Helping Teens Cope with Covid Stay-at-Home

Parent Q&A

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  • Remote learning and too much homework

    (4 replies)

    Hello! My daughter attends Albany High and, like everyone else around here, we've been in remote learning since March. Although it got off to a rocky start, I have generally been pleased with with the amount and level of instruction since the fall and my daughter had been doing quite well with things until recently. Since around December, we have noticed a substantial increase in homework, At first, we attributed this to the normal end of semester rush to finish first semester topics, but since returning in January and even now after semester finals, it has only gotten worse. A lot worse. I can't remember the last time my daughter has gotten more than 6 hours of sleep because she is being overloaded with homework (Note: she is in all "regular" classes - no honors or APs for which one might expect a more substantial workload). She is getting burned out quickly, to the point where, although she had adapted to the online platform, she is getting ready to "check out" of he classes entirely. It is not an issue with the difficulty of her classes - she understands and keeps up easily with the material. It is just too much homework. I am particularly frustrated because one of her teachers even explicitly said, "I have to keep you kids busy" while assigning work. Aside from the fact that it is not a teacher's job "to keep kids busy," as I said, it's gotten to the point that she is regularly up way after midnight doing work and it is taking a very bad toll on her, mentally and physically. 

    Has anyone else noticed this tendency to overcompensate for remote learning by assigning additional (or, in our case, excessive) homework? If so, how are you dealing with it? We are at about our breaking point, unfortunately, and it's not even February. Would love to hear from others about their experiences. 

    YES, absolutely seeing this for my poor 7th grader at Albany Middle School. The district has chosen to fill the required state hours of school with "asynchronous learning" - the teachers just assign a ton of material with no understanding of how long it will take, and at least my child's teachers NEVER say, stop after one hour. I think Albany is not doing great with remote learning, tbh. Overemphasis on quantity not quality.

    YES! I have two high schoolers at BHS and they are feeling this. I think it's even worse because it ALL feels like homework. With in-person learning, they might spend an hour or two at home doing work, now they are sitting on that bed/desk staring at that computer for hours as class time and homework time merge together.  No advice, just commiseration.

    Most students are struggling with Virtual Learning,   It could be difficulty  understanding the academic material, challenges with screen learning to missing the in class interaction with teachers and peers for support.   My son is completely disengage from school and is very hard for me to watch him fail.  We have done everything in our powers to provide help, support, meetings with teachers.  

    Those students doing well are not doing so well - However these students have found a way to cope with distance learning and have learn the task of using wikipedia and google to complete their task - yes they also engage in class interaction with is important.  I will pay attention  no other issues are affecting her grades and participation in school.

    We  are experiencing hard times and for students returning to in classroom learning will be the ultimate goal for academic success. 

    My child is not yet in high school, so I'm not seeing this at home, but I do teach at the university level and have seen some similar things, both within my own classroom and as reported by my students about other people's classrooms. I'd like to suggest that it's probably more complex than teachers simply piling on more homework. Some may in fact be doing this, but I think it’s also a byproduct of the move to online instruction. In a face-to-face teaching environment, there’s room for a lot of activities happen in the classroom moment. Without that, teachers find themselves forced to move it into activities that become homework, and both teachers and students radically underestimate the amount of time it take to do these things. For example, classroom discussions are extremely difficult to do well via Zoom, so instructors often move them into online discussion forums. Students are regularly required to participate, as syllabi often have a minimum number and quality of posts. This takes time, often way more than it should. In a face-to-face teaching environment, instructors can often assess learning directly and they know that the sheer necessity of coming to class every day can be enough to keep students on track with their studying and reading. Without it, they feel compelled to use multiple assignments to help students keep up and stay on track, and to give themselves something to take the place of the on the spot assessment that happens in the regular classroom. Long story short, I don’t think you’re necessarily wrong but I would suggest that the issue is probably more complicated than it seems. You might find this article informative, as it directly addresses this issue. It’s aimed at university level instruction, but I think at least some of it applies to high school students and instructors:

  • It is normal - right? -  to hear your 16 year old girl say things like “everyone else is best friends with their mom” when complaining that she can’t stand to be around her parents during the pandemic. You’re not really all best friends with your teen girls? She is an only child and says she has spent 16 years waiting to get away from us. That one I *do* know is an exaggeration because pre-pandemic she was a pretty happy, social, and engaged kid. 

    I am trying to tell myself that were we not in a pandemic, this is exactly when she would have been separating from us and seeing everything we do as wrong. And it just so happens that because of the pandemic she is isolated with very little positive in her life — so it makes her skin crawl to be around us at this point. I see intellectually that if it weren’t for the pandemic we would probably still be struggling but it might have been balanced with positive peer interactions that make us not seem so bad.

    Others have gone through this - right? - and eventually regained a relationship with their young adult kids?

    Sorry you are going through this. My son just turned 20 years old and we haven't been best friends ever since he turned 16. He's extremely immature, so I am hoping that he'll become his old sweet self by the time he's 25 or 30, but I am not holding my breath. Your daughter sounds like she's looking for ways to hurt you. It's emotional blackmail that girls excel at. My 8 year old says hurtful things like that when she's particularly angry and I call that out when it happens. My son hasn't done much of that until recently, since it's a more sophisticated way to be mean, but now he does that too.  I've learned to recognize it as attempts to make me feel bad, but it's still hard not to care.

    Oh, and we are parents to our kids, not friends of any kind, let alone bffs. We provide for them, keep them safe, and of course love them, but we should also expect them to contribute back to the family and respect us. If you want to have a daily family dinner, it's your right as a parent to have her be there, help make it, set the table and be civilized with the phone off during it.  If they love us and enjoy being with us, that's an icing on the cake, but not the requirement. Yeah, pandemic sucks. And yet, she's got shelter, food, clothing, education and the spoils of modern society thanks to you working your butt off, which isn't easy during the pandemic either. How about her?  Is she a joy to be around? Has she ever considered how it is for you as parents to be around her? 

    Anyway, she sounds like a typical entitled teen.  I come from a 3rd world country, and kids never had those kinds of argument with their parents.  Life was too hard and scary to be bothered with existential questions like this. One was grateful to have a home and food, and people who cared about them. Here in the US, kids remain kids till their 30s because we shelter them too much. Don't know about your daughter, but my son never had to cook for himself, I still do his laundry, and he almost never does his only chore which is to throw away the garbage.  Maybe it's not too late for your daughter to become a full fledged member of the family, the kind that doesn't just keeps taking and then complains that you guys aren't fun to be around, but the kind that's considerate and cares about you and contributes. 

    I am also the mom of a single child, a boy, 15. While he does complain and exaggerate, he doesn’t hate us and also isn’t best friends with us. I am certain that he doesn’t feel he can’t wait to leave us etc.  Personally, I’d listen to what she’s telling you and I’d take it seriously. The pandemic is probably amplifying her feelings, but this does sound a bit like depression. And if you love her, do you really want her to feel not close to you, and like she can’t wait to leave? I have a dear friend with a very challenging 16 year old (only child) daughter, who will readily say she loves her parents and isn’t itching to leave - even tho they for sure drive her crazy too. Again, probably not “best friends” but not in this kind of pain either. If my child ever says these things, I’ll ask WHY and listen quietly and very carefully, and probably get a family therapist. 

    Absolutely frickin normal. When I went through this painful process with my daughter I was told the startling truth that the fact that we used to be close the harder she had to push me away and claim her independence. (She started to push away when she was 12!) I remember the fact I was breathing was annoying to her! I mourned the loss of my daughter but trusted (as best I could) in the knowledge that she would come back to me one day. She went off to college and gained the independence she needed. We are very close now.

    Going through it now with my son and hoping it’s normal (he is also an only child). I take it with a grain of salt and a sense of humor even though it is exhausting and annoying. Hoping we bounce back once he’s off to college and beyond. 

    Ummm, no, I am not besties with my daughter. She loves me, but I am the object of ridicule for my singing, dirty feet and too loud talking. Being trapped with a teen daughter in my home during a pandemic has been hard! I'm not sure where she's getting the 'everyone is best friends with their mom' idea, but it certainly doesn't ring true to me. I was the same way with my mom. I eventually found her to be a treasure. 

    I don't have the "eventually" part of the story yet, but I can tell you that my 13-year old girl is going through something very similar, so that's a definite NO on all moms and teenage daughters being best friends. Our daughter went from being a happy, extroverted, sports-loving goofy kid pre-pandemic to cutting off all her hair, dying it, and wearing mostly black oversized clothes now, with eye-rolling and sarcasm being inevitable parts of our interactions. I consider it both normal in terms of the separation process, but also an understandable side effect of the pandemic. For us, I think puberty and the pandemic collided. The silver lining for you is that this didn't happen until your daughter was 16. But I know how hard it is to feel like you have lost that special relationship, and how hard it is to stay calm through the unkind words. I think you are correct that even without the pandemic, your daughter would likely be going through some kind of separation phase. I have talked with a lot of people who tell me to just be supportive and ride it out - that they do come back to themselves eventually. Good luck, and know that you are not alone.

