Most of us can remember the spring of our senior year in high school: the prom, the parties and the culminating event of graduation. The spring of one’s senior year is so unique that it has a popularly-known malady: senioritis. Most seniors contract a hearty case of it but recover during their introduction to post-high school life.
Today all teenagers face a real virus: Covid-19. If you love a teenager, you may notice certain behavioral “symptoms.” Perhaps you’ve suggested the antidote that they stop being self-centered and look at the needs of others around the world. In a broad sense, you are correct in your prescription. But, the purpose of this article is to think more deeply about our teenagers’ realities during this time of disruption.
- The death of their dreams: For years they have dreamed of the last home game on their home field, the spring recital or the Honors Day recognitions for which they diligently studied. Those dreams are gone, and they are trying to figure out how to grieve these losses. Grief is a process, and everyone grieves differently.
- The loss of their mobility. One of the biggest moments celebrated in the lives of teenagers is the acquiring of the drivers’ license. It fulfills their greatest yearning: freedom! Now they are facing this loss due to city mandates. Their fear of staying home 24/7 has been realized.
- The confrontation of mortality. Teens are known for their false sense of invincibility, but their connections through social media make it impossible to escape an awareness of those who are sick and dying. They may not believe it could happen to them, but they understand it could happen to older family members. Without a strong sense of faith and spiritual understanding, it’s even more frightening.
What can adults do to help?
Don’t minimize their pain
Encourage them to talk about their feelings when they are ready to do so. Don’t tell them how it was in your day. Listen to how it is for them.
Introduce sound theology
No, it isn’t God’s will that people get sick and die. It is a result of living in a fallen world. He knows all that is going on, and God’s heart breaks along with our hearts.
Help them minimize their frustration
Our amount of frustration can be defined by the gap between our expectations and our reality. Help them determine ways to narrow this gap and reduce frustration. How can we lower expectations during this time? Can we raise the level of their reality through different activities or connections that make each day a bit easier?
Encourage them, but don’t make promises you can’t keep
Things may worsen before they get better.
Make it your goal that they look back and remember this as a time in which you walked alongside them, rather than tried to correct every flaw in their outlook. Who knows? We may be standing on “holy ground” during these days. Let’s not merely grit our teeth and endure them, but “make the most of every opportunity.” (Eph 5:16)