Helping Teens Cope with Covid Stay-at-Home

Parent Q&A

Remote learning and too much homework Feb 2, 2021 (4 responses below)
Teen daughter doesn't want to be around us - is this normal? Jan 27, 2021 (10 responses below)
How to parent risk-taking teen activist during Covid Dec 1, 2020 (2 responses below)
What’s happening with college admissions? Nov 16, 2020 (8 responses below)
Daughter can't wake up on her own and resists cleaning her room Nov 5, 2020 (12 responses below)
Needing advice on screen time limitations for 16 year old Nov 1, 2020 (7 responses below)
socially distant activities for teen Sep 28, 2020 (6 responses below)
Teenager not engaging in virtual schooling Sep 11, 2020 (4 responses below)
Therapist for young teen Aug 22, 2020 (1 responses below)
16yo son’s habits are driving me crazy! Aug 10, 2020 (15 responses below)
Social distancing tween boy birthday party Jun 30, 2020 (2 responses below)
Blended family teen pandemic hell Jun 15, 2020 (7 responses below)
Young adult wants to continue dating during pandemic May 25, 2020 (5 responses below)
  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • 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. 

  • My teenage daughter cannot wake up on her own, and I have facilitated this by always waking her up. She has also been on a medication that had a sedating effect, but she is tapering off of it and will be off soon. Additionally, she stays up too late at night and then is always tired during the school day, so she naps during her asynchronous times and I wake her up multiple times during the day. This is becoming a very big hassle and she is completely dependent on me to wake up. Do other parents that have experienced this problem have suggestions for me? I will be taking a multi-pronged approach to this issue.

    On a second note, she is a star student and extremely disciplined about her academic work, but her room is very dirty and disorganized. Both she and her father say that it is not a big deal, since it is her room. We did not establish a pattern of her cleaning her room regularly when she was younger, so unfortunately this is something we are dealing with at 14. More broadly, she feels like her job is to be a successful student, so she is very disinclined to do housework. She is also an involved athlete, so her spare time can seem relatively small between school, athletics and fitness. All of us in our family tend to focus on our work but let the rest of the house get disorganized, so this is a larger family pattern that manifests in the most extreme way with her.

    I would appreciate your thoughts on either of these issues.  Responses that are relatively constructive and kind are welcome- I already have plenty of negative self judgement about this situation. Thanks.

    I'm not a doctor but to me this sounds like depression or another medical condition. It does not sound usual to nap multiple times during the day at age 14. I would start with both a physical and then removing privileges like sports until she fulfills her household responsibilities.

    I agree with the poster who said this sounds very unusual and like depression or a medical condition. I’d solve that first. Then, to keep your own sanity, write down the things your daughter is doing right and feel gratitude every day. You’re lucky!! Then, I think the messy room is normal at 14 but if there’s a family dysfunction you and your husband should tackle this together vis a therapist or counselor. When you’re modeling an organized home, she’ll gradually get on board. And finally - I am very neat and clean. I run a tight ship. All rooms are 90% organized and I hate clutter. But ... all of my teen years my room was HORRIBLE. I literally carved a path from bed to door. My mom didn’t care much. There was moldy food on the floor! I had a (wild) mouse for a year! I often lost things for weeks. She did put me in full charge of my own laundry tho ... but the net is, the instant I moved out, I became neat.  Cheers

    As a parent that missed all the signs of my adolescent son’s 3 sleep disorders (Delayed Sleep Onset, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, and Central Sleep Apnea), I highly recommend ruling out these diagnoses. Adolescent sleep requirements are uniquely demanding, as are a teen’s school and extracurricular activities. Which makes it all the harder to distinguish between routine fatigue and other more complex issues with sleep and rest. My son’s teen-like behaviors masked his sleep disorders. It took a home sleep test followed by numerous sleep lab studies to pinpoint the reasons for his energy swings, behaviors and sleep patterns. (And he lost his first year of college getting all that sorted out.) That’s my experience and recommendation: just be sure of what you are working with.

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  •  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. 

    What you are describing in the range of normal.  You kid has ambitions and dreams of doing something with his life.  You should encourage him to pursue his dreams.  Our education system pre-covid just isn't designed or equipped to deal with students who have dreams other than going to college.  I'm a college instructor with 25 years teaching experience and I will be honest with you I just don't why teachers and school administrators think they can teach online classes in the same way face to face classes are taught.  From what I have seen just about all of the online instruction I have seen sucks.  It's no wonder your kid would rather be doing something else.  My partner teaches K-5 and agrees with me even after being trained how to teach online courses.  This is not to say I'm blaming the teachers, they were taught for years and were hired to teach face to face so it's unfair to blame them. I have taught online classes. The way I teach any online classes (same subject) online vs. face to face is completely different. 

    Back to your son.  I was like your son and my son at that age was the same.  Why not support you kid with his dreams?  Support what he wants to do instead of forcing him to do something he's not interested in.  You say he's interested it getting a job in the auto business.  He's 15, no reason he can't get a job.  I do something similar with my students, its called an internship.  Are there any auto places near you where you son could get a job?  Turn this into a research/business project for your son.

    Does your son "really" need to graduate from high school to be successful in life? High school graduation rates in our country are about 75% and as we have seen you do not have to have a college degree or high school diploma to be successful in life.  (But it can't hurt.)   Does the high school have a work-study program?  Why not see if your son would be interested in getting a part-time auto job and work on his GED?  He could take business classes at any of the community colleges in California.  

    Covid isn't going away anytime soon.  In the college world we were just told campus will be closed spring semester.  Make the best of the terrible situation we are in and support your son with his dreams.  Remember you don't need a high school diploma or SAT scores to go to college.  Should his dreams change he still he can always still go to college.

    Just my point of view as an educator and someone who can identify your son's actions. 

  • 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.

    RE: Therapist for young teen ()

    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. 

  • 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. 

  • 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.