Right now tech is your friend – encourage your teen to use it as inspiration to learn something new, to get creative, to connect with family and friends, for exercise, ideas and ways to help others.
Here are a few ideas we have come up with:
YouTube – as you’re probably aware, you can learn pretty much anything on YouTube – challenge them to find three inspiring videos to share with the rest of the family each day – this encourages them to think of others (altruism is a good protector of mental health), to think laterally, it encourages good judgement and it will broaden their horizons.
TED talks are a brilliant way of learning about a subject from an expert in their field and there are so many topics to choose from – there’s something for everyone.
KHAN Academy – find free lessons on everything from maths to African rock art.
Touch typing is a great skill to have and there are lots of websites they can learn for free, Typing Club is one – a few minutes a day and by the end of shutdown they will by typing at speed.
Media Smart aims to raise young people’s interest in creative careers by challenging 11-16 year olds to design their own advert. They will be challenged to design an entertaining and persuasive public health campaign to encourage their peers to eat more vegetables.
If you have a musical instrument lying around which no-one has ever bothered to use why not encourage them to download one of the many free apps and get learning – there is Joy Tunes, Justin Guitar and probably a lot of you have a recorder lying around left over from junior school days.
Learn to create digital music with apps – Bandimal for younger ones and Bloom for teens are both good.
ART is Fun gives great lessons for all ages and is free – how about having a daily create challenge such as creating something out of paper and it can’t be a snowball or anything you have made before – origami.me is giving me some clues!
As the only pasta one seems to be able to buy right now is Ann Summers penis pasta I am guessing you must all have a decent stash in your houses so perhaps tomorrow you could take on the Build a Bridge strong enough to support a bag of flour challenge from the Dyson foundation website.
Encourage them to learn to cook – there are so many free online recipes and videos out there. Lorna Wing Cookery offers Teen cooking courses – it’s not free but if your child is doing DofE they get their skill at the end.
And then there are others to keep us active – apparently 2 million people joined Joe Wicks – the Body Coach’s first workout video for the Corona pandemic – have a look around online for all manner of fitness classes you can do from home – so far I have found everything from yoga, kick boxing and spin to get fit in your living room.
And then there’s the stuff that isn’t online … Think back to all the things you used to enjoy doing before the advent of the internet – reading books, creative writing, building dens, cooking over a campfire, soap or wood carving, press flowers, create a photo album, build matchstick models, bake a cake – and I could go on with playing board games, cards or charades – you could even have a virtual game of charades which is what we have planned to do with other family members on Saturday via Zoom. Having said all that please don’t overload yourself trying to think of ways to entertain them 24/7 – there is nothing like a period of boredom for sparking creativity but do encourage them to consider what they are doing to keep life in balance.
Chores like doing the washing and ironing, loading the dishwasher, hoovering and cleaning, changing their own bed sheets and tidying their rooms are a great way of increasing self-confidence, getting teenagers ready for life beyond home – and of course just generally helping out.
The last areas to consider are social and community and I am sure they will have plenty of thoughts on how to stay in touch with their friends – Houseparty is a great app for teenagers but be careful if you are going to let younger ones on it. The safest social media app I have come across for children is GoBubble. For fun they might like to organise a Virtual Quiz for their friends – perhaps with questions on films/tv, music, sport, general knowledge and more.
PLEASE remember how important socialising is for young people and especially for teenagers who are trying to create a little distance from us parents. The peer group gives them the safe space to find their adult identity which is the main developmental drive of adolescence. Being separated from friends is tough and social isolation is not good for our mental health so relax and let them socialise virtually as often as possible.
Helping in the community is a great way for teens to feel a sense of purpose – it’s a little tricky right now but perhaps your area has a facebook page where your teens could volunteer to help – do an online order for someone who can’t access a computer, or deliver food to someone in need – perhaps they could do some climate change campaigning or start up a social enterprise..
There are so many things our teens can do to keep occupied during this isolation period and these are just a few ideas. At times like these, I think it is safe to say that the one thing we can be deeply grateful for is technology.
We would love to hear your suggestions so do email them to us.
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