Updated: Nov 17, 2020
It's Monday and while I don't normally have a "bad case of the Mondays", I seem to today. In class, I wondered aloud to my students: What do you do when you are feeling "off"?
The responses were typically teenager: I go to my room, I watch Netflix, I play video games. I noticed they all wanted to turn inward and introvert.
So I revised my question: What do you need when you are feeling off?
A hug. Some food. A break. To laugh. To play soccer. To be with my friends.
They want to be with ... be extraverted so they can feel normal.
It is not normal times. Instead of having organized activities for your teenager (be that sports, clubs, theater, a job) they are at home. Craving connection. This is where you can step in.
Praise them for something small. "Thank you for hanging up your jacket. I really appreciate your thoughtfulness." Yes. It does seem like something they should already do AND overkill on the praise-front. It will also mean the world to them and what are you losing in the process? Nothing. So, one quick compliment for something simple has a large return on investment. They are seen doing something good, you have opened up to them, they feel good about themselves.
Ask about their friends. If it is hard to feel rejected, yet again, from your teenager's inability to tell you anything, ask about their friends. The low-risk question is the best: "What does lunch look like at school right now? Who do you eat with?" or "I bet Charlie is missing soccer, how is he doing?" Consider avoiding statements like, "I saw Joey's mom at the grocery store and she said..." because they think you shared something about them to Joey's mom. Avoid turning to gossip, instead, role model compassion and concern.
Revisit a memory. A fun way to connect with your teenager is to remember the details of a family memory. "I was thinking about the time when..." And get into telling the story. You have an audience, yuck it up! Perform the memory for your teenager. The bid for connection is one only you can make.
More than anything, a small action has large impact.
Let me know how it goes!