How Can I Keep My Teen Busy This Summer While Social Distancing? Summer of 2020

by Samurai Mom

How to Keep Your Teenager Busy During Social Distancing: 52 Experiences for Summer 2020

In a world gone sideways, many activities that our teens would normally be doing this summer are out of bounds. We can try to make the best of social distancing while shoring up physical and mental health. If you’re able to look past the immediate upheaval, there are ways to help teenagers keep growing.  

How do you keep your teenager busy during social distancing this summer and beyond? 

  • Connect with friends and family
  • develop life and career skills 
  • make the world better.

Teens have hit a closed door at a stage when they should be spending time with friends, growing into who they’ll be in school and learning about themselves.

Kids often turn to electronics to combat the endless boredom outside of their “school day”. If your teens are like mine, they’ve fallen into extended screen time. It seems like our teens are always lit by the glow of a screen. I worry that they’re not getting enough experiences outside the virtual world. As I’ve written before, screen time is a big deal in our house.

Yet in the surreal world in which we’ve landed, screen overload seems the least of my worries. Plus, electronics keeps them satisfied (read: sedated), and makes it seem easier to be home around the clock.  Social distancing keeps them safe or at least safer. It’s also easy to connect to friends online and play games like Minecraft in a group.

Turning to online entertainment is an easy way to pass the time. But teens are designed for growth, and vegging out on endless PewdiePie YouTube videos or disappearing into group video gameplay won’t develop their human potential. 

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To Fight the Feeling of Suspended Animation, Keep Growing

How can we keep teens engaged in growth so that they’re not held in some weird suspended animation?

They need to connect to family and friends in meaningful ways,  to experience new things and to adapt to a new reality.

Here are 52 ideas to support teens in connecting to others, starting a new hobby, training in an eventual career or making the world better. Many can be done online. Some of them can be done in your own house, backyard or a park. All can be customized to fit the Covid-19 guidelines of your state and region.

Connect with Friends and Family

Reconnecting with family can be done even as we follow social distancing and mask guidelines. Here are some ways to help extended family and far flung friends through the isolation:

  • Research your family tree.
  • Interview an older relative.
  • Start a private Facebook group or set up regular Zoom/Google Meet/Skype sessions to keep in touch.
  • Gather recipes from family; test them out while teens learn to cook.
  • Start a blog to record your experiences and share with family. After the initial shock of isolation this spring, Uncle Samurai began writing weekly (funny!) stories to help our family stay connected. See Decameron Tales for slice of life stories about living in lock-down. Because we all need to laugh.
You can social distance while keeping connected to friends and family! Start a private Facebook group or set up regular Zoom/Google Meet/Skype sessions to keep in touch. Start a blog like The Decameron Tales to keep close to your peeps. 
  • Check in on older family members and offer to help with errands or yard work.
  • Host a patio party with social distancing built-in. You can arrange chairs 6 feet apart, have individual plates and condiments and wear masks when you need to go indoors.
  • Nervous about keeping the conversation flowing in your family face time sessions? Create a monthly virtual game night with Let’s Roam, an organized event platform for up to 16 people. With fun and roles for everyone built in, everyone can relax and play the game.

Develop Life Skills and Interests

Those stretches of time at home can give your teen time to explore a totally new topic or interest like these below. Some kids are motivated to learn new skills by setting goals, and others would rather just explore. If yours is a goal-setter, encourage planning with pencil and a notebook or with an accountability tool like the Panda Planner.

Is your kid motivated by formal recognition of accomplishments? Check out the Congressional Award Program, which rewards achievements in four program areas; Voluntary Public Service, Personal Development, Physical Fitness, and Expedition/Exploration.

Teach teens to cook dinner one night each week. Renew connections with family and friends by swapping recipes. 
  • Bake cookies and other treats – no explanation of benefits needed. : )
  • Learn chess or play board games without any electronics in the room – relearn what it feels like to interact without the distraction of a screen nearby.  Here are some favorite games your teens will love:

  • Create a journal that will serve as a lasting memory of your family’s experiences as you navigate quarantine and social distancing.
  • Create a mural or a scrapbook of  high school experiences.
  • Learn survival skills and test your ability to use them on (safe) camping trips.

  • Create an escape room with things you have around the house. 
9 Ninja Parent Moves to Help Teens Read for Fun this SummerSummer is the perfect time to get back to independent reading for fun. This step-by-step plan will increase the odds that your teen will get lost in a book!
  • Use YouTube to learn skills: origami, music lessons, hip hop dance tutorials, and much more.
  • Feed your household and/or contribute to a food bank with a year-round garden.

Get Moving 

We all know that exercise can help treat mental health challenges, and that includes the quarantine blues. It matters less what you start than just getting started. You and your teen can choose from strength training, cardio, yoga, pilates, etc.

  • Online workouts – online exercise ranges from weights, yoga, core, bodyweight training – there’s something for all fitness levels.
  • Skateboarding or rollerblading – buy new or find second-hand rollerblades and protective equipment. Scope out empty parking lots or greenways to practice your skills.
  • Go for a hike or a walk – set goals with Fitbit and pack a picnic.
  • Do an outside or inside scavenger hunt, in-person/virtual game night. Check out Let’s Roam for a pre-planned activity.
  • Kayaking check for rentals in your area
  • Get a family softball game going with immediate family in your house. If you don’t have enough players for a full game, practice pitching, hitting and catching.
  • Strength training – set small goals and record your progress. 

Set Those Career Goals in Motion!

A post-Coronavirus world will require more technology, engineering, communication and entrepreneurial skills than ever before.

No matter what your new version of normal life outside of quarantine will be, there’s one guarantee.  It will be different. We can guess at a few ways that society will shake out as we find our new normal. 

