Today's blog post is brought to you by our fabulous youth ministry intern, Renata Jaeger. Currently a junior at UW Madison, Renata loves coffee shops, her kitties, and helping teens love Jesus!
Students of all ages are facing some pretty stunning losses during this uncertain time of Safer at Home and social distancing. Slowly but surely, everything that they’ve been looking forward to has been getting cancelled: Graduation ceremonies, prom, sports, jobs, internships, etc. If you have a student stuck at home, chances are that their emotions have been all over the place as they try to cope with these sudden losses. I know that my siblings and I have been trying to navigate feelings of frustration, anxiety, confusion, and sadness on a daily basis. Here are some strategies for parents/guardians that might help to support their students and address the unforeseen challenges that this pandemic has created… especially when most adults are probably struggling just as much as we are.
Offering Outright Empathy
All students know deep down that it’s not their parent’s fault that they’re stuck at home. At the same time, it can be very easy to assume that they know you feel bad that they’re stuck at home, even if it’s not your fault. A vocal validation of their feelings, such as a genuine “I’m really sorry that you’re missing out on that, I know that’s so disappointing,” is a really powerful way to let your student know that you feel for them. It won’t solve all their problems, but it’s a way to support them as they navigate their emotions.
Make Room for Happiness
When every single day is the same cycle of online classes and walks around the block, it can be really easy for students to detach themselves emotionally from whatever they’re doing. One way that my parents have helped my siblings and I remember that good things are still happening is by asking us each to share one thing that made us happy at the end of every day. Making time to celebrate the little joys in this new normal is something small that goes a long way.
Remember the Value of Alone Time
All students, no matter what age they are, gained some degree of independence by going to school every day. With that gone, they can be scrambling to have control over some aspect of their lives and one way parents can help them do that is by setting aside some alone time every day. Simply communicating that you won’t take it personally if they need to take a break and have some quiet time to themselves makes a big difference. This may also alleviate the pressure some students may feel from being around their parents 24/7.
Treat Students as Competent Decision-Makers
Making students a part of the decision making process is another way to give them some control over their daily lives. For example, giving them a list of things you’d like them to complete throughout the day but asking them to put together their schedule may help them feel like they’re bringing something to the table. It could also be as simple asking them to plan dinner one night a week. Being genuinely interested in their solutions or ideas can not only help them feel like their voices are heard, but also let them know that you trust their ability to be independent.
When Emily and I meet with your students at our virtual Higher Ground, most say that they really appreciate all the extra time they get to spend with their family. Your students really are enjoying spending time with you, even if it doesn’t seem like it. I encourage you to take this as an opportunity to give them a little extra support and to learn more about them as people. You’ve got this!