I remember almost every detail of my first day of high school. What I wore (no uniforms in public school back then), my first period French class and most of the kids in my class. I came from a relatively small private Catholic school, so entering a big public high school was a huge deal. My high school memories were (mostly) amazing, and I look back on those years fondly.
This year my oldest daughter is starting high school for the first time - during COVID-19, in the middle of a pandemic. It’s not what any of us pictured would transpire six months ago, but here we are.
In South Florida many schools are starting the year virtually, particularly high schools. All public schools are going virtual for a month and then evaluating the state of the pandemic, and some private schools are either all-virtual or coming back hybrid. There are some exceptions, but predominantly the class of 2024 will be mostly virtual for the near future.
What that means is that, for a lot of us, our kids will be schooling at home for a while. After being home together, here are some truths and lessons I’ve learned about adolescents in the pandemic:
They need social interaction
Adolescence is when most kids would rather spend time with their friends than their parents. Sorry mom and dad, but it’s true. And it’s completely normal and an important part of their development. Given that COVID-19 has cancelled nearly every opportunity to socialize in person, kids have gathered online for virtual proms and birthdays, and taken to popular applications like Houseparty, TikTok, Snapchat, and every social channel that lets them interact and express themselves. Which leads me to…
They’re online more than ever
Pre-COVID-19 we no doubt worried about the amount of time our kids spent online. Now they have no choice but to be online for school, to talk to friends, and to feel a sense of normalcy. My advice on this is - for now - let it be. Being online (safely) offers a window to the world and they need it right now.
They’re forging an identity outside of your nuclear family
Adolescence is also a time when kids start to look for their place. They become aware of social and political issues, and gravitate towards other kids who share common interests. There may be times your child may disagree with your views of the world. The best you can do is accept that it’s okay to see things differently, and encourage them to be inquisitive and evaluate all sides of a situation - so they’re forging their own opinions and not being swayed simply because, “everyone else is doing it.”
Their world has been turned upside down and they’re dealing with it
My daughter has taken up sewing, upcycling and decorating. I got her a subscription to Glamour and Elle magazines, and she’s been working on her designs. In this situation, she’s discovered a love of fashion outside of shopping, and a real interest in the fashion and apparel world. If your child has taken up a “quarantine hobby,” encourage their interest and support them in the best way you can.
A dear friend once told me that things don’t happen “to” us, they happen “for” us. Based on that, I’d like to believe that this unique point in history is teaching us - and our children - the importance of living in the moment, finding new ways to do things, even if it’s not the way we envisioned it.
Perhaps it’s teaching us that resilience and adaptability are the most important traits of all.