    I asked my 16 year old daughter what she thought. We are pretty close but I don't think we'd say we're best friends - she has friends to be best friends with and her parents love her and vice versa. She said she's observed that kids, especially girls who are only children that she knows talk and think similarly. Having a sibling changes the dynamic when you have a co-conspirator to complain to your parents about LOL! Seriously though, I wouldn't worry too much - they do need to separate and maybe this is just her way - hang in there - by fall she should be back in school and she'll have more space to appreciate you! Good luck!

    From the other side -- I was just talking with a fellow parent (we met when our kids were in preschool) and we agreed that after age 22 our annoying, aggravating, misbehaving adolescents came around again and now are the decent, kind, responsible young adults we were hoping for after all the high school drama/trauma.  Hope this happens for you too!

    Hi there,

    Yes, that's normal, no, the others are not all best friends with their mom.

    I am in the same position.  Two teens who were already annoyed with me but it has increased 10 fold with being cooped up together.  What helps me is this study I heard about.  They looked at the activity in the part of the brain that gives you anxiety and agitation -- the amygdala -- in juvenile mice.  They found that baby and child mice got more anxious when they were separated from their mother, and their anxiety decreased when reunited with their mother.  This is clearly the case in most if not all mammals and makes evolutionary sense because it causes these vulnerable youngsters to cling and run to their mothers.  However, when the mice reached adolescence, they started having the opposite reaction -- they were MORE anxious when close to their mothers and LESS anxious when away from their mothers.  This also makes evolutionary sense:  it causes the mice to grow up and move away from their mothers and find their own way in the world. Well, it turns out humans have this experience too.  I don't know if anyone has studied the amygdalas of adolescent humans, but we CLEARLY see this in action.  Our teens feel the same agitation when close to their parents that makes them want to be away from us and instead with friends. Their brains actually cause this reaction to us and they know they'll feel better when they have distance from us.  This is obvious but the mice thing helps me get that we are all just mammals.

    During the pandemic these kids cannot do what they are programmed to do (get distance from us), and it is raising their anxiety and irritation.  We are the usual target for expressing that.  I think my 17.5-year-old has reached his peak and is actually slightly less rude toward us.  I'm hoping that's the way we're heading.  It's bound to happen at some point....

    Best of luck surviving this very long phase.

    Another parent from the other side... yes -- 22 was a definite turning point with my daughter. And believe me, she was a handful. Now, the person I had hoped was hiding in there somewhere has shown her face, and everything is so, so much better for us all. You will get through it, and it will be better. Have faith, and soldier forth.

  • My 16.5 yo daughter is passionately active in the protest community.  Since May 30th she has dressed in bloc and participated in sometimes dangerous marches. Starting this fall she has found solidarity with a group that gathers nightly (outdoors and with masks, so she says), despite Covid. She can't say in advance when she will be home/ready for pick up and prioritizes her activism over school and family.  Last night she returned at 4am! Her father and I are at our wit's end. On the advice of a counselor, we recently started treating her like an adult who still lives at home, but we feel powerless in the face of her cavalier attitude toward her personal safety, risk of arrest, and the steep decline in grades. On the other hand, she is good company at home, engages in spirited debates about her political views, is kind to her younger sister and helps out around the house when asked. Is anyone else going through this as a parent? 

    How great that your teen is engaged in activism for social change rather than sitting depressed alone in their room! However you must come to an agreement about COVID safety to protect you, the parents, and it would obviously be good if you can make a deal about her schoolwork. I think a lot of high school students are tanking with online classes though. It's not the end of the world. She has many years ahead to resurrect her education, meanwhile she is learning a ton by engaging with political issues and organizing in a group. Are they aware of the National Lawyers Guild and what they need to do to make sure they have legal support for demonstrations or actions?

    Well, I think you may have let the horse out of the barn already, but normally if you have a teen who doesn't respect curfew (do you have one for her?) or keep a minimum GPA, I think you institute grounding or other consequences (take away her phone etc).

    Also, needless to say, the COVID risk is greater for you and your partner than it is for her as a result of her nighttime social gatherings. If I were you, I'd lay down ground rules and institute consequences. She is a minor under your roof and you're the parent.

  • Hello,

    My son is a junior. His grades are currently all over the map— online learning is not ideal. He gets pretty decent grades but has skipped to Bs and Cs. He wants to get into a UC school but it’s not looking likely. Can anyone give a definitive answer as to what UC schools are asking for in terms of admissions during COVID? I’m not getting straight answers from admissions counselors as no one seems to know. The SAT is optional, grades are all over the place, clubs are difficult or not meeting, and extracurriculars are lacking. Kids are having a hard enough time with this pandemic—- so what do colleges want? 

    My understanding is that students need a minimum GPA of 3.0 to be admitted to a UC.

    I’m not an admissions officer, but I think multiple 11th grade C’s might be difficult to overcome for a UC acceptance straight out of high school, even with the pandemic (except for football recruits and such, who are not held to the same academic standards). He may want to look at some CSU options or consider the community college transfer path. By design, it is much easier to get into UC from community college. It’s not unusual for kids who didn’t get into Merced out of high school to get into UCLA and Berkeley from a community college, if they get good grades there.  It’s a cost-effective path, too.  I’m sure he’d get into many private colleges as well — just not the most selective ones, which tend to also have the most aid dollars to give out.  If money is not an object, I’d consider those as well.  Many of them are very good schools, and he might find the right fit at one. In my opinion, it’s all about fit. Not going to UC straight from high school is not a disaster, and he might find the path he follows instead was the right one for him all along.  

    The UC's look at grades, the answers to the personal insight questions, and extracurriculars.   He will more likely get into a UC's if he has a great answers to his personal insight questions and extracurriculars.  There are extracurriculars he can do even during COVID. He could do something related to childcare if both of you are ok with that during COVID.  If not, he could do virtual extracurriculars such as The summer ACLU high school program.  Many martial art studios and dance studios are giving virtual lessons.  He could create his own website and start a mini business.  He could help a small business with their social media. He could have a side business doing content creation. Here is a job that is a few volunteers hours a week through the United Nations  I would recommend that he try to get at least all B's but the schools do look at kids from all backgrounds. It all depends on motivation and how much he wants to make lemonade out of lemons.  Contact me for more information. 

    I am not in admissions but it seems to me that the skills that one needs to succeed academically with online learning are similar to the skills one needs to succeed in college (assuming that the quality of instruction for online learning is not the problem). For example, prioritizing going to class and doing homework can be a challenge for a lot of first year college students who have more freedom now that they are on their own. Perhaps you should focus on building up whatever skills he needs to succeed now in his current learning environment. Then focus on finding an academic environment where he will succeed in college.

    I don’t think anyone knows the clear answer to this question, as this is such an unprecedented year. This year’s grads/admissions may give you a glimpse of how UCs are prioritizing applications in the times of Covid.

    In terms of extracurriculars, your teen could look into volunteer work that would support those hit hardest by Covid in our community. The Berkeley Food Pantry has a volunteer program (outdoor, socially distanced) and Berkeley High has organized a food assistance program, I think called HelpBerkeley. Many Berkeley High clubs are now online. There are letter writing campaigns for nonprofits that can be done from home. There’s social media work that can be done from home for nonprofits. Just some ideas ;)

    my daughter is a senior this year and has been working a little with a college advisor, mostly on choosing where to apply and on her essays. The essays are going to count more in these years with no testing. Her essays really focused on the “insight” part of what they call the “personal insight questions”..... apparently they (UC) really wants to get a sense of the person and their character. And then the key is to throw in some information about who you are as a student as well. 
    I would encourage you to look beyond the UCs. It is ridiculous what it takes to get in these days.....
    But maybe these times of moving beyond test scores will be good for everyone. 

    Your guess is as good as mine, but my son, who is a senior at a rigorous high school, has a 3.0 gpa and he did not apply to any UC’s. He felt he had a chance at Merced or maybe even Riverside, and decided he would rather apply to CSUs in locations more appealing to him, as well as less competitive out of state schools. I heard from a college counselor that you need at least a 3.7 to get into any UCs, except *possibly* Santa Cruz, Riverside, and Merced. It’s actually quite difficult to get into some CSUs, too, like San Diego and Long Beach with Cs pulling  down your GPA (my son has several). The good news is Bay Area kids get preference at the local CSUs, top 100 type schools outside of California are much less competitive for admission and community college in CA should be free! There is a school for everyone, and plenty of chances to turn things around along the way. It can’t hurt to apply to UCs, but your son would probably be happier if he broadened his options. 

