If you have a teenager in your house right now, this is probably not the most fun time you’ve had in the history of being a parent.
That’s because, not only are you dealing with your own stresses, but you’ve also got a kid stuck inside your house who feels like the world is ending because all the freedoms they so recently were given have suddenly been ripped away.
And if your kid is feeling similar to how my kid has been feeling, they’ve probably been looking for loopholes.
Anyway, I’m here to help. Just copy and paste the following FAQ into a document, insert names where applicable, print it out, and leave it on their bedside table tonight while they’re sleeping.
Or just read it to yourself, and remember that you’re not alone in your struggle to keep your teenager at home.
Teenager: So do I really have to stay home for the next month?
T: What about (insert closest friend’s name here)? We’ve seen each other every day for as long as I can remember, so we can’t possibly be exposed to each other any more than we already have been. Can I at least go see them?
T: Why not?
Because that’s in direct violation of the stay-at-home order.
T: Can I meet them at the grocery store and shop for food for us with them?
That’s a bad idea.
T: They say it’s OK to go for a walk or a hike to exercise. Can I meet them for a walk or a hike?
That’s actually not a good idea either.
T: Why not?
Are you going to drive separately to meet, and are you going to stay at least six feet away from them the whole time?
T: I mean, it’s not like I’m going to bring a tape measure and check. Geez. OK, well, do you have a set of golf clubs I can borrow?
I have a set of golf clubs. Do you even know how to play?T: Arghhh! This is so not fair. (Pulls out phone and produces a photo on social media) I mean, how come it’s OK for (insert friend’s name here) to hang out on a dock on the lake with a bunch of her friends?
It’s not. She’s behaving like an idiot. They all are.
T: What can I do?
SO many things. You can go do the grocery shopping for us, but it cannot be used as an opportunity to meet up with a friend. While I don’t recommend walking or hiking with a friend given what’s going on, I also understand that it is safer to walk or hike with someone, especially if you’re female. We can talk about this on a case-by-case basis – or one of us can go with you. But if you absolutely must meet a friend to walk or hike, you absolutely must practice social distancing. This is non-negotiable.
I know all of this feels isolating, but you can actually stay way more connected to your friends than your parents could have if this had happened when we were kids. That phone, that tablet, that computer – they allow you to spend as much time with your friends as you want. I realize it’s not the same. But it’s far better than nothing.
(Oh, and if you wanted to do extra schoolwork anytime you are battling boredom, I would applaud that.)T: (Frowns) Do you think they’re going to extend the stay-at-home order beyond April 30?
What I can tell you is that – if people like (insert name of the friend in the lake-party photo) keep ignoring the order, keep hanging out in groups, and don’t practice social-distancing – more people are going to get sick, and if that happens, then yes, they’re going to extend the order beyond April 30.T: (Tear rolls down cheek) I seriously think I’ll go insane if they extend the order beyond April 30. Do you realize that I might go insane if they extend the order beyond April 30?
Take a deep breath in, then let it out. Come on. You can do this.
There are a couple of things for you to think about here that are helping your parents stay focused. One is the most obvious, which is the fact that we’re genuinely trying to do our part to flatten the curve. To stop the spread of the virus. To keep people from getting sick and dying. If people like (insert name of the friend in the lake-party photo) aren’t thinking about that – if they’re scoffing at the order – that says something about them. And it’s not something good.
But the other thing to think about is this: It’s not like you’re being asked not to eat, or to ration water. It’s not like you’re being asked to stop using electricity, much less Instagram or Snapchat or TikTok. All you’re being asked to do is to stay at home, and the reason you’re being asked to do that is so that you can more quickly return to leaving home again, and doing all the things you love and appreciate, with your friends, that you’re missing right now. Proms and graduations. Religious gatherings. Shopping malls. Movies. Concerts. Days on the lake. Birthday parties. Vacations. And on and on and on.
Basically, you are doing this so you can get back to a normal way of life. So all of us can. So that we can have fun together again, yes, but also so we can all get back to work – so that we minimize the damage to the national economy your generation will be inheriting.
Look, I get it. It feels like torture right now. It’s not fun for your parents, either. But in the grand scheme of things, the sacrifice you’re being asked to make is – when you really stop and think about it – relatively modest, and absolutely worth the reward.
T: Sigh. Anything else?
Yes: Hang in there, kiddo. I love you.