Social Distancing with Teens in the House

Alisha says:

We’ve been social distancing since last Wednesday. One thing is clear: My daughter hates us. She’s 15. It’s normal, but it still stings. She’s beautiful and smart and I love her, but she gives me the stink eye every time I smile at her. I’m almost about to give up and let her spend the next six-to-eight weeks (yes, it will be that long) rotting her brain on TikTok. Almost, but not quite.

We are typically a busy family. I’ve been working 60 hour weeks for the past three months, while my husband is usually on the road for five months a year. Now, we’re all home and all dependent on each other for entertainment, companionship and sustenance. Frankly, it has become a battle of wills, deserving of its own reality show.

My husband and I know that staying home and away from others, while torturous, will save lives. I’m 47 and I’ve never seen anything like the current situation. And, I suspect, neither have you. Anybody who is paying attention and who can do basic math gets it: People are going to die. And, if we don’t stay in, more of them will die — some of them the very old, the very sick and the very young. Others, like our brave doctors, first responders, and nurses on the front lines, are begging us all to stay home, because with every additional case, they face greater risk.

So, in the truest spirit of community, we have decided to stay in and try to prevent the spread of this deadly virus. We’ve got the staying home part down. But, creating family fun is harder than it seems, honestly. Especially with so much of our own anxiety swirling around things like our fragile mortality, access to toilet paper and the ability to buy food. There are no guarantees about any of it. Scary and stressful, I know.

My husband and I, who are getting reacquainted after years of merry logistical household management, have optimistically planned fun family activities so our clan doesn’t turn into drooling screen users or kill each other, although both outcomes are likely. We also want to think about anything except COVID-19.

We’ve begun a daily diet of family yoga, fun facts of the day, fun article of the day, family movie week (spy-themed!), reading, each person has to make a meal for everyone, family mile run, daily walks, and even write a newspaper column. We’ll camp out, dine formally at our own table and will have a bake off — assuming we can get more eggs.

You get the idea. We set an alarm every day and we do things. We even have a FUN FAMILY CHART! which we created with the babies yesterday. While I was proud of the list of activities we came up with, the whole exercise went over like a lead balloon with the troops. Both kids cringed and the eye rolls appeared on cue. 

My teen daughter turned to me and said: This isn’t fun. Nobody thinks this is fun. This is terrible. Our 12-year-old son, young enough to usually go with the flow, chimed in: Mom — this stinks. My husband kept a brave face on it, but he wasn’t convinced.

We’re trying to make the best of a very dull-until-it-isn’t moment. And we’re trying to do this with our kids. Yet they want nothing to do with us. That said, we’re the grownups and we intend to act that way — by hand-washing, staying home and not hosting. And by attempting to find fun where we can, among ourselves.

Do you have ideas? Share them here. We’ll try anything and it’s only week one, and I’d be grateful.

Here’s what my daughter has to say about the horrors of home life:

Dear Well-Meaning Parents of Easton,

I’m the annoying, TikTok-addicted 15-year-old my mom was talking about above, and I’m here to tell you what to do and what not to do when it comes to having family “fun” during a pandemic.

Just hanging out together is a good start. Don’t make any crazy schedules or over plan. Something like watching a movie, playing a board game or making cookies is a great way to set the tone for the INSANE amount of time you’re all going to be spending on top of each other.

Like my mom said above, we have a spy-themed movie week! I thought this was both reasonable and mildly entertaining. We also baked cookies, banana bread, peach cobbler, and some family games are definitely on the agenda. I wish it were safe to have my friends over, but I get that this virus is poised to massacre the old and immunocompromised. That said, I’d much rather see my friends. But I get it. 

Brainstorm together and take everyone’s interests into account. If you’re trapped in a house together, a majority vote isn’t going to work! Make sure everyone wants to do the activities planned. Stuff becomes a lot less fun really fast if you’re dragging somebody along. For example, my mom was trying to get the entire family to go on a mile run. So like any sane person would, I said no. We got into a big fight, and it ruined the day for everyone. That leads to my third tip.

Don’t force people to do something they don’t want to do. A schedule is only fun if everyone is on board. Don’t micromanage or get angry if your kid would rather sleep than do sunrise yoga for an hour. Find activities that everyone can agree on. Such as midnight yoga for 15 minutes and or watch a scary movie. Ideally about the plague.

Another great thing you can do is to not pressure yourself to have everyone participating at all times. If half of the family wants to do one thing and the others want to do something else, there is no reason to stress. Just let them be! I promise it will solve a lot of problems. 

Even if there wasn’t coronavirus, my mom would still be annoying the bejesus out of me. The only difference is that I would be able to escape. All of a sudden, going outside means I’m going to get infected by dogs in the neighborhood.

So to all the kids out there who might be reading this, I feel you and I raise you one. I’m trying to be patient with the adults. I swear. But, stay home, wash your hands and beat your siblings when nobody is looking. I do!

XOXO

Alisha and Anya

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