Dr Fay Lewis Programme Leader for the MA Education at UWE explores ways in which older teenagers can maintain a sense of purpose during lock down.
With work being set by schools and an impressive (if overwhelming) array of online facilities, families may be finding that there is more than enough to keep young children busy. However, it may be a different story for older teens. Those, in particular, in Year 11 or 13 have had to deal with a rather sudden and dramatic change in life with a shift in focus from the big exam push to, well, nothing!
The following is by no means a list of how to parent your teen (who would be daft enough to think that they have got that sussed out!) or a list of resources. Rather, it is some collective thoughts from parents of those who find themselves in this rather strange hinterland, attempting to help our young people maintain a feeling of purpose during lockdown.
Do future you a favour
Focus on what you plan to move onto next. What is it that you can be working towards that may give you a head start or make life easier when you move onto the next stage? As well as the Oak National Academy and BBC resources for teaching or learning, for those moving onto academic studies learning to touch type or how to use programming skills such as Python, or statistical packages may be skills that you are thankful for in the future. Unifrog and Futurelearn are just two examples of where a wide range of courses can be found, with companies such as JSTOR making their materials free online too. Vocational skills are also important. Whilst it may not be possible to undertake practical activities think about complimentary skills such as basic maths that you may need or using packages such as photoshop or excel. Read blogs or watch you tube videos in related areas as much as possible to give yourself a head start.
General life skills
Again, this is about doing future you a favour. What skills are you going to be thankful that you have developed in a few years’ time? Now may be a good time to start to brush up on the theory element of the driving test, learn how to change the oil, a wheel or even just top up the water in a car. If you have a bike, learn how to service and maintain this. Perhaps you could practice making some basic meals? Jamie Oliver on Channel 4 has some great ideas for getting inventive with what is left in the cupboard! More confident cooks could ask for the family food budget for the week, write a meal list and shop for this. If there are some tins of paint available learn how to paint and decorate your room, learn how to put up a shelf or a picture etc. For those with the travel bug consider brushing up on language skills, plan a future trip abroad or explore types of temporary or volunteer work available overseas for when life starts to return to normal. Think about how you want to live and what will help you to get there.
Helping others is a great way to feel good! Keep an eye out for local volunteer groups. If it safe to do so you may want to spend some time helping out by doing food shopping or collecting medicines etc for those in isolation. If your circumstances won’t allow this try setting up a regular email or facetime exchange with someone who is in isolation on their own. Connections with younger children are great. Perhaps you could video call younger relatives, children of friends or children that you babysit for and offer to read them a story, play a game or even listen to younger children reading to you. You could help them to brush up on their football skills or offer help with school work. More widely, you could research charities that need support, this doesn’t just have to be financial support, raising awareness can be vital to these groups too.
Even the least sporty teen is used to a certain level of activity whilst at school or college and it is easy when out of normal routine to slip into a sedentary lifestyle. Find what works for you whether it be Bollywood dancing, martial arts or couch to 5K. The Joe Wicks PE sessions are designed for younger children but can be great fun for people of all ages. Other celebrities such as Oti Mabuse and Davina McCall are both making materials available online. Professional and amateur sports clubs have all been working hard publishing training suggestions and resources. It may be that you find something in particular that you enjoy or that you try out a variety of new activities and develop a new hobby.
The things that us parents have moaned about for years really to come into their own at them moment. Teens are great at connecting with friends via a number of platforms but remember that virtual face to face catch ups are just as important as sending messages. You may have family members who are living in lonely conditions at the moment who would very much appreciate short, regular catch ups.
Do something you love
What is it you really enjoy? Whether your passion lies in drawing, football, robotics it is important to maintain your interests and spend time doing something that you find really interesting, becoming absorbed in something that fascinates you on your own or through an online course can be very relaxing. If music is your thing Whatsonlive.co.uk have a list of some free and some chargeable concerts or you could try dipping your toes into a new genre each week. Many zoos such as Edinburgh and Dublin have set up online zoo tours if you love animals. For readers, Amazon have increased their range of free books, e.g. through Audible. Anyone who loves the theatre should take a look at Patrick Stewart reading #ASonnetADay on his Facebook Page. The National Theatre showing various West End productions, the Royal Opera House, Royal Shakespeare Company have also made many performances available for free online. Think about what it is that you love and how you can explore it in new ways. A simple google search of the name of your hobby pus the words ‘at home’ can unearth a treasure trove of ideas and activities
But be safe…
Online safety will be of particular importance currently. Vodafone digital parenting, Thinkuknow, The Safer Internet Centre and Digizen are all great examples of websites providing information for educators, parents, carers, and young people about online safety. More widely, whilst structure is good, imposing a schedule may only breed resentment, instead let your young person take charge of this for themselves. If they can do a few aspects from some of the above themes it may help them to avoid drifting the days away in a haze of Snapchat/Instagram/XBOX etc. We can only hope!