    My son is in community college (DVC in Pleasant Hill), where there is a TAG program.  You can automatically funnel into a UC.  Not Berkeley or UCLA, but maybe Davis or UCSC?  He's building confidence and skills there, while figuring out what he wants to do with his life. 

  • Hi, I'm guessing there's been alot of dialogue on this topic but I'm putting it out there. My 16 year old daughter is very responsible, gets her school work done, her chores (which are fairly minimal). Before the pandemic, I had a pretty strict rule that devices couldn't be in the bedroom at night, but that's gone out the window and with school online and less to do, the screen time is all the time. And I'm exhausted and feeling at a loss about what limitations I can and should put in place, since I know this isn't good for her brain or emotional health.  I never allow devices at meal time but that's like 15 or 20 minutes out of our day. I get that this is an unusual moment in time, but I feel like I should be doing more to pull her out of the screen at least a little more than I am.

    Peaksy--- it IS difficult to manage kids away from the seductive screen.  And science says it does affect young brains.  Others, here, with kids still at home, going thru what you are, will be helpful.  I have grandkids. The eldest is 22.  He was on the computer/his phone all the time. ALL the time.  Then he went away from college, and now, in his last year, he's back home, studying online. The gods seem to be against those of us who are concerned about this sort of thing. But, in his case, with the Pandemic on his own, he's become interested in wood-working. He looks at youtube instructions every day.  So far, he's made a book case, an organizer, with plans to make a chest of drawers.  He says he doesn't have time for video games, facebooking, twitter,  or 'googlin' around'.  Hooray!  Could a hobby help your daughter?  Possible to explore something together--or even hire someone to explore with her?   --- If you want to be more miserable (just kiddin') well, just in case, then check out "The Social Dilemma" film, Netflix. We couldn't watch all of it 'cause it's such a downer.  My grandson, was happy I'd seen it and he told me that he's trying to get his father to see it too.  Ha!  How's that for a turnaround?  Unfortunately, his dad voted for Trump, gawd! hard for me to believe.  Anyway-- grandson feels dad "needs to see the light" about online mind-bending.   I wish you all the best!

    I am a parent of a 18 year old.  If you have time during the week, then take a walk around the neighborhood before or after dinner or do something together on the weekends.  I would not change anything that you are doing inside your home right now because it is a special situation but I would get her outside more.   We have a lake nearby so we walk around the lake or we take short hikes and combine it with getting coffee or having a picnic.  If she is outdoors more she will have less time to look at her screen. 

    Hi Peaksy, my daughter is 17 and I am having the same struggle.  Does she have an iPhone? If you have control of your daughter's apple id account, and/or you use family sharing on Apple, you can set screen time limits for your daughter at night by turning off all access.  If you don't have her on Apple's Family Sharing, you can require her to give you access to her phone, and then you set the Screen Time limits with a secret code.  I have read that kids do figure out how to get around the Screen Time limits with certain hacks, etc.  What I have done on occasion, and may start doing, is to turn off WiFi for her device through our router (which allows us to set WiFi limits for particular devices), and I have manually gone into my AT & T app and turned off her cellular, and then turn it back on in the morning (it's a hassle, but takes about 2 minutes to turn off and turn on).  My own daughter has seen a sharp decline in getting her work done and her grades (she's a senior) so I have no other choice but to limit her time.   If you're feeling like you  need to limit her screen time, then you probably do need to do it, and require her to accept her limits.  Their phones are a privilege, not a right in my view.  I get that they need their phones for social and school reasons, but setting limits (especially now, rather than waiting) is a necessity in my view, and I wish I had done it sooner.  Good luck, these are really hard times for the teens and parents. 

    Hi Peaksy - I could have written the exact same email!  We've faced the exact same problem, and I'm sure it's a very common concern about parents.  We've wrestled with it, and here are a few thoughts. 

    First, I hear a lot of teenagers are on their screens a lot because of the coronavirus situation: they're bored, maybe even a bit depressed, and don't have anything else to do.  I hear many teenagers even acknowledge they wish they weren't on their devices so much, but they can't think of an alternative.  Therefore, telling them to stay off their screens is difficult because there's nothing to replace it with.  So you might consider instead helping them find other activities.  For example, we set a rule that our kids had to spend 30 minutes a day on some physical activity - running, walking the dog, whatever, we even allowing dancing to the Let's Dance videogame.  Or see if you can develop any interests they have - join some sport (there seem to be some available these days like running clubs or martial arts), start a garden.  It depends on their interests.  For kids who are especially social like ours, we helped him plan socially-distanced picnic with friends in a local park.  Maybe regular bike rides with friends?

    Second, 16 years old is pretty different from say 12.  At this age it seems appropriate to let them make their own decisions and manage their own time, even if we don't agree with their choices.  I have to bite my tongue a lot when my own 16-yo is sitting around on their phone for hours.  But I try to remember that they're learning from this.  I've learned that nagging just doesn't work.  What has helped me is to not think of them as a kid who needs to be corrected, but rather something like an adult who has their reasons for things.  Simply finding a way to talk to them about how they feel, in a nonjudgemental way (that's important!) helps me to hear what they're thinking, and understand them better.

    Third, as much as I dislike screens, they also have their plus sides.  For one thing, teenagers are social creatures, and screens are how they connect with each other these days (especially during the shelter in place).  What does your 16-yo do on screens?  If she's chatting with friends, maybe that's age-appropriate.  I try to focus on the good things, like the fact that they're still getting good grades.

    Finally, it depends on your parenting style how strict you want to be - you might make and enforce house rules, or only suggest them and let the kids choose.  We've thought about setting no-screen time for parts of the day, but taking responsibility away from a teen is a bit dangerous to our relationship, since I doubt they'd thank you for it.  Another idea is to put the information is front of them and help them think about it - you might watch "The Social Dilemma" on Netflix as a family, a documentary about how addictive social media is, and discuss what your teen thinks about it.

    Good luck - screen time is a big concern these days, and it's not an easy one.

    I can recommend the book "He's Not Lazy" by Dr. Adam Price.  It's a helpful perspective on how teenagers think, especially ones that seem to "opt out" and spend all their time on screens.  Our kid also spends way too much time on his devices, and we've tried different things, and this book helped us to understand him better and approach him a bit more sympathetically, and hopefully maintain a good relationship while we figure out the screen time problem.  Good luck.


    I too had more limits on my 17 year old son’s screen time prior to the pandemic. I took the phone every night which also allowed me to occasionally check texts and Instagram messages.  Now with the phone acting as his main outside  lifeline I struggled to enforce limits.  But now I’ve been able to set limits using Comcast’s internet  “pause” feature for the phone he uses. It allows you to choose a device for “pausing” for 2 or 3 hours or until you “unpause” it. I give him a set number of hours when school and homework are done everyday. Then I “pause” the phone 30 minutes before bed and it stays that way until the next day. The pause blocks all access to the internet. He can play games he’s downloaded so not perfect but it does help. I don’t pause the laptop and find his focus is texting and Instagram.  You know your daughter and this might not work. For my moodily son, it’s now funny when I say “pause” he then stops the grumbling and negativity and takes care of his responsibilities. Good luck and continue being the adult. We all have limitations and learning how to manage them now is key to becoming an adult. 

    “Pause” mom

    I'm in the same boat, but have come to the conclusion that because my kid is doing really well in school, helps out when asked, gets enough sleep, is responsible and responsive by phone when he occasionally gets out of the house, I'm going to let it go.  If he wants to be on his screen a LOT, it's ok.  He plays interactive games online with friends, watches YouTube videos, and generally just hangs out.  If his grades slip, or he becomes belligerent, or other issues arise, I'll rethink.  I just think that these kids need to cope any way they can, and connecting with peers online is just about all the social interaction they have these days.  I'm not going to limit that.  

  • socially distant activities for teen

    (6 replies)

    Our 14 year old son has been really suffering from the social isolation of COVID combined with already-existing mild social difficulties, and recent crises with depression and anxiety. He loves drama/theatre, biking, gardening, making music (makes beats, plays guitar & piano) and talking politics. He does not want more "virtual" connection in his life and we're looking for socially distant activities with other teens close to Berkeley that would give him some form of social connection. Any ideas? Thanks. 

    Gardening is good. Outside in the sun is safer. And if you have a yard, the teenagers can stay more than 6' apart easily while chatting. I suggest two projects for two different areas in the yard that don't need teamwork. Then he could invite someone over to garden and chat. One prunes the roses, the other weeds the veggies. Or whatever. 

    My daughter and three of her friends (the same three every time), have been meeting up at a small neighborhood park once or twice a week for months. They each bring their own lunch and their own towels to sit on at a social distance. Sometimes they will do parallel crafts, sometimes kick a soccer ball. I have been very impressed, they came up with this plan on their own. Does your son have a couple of friends with whom they could set up a similar situation?

