By Hope Bolinger, Crosswalk.com
No doubt, many high schoolers are feeling a mix of confusion and disappointment as they are being required to stay at home for the remainder of the semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although they likely want to keep themselves, their classmates, their friends at youth group, and their teachers and pastors safe, they’re missing the final events of their high school year or career due to the stay-at-home orders issued across several states and countries.
Many high schoolers, especially those graduating this year, will miss entire sports seasons, musical and theatrical performances, clubs, after-school activities, and milestones such as prom and even, possibly, graduation. It may feel as though they’ve been robbed of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities before they take gap years, pursue a trade, attend a college, or acquire a job.
Certainly, everyone has felt the strain and effects of the coronavirus. But how can we uplift the teens who may have had to say goodbyes too early to friends and groups they enjoyed spending time with before the pandemic grew?
These may not uplift every teen, but here are four helpful ideas:
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1. Listen to Them
Many teens may be hiding how they feel about this situation because they’ve noticed the stress and anxiety of those around them. Maybe their parents are now nervous about finances, and they don’t want to add onto the negativity of everything happening inside the house.
Reach out to teens in your youth group, or in your own household, and ask them how the situation has affected them. Ask how to pray for them (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13), and allow them to have a space to express how they feel during this pandemic.
Not everyone will open up, but they will appreciate the opportunity to be heard and listened to. Plus, most people do value the power of prayer. If someone knows you’re praying for them, that can uplift their spirit.
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2. Have a Fun Game Night
Especially now far away from friends at youth group, teens may only be able to connect with one another via social media and video-chat apps.
Use this technology and create a game night with those teens who may feel trapped at home or uncertain of how to spend their time outside of online classes.
One of my personal favorites to play in a group setting is Jackbox Games, but get creative with it. Try to find games you can play in separate houses in one Zoom meeting. Some of these could be Mafia, Pictionary, Charades, among others.
Although you could choose to do one game night, maybe make it a consistent weekly activity, so they can look forward to Wednesday nights, or whatever night you choose.
In addition to having a game night, take a break and offer a Scripture lesson or video lesson on what your teen would typically see at youth group. If you have a teen at home who wants to have something to look forward to, have a board game night, and spend an hour or so as a family.
Psalm 133:1 extols people to live in unity. What better way can families and friends from youth group do so than by meeting once a week and enjoying time with one another?
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3. Create “Adulting” Milestones
Maybe your teen, or the teens in your youth group, won’t get a chance to go to prom this year or participate in a spring sport. Nevertheless, you can create milestones from them to accomplish at home, before they head off to college or in an apartment.
Some of these can include:
Learning how to cook: With many local restaurants being shut down, and chains only offering delivery or pick-up, there’s no better time than now to teach your teen some basic recipes.
Learning how to change the oil in a car: Or other mechanical know-how. If you are savvy with cars or all things automotive, teach your teens these life skills.
Learning how to balance checkbooks/doing taxes/all things finance: These may not sound fun, but your teens will thank you later for teaching them how to do this.
You can even have a reward for accomplishing an “adulting” milestone. It can be something as silly as a certificate you create on Canva, or maybe you can offer a grand prize of a $10 gift card to whichever teen creates or learns the most milestones.
In addition to these, you can create weekly challenges for reading the Bible and memorizing Scripture verses. After all, “adulting” doesn’t just apply to our physical skills. We’re also called to become spiritual adults (Ephesians 4:14). Consider even studying a book of the Bible together and having weekly discussions about it.
Luckily, most people will have access to some sort of Bible whether a physical book or numerous Bible apps.
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4. Display Gratitude and Hope
Although teenagers may not always show it, they do look to their elders for examples on how to live. If their parents or youth group leaders bombard them with their own anxiety, stress, anger, and other negative emotions, they may reflect the same.
After all, Scripture does say that bad company corrupts good character (1 Corinthians 15:33).
We are all experiencing a stressful time. Many of us have lost a good portion of our income, if not all of it. Many local stores, restaurants, and churches are struggling with incoming funds, now that everyone must operate on an airtight budget.
Nevertheless, despite these circumstances, we can trust in God and display gratitude for what he has given (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and show hope and faith that he will carry us through this time and provide for us in our time of need.
This doesn’t mean putting on a smile and faking it until you make it. But it does look like having genuine conversations with your family or those in your youth group by showing where you are worried, but also that you trust in God to provide. That way teens can feel safe to express the same emotions or sentiments.
One way to display gratitude is to invite all teens in an online group to share something they’re thankful for that happened that day or week. Encourage them to keep gratitude journals, and to pray using a method known as ACTS.
Adoration - Praising God
Confession - Confessing our sins
Thanksgiving - Displaying gratitude
Supplication - Asking God to provide for needs
Why Does Supporting Teens through Loss Matter So Much?
First, teens are the next generation of Christian leaders. If we fail to exemplify godly living now and care for them during their greatest time of need, they may struggle to lead the next generations to Christ. They may find themselves falling away after a great period of stress, doubt, and turmoil (Matthew 13:1-23).
It also matters because teens do not often feel heard or understood.
By bridging that gap, we show that we care and that we value their opinions and want to care for their anxieties. We give them a safe space to express themselves and that can often lead to deep conversations about faith, God, and any other number of things of spiritual importance.
And when we uplift others, we most often find ourselves uplifted as well.
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