together and sets new relational patterns that will last beyond quarantine. 

Tweet this: Parents, now’s our opportunity to grow with our kids by trying new approaches for new relational connections. Here are three habits to form while we’re at home.

Let’s view our new reality with new perspectives. I’ve often talked with parents who wished they could slow down or have another chance to reconnect with their kids. Now’s our opportunity to grow with our kids by trying new approaches for new relational connections. I’m in. I hope you are too.

What helpful habits and practices are you forming as your family moves from enduring isolation to thriving in it?

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Related links:

Faith in an Anxious World: A 4-week High School Curriculum

Faith in an Anxious World Parenting Podcast

Naming loss and gratitude with young people in these uncertain days

How to show empathy with teenagers when they face disappointment

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