    Performing Academy (formerly Lamorinda Theatre Academy) has some in person classes (stable cohort of 12).  Specifically on their website, I see a 2 week Broadway Boot Camp for ages 10-15.  It's in Lafayette.  They also are doing virtual productions, which is not idea, but maybe he'd like the interaction.  It's a hard time.

    I could have written your post exactly. My 14 year old son is feeling the exact same way. The only in-person activity he's been doing is getting together with his pod of 3 neighborhood friends to go mountain biking in the hills around us. It does a world of good for them to be able to do this. My son also loves music and writes beats and is always looking for people to collaborate with. If you'd like to ask the moderator for my email address, maybe we could connect them.

    So sorry he’s going through this! Good for you for reaching out to your community for tips. 

    My first thought is to join a social-learning pod. I have saved the info from two families I saw on Nextdoor yesterday (Oct. 4th) looking for teens who like the outdoors and are planning some really neat activities - message me and I can give you that info if you’d like. 
    I think this would be a great way to meet his needs and restore his sense of belonging and provide some levels of friendship. 
    BHS has a biking club also, not sure of the details but it’s another idea for a safe outdoor distanced form of socialization doing something he likes.

    if you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can post your own pod/group idea, like a distanced and masked gardening, biking or etc group at a set time and day each week. I see a lot of parents reaching out on behalf of their young teens in a similar situation as your son so you’d probably find some new friends! He’s not alone, and hopefully your efforts will be fruitful and not only will he find pleasant companionship and a restored sense of esteem, but also learn that life will bring down times, but you can get through them and overcome the sad period. Hugs! 


    If he has any interest at all in any of the industrial arts, The Crucible in Oakland runs awesome classes for teens   One of my kids attended a camp over the summer and their covid protocols were excellent and consistent, and he met a few like-minded kids.  He's even met a friend from that camp a few times to hang out - the crucible seems to attract some pretty cool people.  It's not just for kids - in addition to the camps, they run weekend classes year-round for older teenagers and adults.  

  •  15 year old  sophomore is not engaging in virtual schooling. Since the beginning of the pandemic his academic performance declined, I receive calls from the school about his absence from all classes.  His mom and I addressed the importance of an education, and two weeks ago had a successful meeting with the counselor and principal.  He reports "virtual school is boring". He is not motivated to do any work and to engage in classes.   I have talk to him about the benefits of an education and always try to understand his feeling and approach to this new method of attending school.  Every time we address his lack of participation in school, he only listens but does not  make any effort to change. My 15 year old foster fantasies of having a job, opening his own business for auto shop.  He wants to have  a driver's license and save money to buy a car.  However, his dreams do not connect with the reality and the tasks he needs to complete in order to achieve the goals.   Sometimes I doubt my parenting skills.  When this pandemic is over I will consider independent studies, however because his lack of motivation in virtual education - independent might not be the solution - I don't know. 

    Is this a normal phase of teenagers at age 15?   How did other parents cope with similar situations? 

    thanks in advance for the advice and support.

    It sounds like your child is motivated, but has interests that lie outside of traditional high school education. He could take  the CHSPE (high school proficiency exam) when he is 16 and start a program to learn the skills he needs to succeed as a mechanic. Maybe if he has a goal that excites him, it will motivate him to finish out his brief time in high school. 

    I’m sorry I don’t have any suggestions for you but wanted to let you know my son , an 8th grader, is the same. He often misses classes or signs on but doesn’t participate or listen. He plays video games during class. He hasn’t turned in any school work, saying it is dumb and boring. I am concerned but more worried about his mental health during this time. 
    I’m hoping he will do school work but I can’t continue the daily morning battles to get him up and attending classes. 


    I could have written your post. I don't have any answers, but I can totally sympathize with you.  You are not alone with parenting struggles!   We are all in this together.  I'm sure you will get lots of replies to your post, commiserating. 

    These are not normal times, so our teens will not be acting normal.  These times just throw another huge layer on top of the normal emotional, physical, psychological, sexual changes that adolescents and teens are also going through. It sucks.

     We have a 15-year-old ninth-grade boy who is really struggling with virtual school.  He is not engaged, not completing work (he sometimes can't even FIND where certain links are and they change depending on the teacher), is defensive, overwhelmed, stressed.  He is trying to keep on top of everything and is bored in every zoom class he has. In the break out sessions with other students, hardly anyone talks.  It's so difficult right now.  Don't doubt your parenting skills.  This is just hard.  I can't get my son to even exercise.  All we can do is give as much emotional and academic support as we can, reassurance and structure---reassurance that this time will pass and he will eventually be going into a classroom in high school, and he still needs to get dressed and brush his teeth every day.  My husband helps him with algebra (his most difficult class), and I try and help with him with written assignments he gets with social studies. We are trying to not criticize him since that would just make him feel worse.  We try to interject our days with goofy fun whenever we can. 

    BTW, he goes to El Cerrito High School. 

  • Therapist for young teen

    (1 reply)

    My 15 year old son is struggling. The isolation and loneliness of the pandemic was bad enough, but then he suffered an injury a couple of months ago that is greatly limiting his activities until this fall. His 2 closest friends have gradually stopped spending time with him and are just hanging out together. He is heartbroken and incredibly lonely. He is usually a happy and upbeat person, very high energy and social. But months of pandemic, lack of sports and friends, being excluded because he physically can’t do many activities right now - is really causing significant emotional pain. I am truly concerned about the next few months - none of these background issues are going to disappear quickly. I think he most needs a chance with new friends, but how can I make that happen? I have tried to reconnect him with his old friends but very unfortunately this is barely working. There are other background stresses too. He acts sad all the time now, or angry and irritable. I know he’s 15 but I’m worried. I’ll take any advice, but I’d most like recommendations for a therapist who works with teens and is within maybe 30 mins from the Rockridge area if possible. Thank you.

    Hello. My son is 19 now. 15 was a very difficult age. I can only imagine adding a pandemic and an injury to it.  I wonder if music (guitar or piano lessons...they have zoom ones at the Community Music Center in San Francisco) may provide some solace and direction.  Regarding a therapist, my son liked Govinda Bader. He is in Berkeley. Best of luck. 

  • 16yo son’s habits are driving me crazy!

    (15 replies)

    I could use some practical advice to influence my son’s increasingly unproductive habits. Since SIP, he sleeps/ wakes up later and later. And when he is awake he is sooooooo lazzzzyyyyyyy!  He’s 16 and strong-willed, so forcing him to get up and be productive is a recipe for disaster. Can I do it? Yes, and I have. Took his phone (I still take it overnight), gave him extra chores to “drive” productivity, etc. But it was miserable all the time and our relationship was breaking down — hasn’t actually fully recovered from that period of ongoing conflict and anger. 

    A typical day:

    - He wakes up at 1 or 2 pm. I laugh at the days I was so dismayed that he would sleep till noon! 
    - Attends whatever he’s forced to wake up for — we have him set up for enrichment and volunteer stuff that he selected. An hour and a half MAX. If the appointment starts earlier he’ll most certainly go back to bed. 
    - Eats, gets on his phone — usually in a supine position — for a few HOURS, and sometimes actually goes back to bed to “rest” (from what????!!!!!!!!!)

    - Practices basketball for an hour and a half between ~6-8

    - Eats dinner 

    - More screen coma

    - I take his phone at midnight. No screens in his room overnight. That’s our rule since forever. On the rare occasion I forget to take it he can stay up til 4 AM 
    - He still stays up until at least 2 AM, which of course guarantees he won’t wake up till 1 or 2 pm the next day: showering, applying his face routine (he’s obsessed with managing his acne), sometimes does exercises which of course keeps him revved up — essentially doing all the things he should be doing during the day. 
    - Sleeps for 12 hours. 12 HOURS!!!

    I am acutely aware that his habits might trigger me more than most because I am a classic Type A. However, this routine can’t be a good thing right? I feel like he’s living half a life and it kills me to watch. I’ve asked if he’s depressed and he’s made it quite clear that the ONLY thing that makes him feel bad is when I judge his choice to exist like this. We’ve discussed all the different opportunities that open up through the simple act of being awake when the rest of the world is active. It’s exhausting and frankly just disappointing to watch him waste his youth and energy. More than anything I’m very worried that these habits might take root in such a way that influences his lifestyle in the long term. Such a lethargic way of existing rarely leads to contentment, right?

    I don't have any supportive tips or advice. But I did want to say you are not alone; I am similarly situated. And it's excruciating to be in the parenting role with this type of thing - every direct engagement with my son is combative but disengaging feels complicit. I am working with a therapist who's got child development expertise. This helps me stay grounded (some days at least). Hang in there.

