This question was posed by a parent of a teenager who is still not engaging in his personal life due to the lasting effects of the pandemic. Here is what was shared:
Parent: I have two children who have been home since the start of the pandemic. While my teenage daughter has excelled in school and now connects with her friends on a regular basis, my teenage son barely passed his classes last year, has disengaged from his friends, and prefers playing online games over anything else. What can I do as his parent to help my son re-engage socially in the upcoming school year?
You are not alone in your concern as many teenagers are still experiencing lasting effects from the isolation and cancellation of social activities despite the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions.
According to a 2021 national poll (1) conducted by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, Michigan Medicine, 46% of the parents of teenagers polled say they have noticed their teen has developed "a new or worsening mental health condition since the start of the pandemic.” Consequently, teens have turned to texting, social media, online gaming, and talking on the phone to interact with the outside world.
Author and pediatrician Dr. Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD MSED FAAP, states in his book “Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings” that teens commonly deal with stress “by either indulging in unhealthy behaviors or giving up completely.”
In the absence of in-person peer relationships, it is even more important for your family to provide the necessary support that your son needs to help him develop what Ginsburg calls “the seven crucial C’s: competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping, and control” so he can build resilience and recover from the stress that the pandemic has left him with.
It is the family that can provide your son with a source of care and emotional support he needs by providing practical, financial, and material help, according to raisingchildren.net.au. It has been shown that family relationships remain important to teens despite the common notion that the family becomes less important to teens in adolescence.
Furthermore, it is the everyday activities that your family does that can provide a strong foundation for your son as he re-engages socially, according to raisingchildren.net.au:
1. Family meals
2. Family outings
3. One-on-one time
4. Celebrating your child’s accomplishments
5. Family traditions
6. Household responsibilities
7. Family rules
8. Family meetings