  • The facemasks will linger for a long time, and acceptable social space may be redefined.
  • Travel will be limited. Travel will be possible someday, but like most, I’m in no hurry to go anywhere.
  • Our lives will trend toward more remote experiences. A portion of our daily routine will stay online as a result of our new perception of person-to-person contact.  Every consumer decision we make – where to go, what to buy, what to see – will have the risk of personal interaction baked in.
  • This caution over face-to-face contact will impact many industries and occupations, and now is the time to show your teen how they can adapt to a new reality. Talk about the future. Brainstorm about what the world is likely to need in the next five or ten years. 

Learn Skills 

What better way to ensure that you and your family are prepared for emerging opportunities than by training now? There’s a huge upside to earning micro-credentials in a high-demand field like the ones below:

  • Coding – There is already a documented deficit of coders to fill existing jobs in the next 20 years. The bar to entry-level programmer jobs will drop even as the salaries rise. Online summer programs such as Code Wizards offer classes in a live, teacher-led small group format.
  • Artificial Intelligence – The pandemic is also likely to expand AI and automation at a breathtaking rate. So if your kid has even a vague fancy for programming, now is the time to prepare.

Fortunately, online platforms for learning coding abound. Check out Treehouse to start learning a wide range of technology skills like coding, UX Design, PHP development, and front-end web building. Documenting the mastery of skills may even substitute for a formal programming degree in some cases.

  • Engineering – (electric, chemical, mechanical, civil) for all the same reasons, engineers who can design and create practical solutions to modern problems will be in high demand. 

How can your teens prepare now for a career in engineering? Expand your teen’s background in these foundational courses: calculus, trigonometry, physics, design thinking, etc, 

Khan Academy offers an amazing free platform and suggested daily schedules to learn concepts and strengthen skills. Kids not quite ready for these abstract ideas yet? Try Khan Academy’s summer level-up resources like “Get Ready for Precalculus”.
  • Graphic design – the ability to communicate a compelling message in visual mediums has never been more important as in this age of information overload and high distraction.
  • Video editing – Almost 5 billion videos are watched on Youtube every single day. The ability to tell a story through video is a powerful and marketable skill.
  • Online teaching and tutoring – school is likely to include some form of online instruction, either part-time or full-time. Teachers will be challenged to reach all students without the face-to-face feedback. If your teen is strong academically, this can be an opportunity to create a tutoring service for peers who will need more one-to-one support.
  • Online physical trainer Got a physical kid with a talent for explaining things? How about training for a certification as an  Online Physical Trainer – Weight Training, Dance, Mixed Martial Arts? Minimum age is 18 to join this growing field.

According to a study cited in Forbes Magazine, the Coronavirus fallout has resulted in a 100% increase in group meetings booked for virtual-only yoga, dance, exercise, workout, fitness, aerobics and Pilates sessions. Even when this current crisis fades, many consumers will continue to exercise online.

Start an Individual or a Family Side Business

If you and your teen have a fairly good working relationship, growing a side business will give you a shared focus and lots to talk about. Teens learn practical skills in organization and follow-through as you build it together. 

  • Website – a low overhead family business like a niche website can help earn income for college or to fund other goals. A tech-savvy family can use their skills to develop and monetize content on a blog.
  • Create an online class on Teachable – does your teen have an area of expertise? Create a course on a topic and market it to create a passive stream of income.
  • Start a lawn care business or something similar that has low-overhead to start.
  • Upcycle/Build things – Create an Etsy storefront by repurposing things from Craigslist free stuff pages – build things from safely sourced pallets or free wood. Upcycle found objects and keep them out of the landfill. 
  • Refurbish/repair lawn or other specialized equipment and sell.

Plan a Gap Year

  • If your teen is nearing graduation, the Coronavirus brings a lot of uncertainty to the college plan. Will your teen’s college take students in fall 2020? Even if they start on campus, will a surge in infection rates send them back home to continue online? Teens may want to take time to consider options. To consider a path forward,a gap year could be a possibility.   This is especially a good time to plan an exploratory year which includes philanthropy and volunteering.

Plan to Homeschool

If you were new to homeschooling (or supporting the frantic transition to remote learning)  this spring when the nation’s kids all came home to roost,  you’ve probably been through the wringer.
You may be weighing the risks and benefits in sending kids back to school in the fall. Use this summer to reboot and create a plan. The best homeschooling customizes curriculum to student interests and is supported by accredited online programs. 
  • Summer is a perfect time to get a jump on more challenging subject areas. If your teen struggled with math concepts last year, use this time to work with a certified online tutor and close those knowledge gaps.

Make the World Better

In improving the world, start local – your own family, your home, your neighborhood. Here are some ideas that can be organized somewhat easily, depending on your circumstances.

  • Communicate. Maybe you’re together so much that it seems there is little to discuss. A shared activity together like baking or kayaking can sometimes let you connect about bigger life ideas instead of just recounting the day.
  • Solve a problem together. Ideally, it will be one in which both you and your teen have a stake. You may need to be flexible and focus on an issue that resonates with your teen. It could be a small problem like what to do about the family dog needing regular walking or a large problem like food scarcity in your town. 
  • Take a challenge to learn about an environmental issue like this seven-day crash course on climate change from the New York Times. Make a family commitment to make a long-term change in household consumer or waste habits.
  • Participate in a monthly challenge, such as meditating, doing 30 days of burpees or saving spare change for one month.
  • Volunteer together. The coronavirus has created new crises and exacerbated chronic ones that we’ve always faced.  Opportunities to safely volunteer abound, either online, outside or other socially distanced ways. Check out these sources for making a difference locally, regionally or worldwide.

National Service Corps

Despite the chaotic year that we’ve all had, your teen’s summer can be productive and healthy! Focus on finding a balance between fun, relaxation and growth activities.

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