    That would drive me crazy too. I wish I had magical advice. I have 16 year old too. This is what we do for her. We made a habit chart because we both agreed that me nagging was not good for either of us. She decided what should go on the chart with some prompting from me: Move your body (this can be a walk or indoor exercise), unplug, do something for the house (this can be a chore or cooking), go outside, complete your habit chart, socialize with someone (this can be a text or playing an online game). I gave her complete autonomy and authority over what counts as what. She has not been completing the chart lately--so I'll say "your habit chart needs some love." But, what I mean is filling the chart out, not doing the stuff that is on it. I have asked her to think back and she has figured out that she does feel better when she does more things on her chart. My son doesn't need a chart, but has done better about having routines during his day. I think the key is to get buy in from your kid, which I'm not sure is going to be easy with your son. The other key, I think is to take baby steps and have him have a huge say in what goes on the chart. One thing we learned was about the "do something for the house" -- nothing ever got done. I put a list on the fridge of possible chores that would only take 15 minutes each. Still nothing. So, I was asked to provide a list in the AM of what should be done that day. Then it got done! So, a buy in to the importance of not just sitting around all day, collaboration on what should go on the chart, acceptance that very small, small, insignificant efforts constitute a win and a check-off on the chart, and editing as you go to suit your family? We also agreed that weekends were weekends and sloth was acceptable. Made that deal to get more of a buy in for weekdays. . . Good luck! 

    Was your son like this before SIP? If so, I would suggest he IS depressed and/or has a problem with executive functioning. One of the best things you could do for him in this situation (and I speak from experience) is to set a daytime screen (phone/pad/gaming system) limit of 2-3 hours with a cut-off time of 9pm.  He will hate you for a few weeks and then will begin to wake up from the coma and have a chance, at least, to re-engage with life.

    If he was a much more productive, energetic, happy teenager before SIP then maybe this is just his way of coping with the pandemic and after it's over he will return fairly easily to his former self. That doesn't make his present behavior any less frustrating (I feel your pain as I too am a type A) but it might at least allow you to be less worried about him.

    Best of luck to you. 

    You are not alone.  Most adults are fighting the urge to do what your son is doing but we can’t because we have adult lives.  My daughter is 14 and is behaving in a similar way.  She comes out for meals and spends a ton of time on her phone connecting with her friends

    as long as she is getting exercise and her mood is good I generally give her a break.  Their worlds are so different and isolating now.  They may just feel like hiding u til it’s over.  They have to find their way in this strange time.  And it could be a low level of depression.  It all depends on whether he is behaving very differently than he was before COVID.

    I want to say I feel your pain and would be very surprised if many parents of teenagers weren't nodding their heads as they read your post.  My 15 year old maintains a slightly better sleep schedule but similar screen habits.  COVID has really done a number on all of us and has directly impacted how he normally manages himself. 

    It's hard not to be triggered when you see that side indent on the bed in the shape of your son holding his phone surfing through Instagram?  Tik Tock?  Sigh.  I've decided to step back and control what I can which is me and how I react.  I value any time he wants to spend with me and encourage healthy choices.  Trying to control what he does just leads to irritation for both of us.  I am a firm believer in natural consequences and I refuse to push my choices on him so he can avoid those happening.  Otherwise how will he learn?  I focus on the productive things he does- track workouts, healthy eating, healthy friend connections (limited as they are), and repeat the mantra "this too shall pass".  Kids are resilient.  Trying to control or impart what "I" would be doing (I'm an adult, he's a teenager) doesn't matter and isn't relevant.  This is a challenging time for all of us especially our teens.

    Wishing you the best- and know you are not alone. :)

    I have to say, his sleep habits sound pretty similar to my teenage boys - the way I see it, teenagers are naturally nocturnal, and the shelter-in-place has just enabled them to revert to their natural rhythms. Their bodies are doing a lot of changing and growing at this stage, so 12 hours of sleep doesn't seem too unreasonable. I know I drove my up-at-the-crack-of-dawn former-farmer dad crazy with my hours when I was a teen, and now I'm a productive member of society, so I think it's a pretty normal phase. As long as he's getting some outside time/exercise every day, and the sleeping doesn't seem to be a response to depression, I think he's okay. The only thing I might address if it were my kid is to try to get him to spend a little less of his 12 waking hours on the phone, although I know that's a tough battle to fight - maybe there's another pastime he could cultivate - learning a musical instrument, volunteering (there are virtual options at VolunteerMatch and others), some kind of creative endeavor, reading, making videos to teach others a skill he has, etc.? Even if it's more screen-time, there are great online lessons for all kinds of things, from playing guitar to making zines; the trick is finding what he's passionate about. (If all else fails, remind him he needs some hobbies/volunteering to write about on his college applications!) You could also give him some chores he needs to complete around the house every week, to give him some structure and contribute to the family, although in my experience teens take some reminding/management in that department that might give you more aggravation. :) And maybe having a regular school schedule now, even an online one, will help even things out. Good luck! My guess is it's just a phase and he won't be a layabout forever, even though I understand it's grating on you right now.

    This is kind of a cute post.  He's 16, goes to bed late and sleeps late?  Normal.  Sleeps 12 hours? Normal. Lot's of screen time?  Annoying to parents, but normal.  Fighting parents for control of his life?  Normal, normal, normal--he's a teenager.  Here's what I see:  a kid who as far as I can tell--since you didn't mention academics--is doing fine in school, attends volunteer and enrichment programs DURING THE SUMMER because his parents want him to.  Gets regular exercise, maintains hygiene, not involved in dangerous activities, has social life.  It might be online, but that's normal for this generation, and especially during SIP.  To answer your question, such a lethargic way of existing is normal, healthy, allows him to recharge his batteries.  When he is ready to be the Type A overscheduled person you want, he will do it of his own volition, because that's what HE wants.  Just let go, everyone will be happier including you. 

    Hello, please be kind to yourself, this is a really hard time for families. And you can start making course corrections now also. I have a 17 year old son who also struggles. His bedtime (has to be in his room without any electronics except for a regular radio) is at 10 pm. The phone gets plugged into the charger in the kitchen at 9 pm.  I have the parental controls on the WiFi allowing him 2 hrs of use between 7:30 am & 7:30 pm.  I can’t make him go to sleep at 10 pm, but he generally does. 

    I made two colorful signs that he had to fill in a month ago, once I realized that we were on a slippery slope. The signs are hanging up in the kitchen now. The first is his goals —both short & long-term. And he can always add to it. The second lists Constructive Activities. Again, I had him fill it out and also gave him a few suggestions. He has to do something from the Constructive Activities or something that will make progress on his goals every day. If he wants TV time or some other privilege, he can earn that with a Constructive Activity or an extra chore. And I do take him out once a day so he can walk solo (without me!) in his favorite park, where there are girls he knows who hang out. 

    He also has online school from 830 until 315, which takes up a big chunk of his weekdays. 

    First, it is NOT intrinsically unhealthy for a teenager to sleep from 2am to noon, or for that matter from 4am to 2pm.  Nor would I be much concerned about a teen sleeping 12 hours a day when on vacation. Given how many teens (and adults, of course) do not get enough sleep, and suffer from that in all sorts of often-subtle ways, I would never do anything to discourage anyone from settling into their personally natural sleep rhythm when there's no specific reason that they have to be awake and alert in the morning!  I'm a night owl, always have been, and when I'm on vacation with schedule flexibility, 2am-noon is my natural sleep period.  Teenagers are even more likely than crones like me to have a night owl rhythm, and I cannot even begin to tell you how irritating it is that so many "morning larks" think that being more energetic and productive at night and slow in the mornings is somehow morally inferior to the reverse.  It is not.

    But second, you also have an issue with how he's spending his time when he is awake.  I'm more sympathetic there, because the glued-to-the-screen habits really are unhealthy, and besides, mama needs some chores done!  But I think that this is a problem that will largely solve itself once the school schedule starts up again. A 16-year-old who is not particularly goal-oriented is not doomed to become a lazy and discontented adult. Given the issues with getting a paying job in the pandemic, my expectations for my teens this summer have been low.  Your son is already doing more than what I'd consider the minimum -- some physical activity, dinner, and some enrichment/volunteer activities -- although I'd add some household work.  But I don't require my kids to be awake at any set time, other than they're expected to join (and sometimes, to prepare) the family dinner.  Perhaps your son would be interested in taking on a project that would either relate to some personal goal, or would be helpful to your family/household (or even both), which he could do at whatever times are best for him but the pursuit of which would get him off of his phone for at least a few hours a day and reduce your frustrations about him wasting his time.  Clean out the garage, build a deck, create an app, learn a new language?  Research college choices and likely application requirements in the age of COVID?  I think that if you see him making progress toward a specific goal in that way, you may be less upset by the fact that the progress mostly happens after your own bedtime. :) 

    Sounds super familiar. Our 15 yo daughter was doing the same without any volunteering, enrichment or basketball. She didn’t really finish the spring semester so she might be missing credits. Also decided to not take her ADHD meds any more. I just had to love her through it. After saying there was no way she’d be up at 9:15 for class or actually engage on Zoom she asked for a desktop computer because she’d need to get out of bed to use it. I applauded her self awareness and will continue to meet her where she’s at. Being a teenager is crazy enough without a pandemic.

    Do you do things together? I suggest you join his world. Play basketball with him. Or video games. Find a way to compliment him. Then ask him to work with him for an hour once a day. Cook a meal together. Or change the oil in the car. Maybe plant some vegetables. Work on the budget. Would money motivate him? Would he like to walk a dog or mow a lawn for money? Does he have any friends? Is there one person you would allow him to see during this pandemic? Do you have an outlet so that you can vent your frustration without involving him? You need to be calm and supportive and loving around him in order to rebuild your relationship. 

    I don't have direct experience with this as a parent, but I do as being like the teenager in question (yikes 20 years ago), and our son (turning 7) faced some of this when SIP started.

    Your son is depressed. Of course he's depressed. Most everyone is now. Whatever motivation he had for keeping up with the frankly bizarre ritual of early mornings (which study after study shows is against teenage sleep wake cycles), is now gone. Everything is different. Some people have been able to thrive under these incredibly hostile circumstances, but most have not. The choices that we are reckoning with as workers, parents, students, citizens, are both once-in-100-years, and forced upon us by an uncaring, unsupportive government. With the amount of money our country has, literally everyone could take a fully paid vacation to stay at home for two weeks and we could get over this. Will we? No.

    I digress.

    Your son, despite a pandemic(!!), is still alive. He's not in public without a mask (I assume), he's not stealing anything or hurting anyone (I assume). He, like all of us, is coping the best he can. If all he does, all we as a whole do, is survive and not catch and transmit covid, he should be praised. Anything beyond that is supremely impressive, but shouldn't be expected.

    Your expectations here are ... a lot. Even in normal circumstances. But particularly now with everything going on, who cares that he sleeps in and plays on his phone? I'm super impressed he's still practicing self-care and basketball. That's incredible. I bet sleep feels really great. I haven't gotten a good night of sleep in 5 months!!! (Because, well, my God there's a pandemic still happening)

    If this is really truly affecting you and your relationship with him and it seems just impossible, I recommend speaking to a therapist. I'm a very happy therapy goer for many years, and I promise they are there to help, and do! (Most people should go, but again I digress) They can at the very least help *you* to relax and get through a very challenging time, and also to help reflect on and repair your relationship--which is so critical during this time.

    Please take care of each other!

    I totally understand your frustration - I saw a somewhat similar pattern with my 14 y.o. over the summer too.  Here's my take though:  a nocturnal lifestyle may seem terrible to you but maybe it's not so bad for your son at this time in his life.  It sounds like he's meeting his obligations, exercising, maintaining good hygiene and even has somewhat of a daily schedule/routine.  All of this is really positive!  The fact that his activity takes place at odd hours in itself doesn't seem like something to battle over.  I agree with your limits on screen time and fully understand your wish that he were "doing more" with his time.  But it's summer vacation, the world is really weird now, and the fact is that most in-person daytime activities aren't happening anyway.  When I was a young teen, before I could work, I spent most of my summer reading.  My parents left me alone b/c reading was incontrovertibly worthwhile in their eyes but it wasn't exactly productive and definitely not active. I also used to stay up really late reading (still do!)--  and while reading is obviously different than screen time, I do see some parallels. Lastly I've heard that many teens have turned nocturnal during SIP as a way to carve out time/space from parents and siblings while everyone is stuck at home. Maybe he just needs some space!

    So if I were in your shoes, I'd ease up on criticizing his night owl ways, stick to your screen-time limits, focus on the positive as much as possible.  Once school starts, he will need to return to more diurnal habits to keep up with online learning etc. And hopefully soon there will be real activities again that actually seem interesting/exciting to him and will help motivate him to keep more typical hours.  Your post is really humorous so just try to hang on to your sense of humor when you're engaging with your son.  I think everything will be ok, eventually!

    I know you asked for ways to influence your son's behavior, but I think you might first rethink your reaction to it. Frankly, I don't see his behavior as all that extreme. Consider the following:

    -At adolescence, human circadian rhythms shift. Melatonin is released later at night than for adults and children, and teens' daily bio-clocks reset to a much later schedule. Our culture tends to ignore this because this schedule doesn't work with most adult schedules, but we should. School districts that have shifted their start times are finding that adolescent students whose school days start later are more alert, more engaged, and learn better. And even those whose circadian rhythms don't switch back are not condemned to less rich lives. Night owls find one another, find good jobs, find contentment, are productive. A life that plays to one's strengths makes fulfillment more attainable - even if one of those strengths is being at your best at night.

    -Most teens need 8-10 hours sleep per night; some more, few less. But society requires they get up earlier, so very few get anywhere near this amount. American teens are perpetually sleep-deprived. When they can sleep later, they do, attempting to 'repay' their sleep deficits. Pre-Covid, this meant weekends, sometimes vacation. Covid-caused schedule changes, allow teens to more closely adhere to what their bodies are telling them to do: stay up later, sleep in. (Even adults are schedule-shifting now that they're working from home, happily trading commute time for sleep.) And even well-rested teens are often lethargic. It passes.

    -If we as adults are having trouble with how to maintain social connections in the New Normal, consider how much time teens typically spend with their friends. While they are advantaged by their greater comfort with interaction via screen, we all know it isn't the same as hanging out together. Humans are social animals. And if everyone is hanging out on-line until 2am, that is where your son wants to be - and, for his socio-mental development, rightfully so. 

    -Like many adults, teens are wrestling with Covid-related anxiety and depression. Your son may be experiencing this. (If so, the answer most likely isn't getting up earlier and being "productive.") Mental health problems have spiked since March - none of us have a playbook for this. Teens have less idea of their futures than ever. Those who assumed they were going to college are wondering if there will be any actual going to college, or will the rest of their education be remote? Will they have a H.S. graduation? A prom? How do you find a sweetie when you can't interact with anyone up close? Figuring out who one is going to be as an adult has never been easy, but now???

    -I was especially struck by your statement that he is "doing all the things he should be doing during the day" at night. Why is it important that he shower, or exercise, or anything else at the times that feel right to you? This isn't harming you. You wouldn't choose it, but so what if he does? Does the water not get him as clean at midnight? Why are you risking your relationship with your son over the small stuff? He feels judged, you're exhausted. Listen to him. He isn't wasting his youth, nor is he destroying his future. Relax.

    Hi there.  My 16 year old son is very similar - especially the sleep/awake schedule.  He is also very strong-willed and we can't enforce much on him.  After school re-started, he has to get up earlier; but twice he missed class because he couldn't get up on time. He might be a bit more careful in the future about that.  But it seems manby of his freinds are also awake until late at night. ON top of that he is very exercise-averse - so his exercise habits are irregular and sparse. I feel like he (my son) has issues controlling emotions and organizing (executive skills) - and I am considering getting a coach - but I need to find a good coach first!!  I sometimes feel we could ahve perhaps disciplined him differently?? - but again, these are very different times, and I am bit clueless and giving up, and hoping for the best.  We both are wokring full time form home and remain very busy - we need to pick our battles.

  • Social distancing tween boy birthday party

    (2 replies)

    I have a boy turning 12 this summer and we're trying to think of ideas for a birthday party in late August/early September. We may all be back in school and mingling by then, but we want to have some ideas if we or other parents aren't comfortable shucking social distancing yet. He wants to have a sleepover with 4 friends, but there's only so much distancing you can do with 5 tweens in one room. We'd like to have a list of options with a range of likely contact levels to pose to parents. So far, I have some outdoor activity ideas that lend well for distancing (kayaking, horseback riding, nerf battles, paintball, go karts), and some no contact with the help of Zoom (movie watch party, playing the same video game together, outdoor scavenger hunt). With the no contact ones we'd deliver maybe pizza and cake to each family so the boys can still eat "together". Can anyone else help with more ideas that a 12 year old would find cool enough? Typically we've been able to throw great and memorable parties for around a $100 budget, so nothing too grand, though we realize we may have to be more flexible this year.

    Hi, I also have a September boy turning 12. Definitely not contemplating a sleepover, although it would be his preference! I think we'll probably do something like an epic nerf battle outside, followed by socially distanced cake or other treat (maybe something you can eat faster?). All in all, maybe 90 minutes total, mostly masked and at a distance. Maybe cool masks would be the party favor? I wouldn't choose an activity that requires a reservation (because you lose flexibility if the virus keeps worsening) or touching outside equipment (like go karts or paintball). I don't think my boy would consider horseback riding cool, or kayaks fun. Thus... nerf FTW!

    Zoom sucks for tween birthday parties - saying this from experience. They are really boring :( Outdoor backyard sleepover where everyone is in their own tent? 

  • Blended family teen pandemic hell

    (7 replies)

    There are so many intertwining pieces of this that it's hard to describe it all. Mainly I guess I am seeking commiseration with others whose teens are not getting along with their stepparents during this pandemic. Things have gotten challenging enough that it is threatening my marriage. My spouse has been in my daughter's life for about a decade. My daughter is now 16. She spends 1/2 her time at her other parent's house. In general my spouse has, for those ten years, been more of the disciplinarian. For about the past year she and my daughter have had a lot of conflicts. I think it is natural that the person who is more of the disciplinarian will become more of the target. Now my daughter has decided that she doesn't want my spouse to be considered a parent at all anymore. She is "triangulating." What makes it more difficult is that I have looked to my spouse for support in laying down the law. Left to my own devices I would be a looser parent. So, my spouse and I also have conflicts in our parenting style. And, the pandemic makes it all SO much worse. My daughter told me last night that she has been absolutely miserable for 3 months. She says she is the only one of her friends who is this alone - because all of her other friends either get along with their parents or have siblings or both. She also said it was better at her other parent's house. Basically she said it is the pits with me and my spouse.

    My spouse and I are in therapy, thankfully. Our next session can't come soon enough! I am also thinking of getting my daughter into therapy. I guess bottom line I'm seeking advice from folks who faced a situation where the stepparent was more of the disciplinarian, and then the kid made the stepparent the target and started arguing "she's not my real parent." Also advice from people who have different parenting styles from their spouse.

    I am thinking the best thing to do is to tell my spouse to lay off parenting *completely* and to work on accepting my parenting style. Easier said than done. I just know that this method is not working. Thanks for any thoughts.

    I share your misery and am so sorry you are experiencing this strife.

    My situation is similar, but different. I have always been the disciplinarian of my two children. My spouse traveled a lot (sometimes up to 50% time) pre-COVID, and is highly conflict avoidant. To him, discipline equals conflict. Over the years we polarized deeply as one of my children (now a young adult) became expert at triangulating. Our complication is that this child also has mental health and substance use issues. My spouse and my inability to co-parent exacerbated the situation. We have spent years in individual, family, and marriage therapy.

    We all became miserable and our home life became intolerable (not to mention unsafe) to the point that we split into two households. I am working toward home as a sane and safe sanctuary. The 17-year old is now acting out against me, pushing hard against my boundaries, particularly as her father has virtually no boundaries around her brother's behavior. (I'm not a hard***, and she has noted that I have fewer house rules than her friend's parents.) Through individual therapy and a lot of reading and attending support groups, I'm learning to take care of myself first, and be loving, clear, firm, and calm in my interactions with my family members. My spouse is learning to respect to run my household as is best for me, and I greatly appreciate that.

    If I had it all to do over again, I would have gotten myself and my marriage in a healthier, more co-operative, more stable place first, rather than focusing on the problems with our child. Building my skills around boundary setting, positive communication, and conflict resolution are making a world of difference.

    I'd like to share two resources:

    "The Parent 20-Minute Guide" by the Center for Motivation and Change: While it's geared toward addressing substance use, the underlaying lessons apply to any situation requiring change. I've found it to be incredibly helpful.

    "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work" by John Gottman: While this is helpful for marriage in general, specific chapters on addressing conflict, both solvable and unsolvable, would apply to your situation.

    Take care of yourself. Be strong and calm. Your daughter, and marriage, will be better for it.

    Sounds like a very challenging situation. And, as you say, everything is magnified during these pandemic times. I have a few thoughts which may or may not be helpful, based on my own experiences and what my kids tell me. 

    My teens go back and forth between my house and their dad's house. He has remarried and over time has allowed his wife to become more of the disciplinarian. I think this is so he can remain the 'good guy' and increase the chance that they enjoy being at his house, as historically they have complained about it. Also, it's easier for him. This puts a burden on his wife who has to enforce rules about chores, etc, and also tilts the bulk of the kids' interactions with their stepmother in a negative direction. Thus they don't have much affection for her. I think her view of the kids is also skewed-- not having grown up with them nor having kids of her own, she sees their behavior as unreasonable and personally directed at her, rather than just normal teenage thoughtlessness and/or self absorption. And there is not much of an underlying bond of shared experience and affection to help navigate those difficult moments. 

    It kind of sounds to me like your child wants more of YOU in their life. Like they are missing that connection. I think your idea of having your spouse back off a bit is a good one, while you get some support around being the best parent you can be. As imperfect as you may feel as a parent sometimes (as we all do.. it's a really hard job!), I think it matters a lot to our kids that they see we are in the game, doing our best, trying to do better.  And, in my experience, just showing up consistently with love goes a long way. 

    I read the book "hold on to your kids" several years ago and found that very helpful (there's a whole chapter on discipline).

    I know for my kids, having each other at their side as they go back and forth between households has been a really wonderful thing. Sometimes they can say things to each other which they can't express to any of their parents for fear of hurting them or being misunderstood. Since that's not possible for your child, I think getting her a therapist is a good idea. A place for her to freely and safely express herself and of course, hopefully get some sound adult guidance as well. 

    Good luck. You sound like a very caring parent. 

    Hi, I’m a therapist who works all the time with parenting situations like yours. I have a couple of suggestions to share with you. 

    1.  If you’re not already, focus your couples therapy sessions on parenting. It sounds like this needs to come first for a while. 

    2. Do not tell your partner to stop being the parent. It’s too late for that. She’s been the parent since your daughter was six. 

    3. Is it possible that your partner has been left with more of the childcare work in your house and so she/he had no choice but to be more of a disciplinarian? This would be especially true if in general you have always been more conflict-avoidant with your daughter. 

    3. It’s very important that you and your partner get on the same page as parents. You don’t have to have the same exact parenting styles but you do need to really listen to each other’s points of view and back each other up in front of your daughter. Have your disagreements about parenting out of earshot of her. Otherwise you will be dealing with endless splitting and triangulating. 

    4. Your daughter is the usual age for kids to start protesting about their parents. This can be much harder to go through as a step-parent and much much harder right now when you’re trapped in the house together for months. Remembering this doesn’t make living with it better but it might help you to be kind and patient with your partner. She/he is in a very difficult spot. 

    First of all, you're not alone - parenting this demographic all too often feels like an ordeal by fire.  So, hang in there and try to take some of the heat off of your partner, while empathizing with your girl, and reminding her that you're all family (ie,have each others' backs) and need to be treated respectfully.  Then, if possible, send your daughter to her other parent.  

    So sorry to hear of your difficulties. It sounds like hell and very worrisome for you as a parent, as I'm sure the issues requiring discipline need boundaries set!
    I've just read parenting with love and logic on the advice of a friend. I wish I'd read it sooner.
    I don't agree with the authors on many things, they are way more right wing than me, but the core idea seems important and useful.and their examples helped me think how to apply the idea.

    Basically the idea is that we often set expectations for our kids in order to deal with things that are not due to us. We want them to do homework but not because we like homework but because it will teach them skills that they will need in the real world. Etc. We aren't asking them to do things arbitrarily, because we made them up today. They have consequences. What happened with us is out son identified us with things about reality that he did not like. So we have been learning to push back and say this isnt how I want the world to be, necessarily, this is how it is and the way to work through it.

    The other hard step is to say, when they ignore you, I'm really sorry this bad thing resulted from your action. Sympathy and sorrow, not rescuing.
    Of course your teen has to be wise enough to understand the consequences are due to their choices.
    But you don't want them not driving drunk because you'll get mad, you want them not drink because they can kill themselves and others.

    I don't have it down pat but am trying to learn.

    It is complicated. I will provide my thoughts. First, about being alone.  Is there one friend that you would allow your daughter to see? A person that she is friends with and you think is safe enough? I really think the isolation is hard on humans and she needs at least one person that is not her parents. About the discipline. Are your wife and your ex on the same page? is your wife a control freak, or is she reasonable? As your daughter has gotten older, has she been allowed more freedoms and more choices? Is your wife good at complimenting her as well as disciplining her? Do you compliment her?

    I am concerned that you say so little about your relationship with your daughter. I get the impression that you are just waiting for her to move out and go to college. What are you doing to help her through this pandemic, which is hard on everybody? You are worried about your relationship with your wife and complaining about your daughter. Maybe you should be worried about your relationship with your daughter and complaining about your wife. Some would say that you should put your relationship with your wife first. But she is an adult. The teenager is learning about life, and we are all in the middle of time of unusual rules and regulations. I think you need to put more of a priority on your daughter's health and happiness. 

    You may want to consider family meetings, in which people say what is going well and what the problems are. See if you can all agree on fixes. Then you don't have to wait for the therapist. 

    If you want a good relationship with your daughter in the future you need to deal with the problem you've helped to create right now. My dad was always stricter than my friends' parents. It was annoying sometimes but I always knew that he truly wanted to do the best job possible as a parent. Then he hooked up with wife #3, a woman without kids who thought that she knew everything about parenting. Of course she just knew that her kids would have turned out perfectly because she knew everything about parenting. She tried to impose restrictions on us that made no sense and my dad was constantly keeping things from her because her opinions were so wacko. For example, he lent me money for a down payment and I paid it back on time with interest in accordance with the note we executed. This had to be a secret because she thought that he shouldn't provide us with any type of financial assistance for any reason. Of course she had no education and only owned property due to divorcing well. So the woman who never would have been able to buy property on her own tried to stop my dad from helping us.

    Her weird controlling behavior giot worse. She tried to prevent my dad from doing things like riding his bike because she thought it was too dangerous. He just laughed and did what he wanted until he got sick. Once he couldn't stand up to her anymore, she made her move and wrecked most of his relationships with other people. He died without getting to know his grandson because he married an insecure woman who was jealous of a baby. His life was not what he wanted but the hole he dug himself was so deep that he couldn't get out of it.

    You think that this is about your teenage daughter behaving badly during a pandemic but I bet it's just as likely that your wife is really hard for your kids to deal with. They can't escape her by going to school and activities like they're used to. You're forcing your kids to deal full time with an overly strict person who they did not choose. Im sure that they try their best to get along with her for your benefit. Have you ever stopped to consider what it's like for them to have a stranger you picked telling them what to do while you hide?

    If you dont start dealing with the problems you have allowed to happen now, you are not going to have the relationship with your kids that you want. You are probably overly focused on your daughter and missing the fact that your other kids hate their stepmom just as much. Your daughter is going to go away to college and never spend another night at your house. She'll come home to visit and stay at her mom's house, you'll see her for a meal. If that's the future you want then keep doing what you're doing. But if you want to be a happy grandpa surrounded by happy kids and grandkids, you'll deal with your spouse's weird displinary style right now and make her stop. You're the parent and it's time to start acting like it.

  • Hello,

    Wondering if anyone has experienced trying to explain to a young adult (21) that dating (at least in person, unless in distanced, outdoor context) can't happen while the pandemic rages.  I've used science-based explanations, and told my daughter, who lives with us, that I am over 60, and her dad, over 65.  She has had front yard, distanced get togethers with her boyfriend over the last 2 months, but reaches the point where she wants him to spend the night, and screams that she can't take it anymore.  I tell her, I know, it's really hard.  We're all struggling with the restrictions, but until there is reliable, available, accurate testing and/or vaccine, intimacy is off the table.  This holds for a couple weeks until the next outburst, usually timed with a get together planned in the front yard with the boyfriend.  Either the boyfriend or she are pushing to be able to spend the night together (here); when I push back and insist that she respect that the "family bubble" needs to stay intact, and tell her the estimated timeline for a vaccine, she loses it, and screams.  From what I know about the boyfriend, he is not completely following the law (in other respects) and is not well educated, and doesn't listen to reasoned, evidence-based arguments. But up to this point, he seems to have respected the limits that she has set regarding social distancing.  But then again, I still think there is pressure coming from him.  I've sent her links to articles, asked her not to scream, or make me the enemy. She has a therapist, and takes low dose of Wellbutrin.  She is transferring from community college to a UC (deferring until classes are in person) and is well-directed, and a hard worker, but I'm afraid that eventually, he will sneak into our house at night.  Please help with any tips you can, knowing that I have set limits and shared information, and tried being a friend to my kid during this difficult time.  

    I heard an advice podcast recently (What's Your Drama) that had a similar question. Their answer was to invite the boyfriend to quarantine with your family for the duration, with the understanding of how that works for your family - following your county's health orders very strictly. If that doesn't work for him, perhaps your daughter can move in with him for the duration. Not kicking her out, but with the understanding that your household is strictly observing quarantine, and if that doesn't work for her, there is an alternative. (Is your husband on the same page as you?)

    However, you may have an underlying issue that will come to the forefront once the health orders are slightly lifted but the pandemic risk is still out there - it doesn't sound like you like her boyfriend. That's a tougher issue to resolve when she is an adult, and you may have a hard time justifying your household's "social distance" in a few weeks when small gatherings are allowed again (fingers crossed).

    Bottom line is of course you and your husband are allowed to set the rules for your house, but just ask yourself if you'd feel exactly the same if you loved her boyfriend and thought he was good for her. If your adult daughter doesn't like the rules (and come on, it would be VERY hard to go without physical contact with your significant other for months!!), she should find another place to stay for the duration, even if that means you can't have contact with her for the time being.

    I have a Masters in Public Health somI really understand where you are coming from and wanting to do extreme social distancing. And I also understand that telling young adults absolutely no will certainly lead to a blow out where they will just go on their own and make very bad decisions. I believe a harm reduction approach would be best. Especially if the boyfriend is taking social distancing seriously I think some flexibility along with guidelines could reduce the risks and still allow them to spend time. For example, they could get a hotel or air bnb nearby and isolate themselves in the room so they are not exposing anyone else. He could be allowed only in her room and she would wear a mask out of the room for an agreed upon time after the visit. They could set up a tent in the yard. These along with agreements of possible self quarantine, mask wearing in the house, lots of hand washing and good hygiene can really reduce the risks. What I dont see possible is a months long (maybe a year) imposition on their being to gether. We all know that abstinence only doesnt work.  

    We have a daughter and are in a similar situation.  Except add 80 year old grandmother with respiratory issues to the situation.
    Does she know just how deadly covid-19 is?  You might have her watch a couple of videos so she understands.

    Or you might bring it home and have here learn what happened in Oakland, San Francisco during the previous pandemic.

    If your daughter is like ours you will find love/sex is a force which is far more powerful than rational thinking at her age.

    Our daughter was given the choice of living with us or with her boyfriend or friends.  I should mention she is in a higher risk group for women her age.  She has chosen to live with her boyfriend.  She knows if things don't work out she's going to have to live with friends or isolate for 2 weeks before visiting or coming home.

    We are living in difficult times.  Not sure about you, but we are expecting a second and a third wave of covid-19 to hit the Bay Area with the way people are responding.

    Until this thing burns itself out, try and stay well.  Keep your mask on and keep you distance.

    Best of luck.

    What a difficult situation you are in. I'll second the previous response. Basically, be loving and firm around your boundaries. You have a right to a safe and stable home. I assume your daughter is not paying rent (legally, it's a different situation if she is paying rent). Acknowledge her feelings, and that as an adult you respect her right to make choices and live as she chooses. You trust that she will make decisions that are appropriate for her. Let her know that you love her and that you also have a right to make choices that are appropriate for yourself. Communicate what you expect in your home clearly, and what, if any, support you will offer if she chooses to live elsewhere. Good Luck. Be Well and Be Safe.

    We've had similar struggles at our house with our son and his girlfriend who are both 19. I'm not saying we handled it in the most optimal way but I will share our experience in case it's helpful. My son and GF were a couple in high school and then they both went off to college in different states last fall.

    In March, her school on the east coast shut down. A family member in Berkeley was diagnosed with Covid so she could not go home and she had no other place to go, so she came to stay with us. This was a scary, hard decision because my elderly mother lives with us, and I am high risk too.  However the GF had not had any contact with her family, and there were virtually no cases in the state where she'd been going to college. So we decided we could take the risk and we held our breath and did it. After 2 weeks staying with us, she was anxious to go back home. We told them both that once she left, she could not come back. Son and GF agreed, and were on the phone constantly the rest of March, April, and into May, pining away, but not seeing each other in person.

    Then, 2 weeks ago, in the middle of the night, our son decided to walk down to her house to see her in person because he "just couldn't take it anymore." He stayed there overnight and was ejected by her family the next day.  When he came back, we decided to quarantine him in his room for 2 weeks following a family discussion (there are 5 of us - another son lives at home, along with me, my husband, and my mother.)  Honestly there was probably no real danger but we wanted to make the point that his actions affect the whole family, and the consequence is he has to be isolated. He accepted it.

    Last week when the city sent around "bubble" info, we agreed as a family that the GF can be in our bubble and she can come over up to 3 times per week, with advance notice. She does not go out or socialize with anyone other than her immediate family (neither do we) so we all agreed this seems safe. Son and GF have planned one sleepover next week, and another one the week after. I expected him to be pushing for more, but she suggested the days, and he seems really happy to have a plan. We also invited her to join the family on a getaway for a few days in August, and they are both over the moon about that.

    So I would say just give them a little bit that you feel is safe, and it will make them really happy!