Your Family Time Matters. And Not the Overscheduled Taxi Drive Family Time.

The “life in Covid” numbers are coming in. Surprisingly teens’ mental health has not collectively suffered during the pandemic. Very surprisingly. The percentage of teens who were depressed or lonely was actually lower in 2020 than in 2018, and the percentage who were unhappy or dissatisfied with life was only slightly higher.

Note:  Depression, loneliness, and unhappiness are still at unacceptably high levels among teens. Whether it is 2018 numbers or 2020 numbers. Each one is a soul.

These better numbers collected after so many deaths, schools closed down, social distancing as a lifestyle, life events canceled. From one of the surveys featured, 29% of teens knew someone diagnosed with COVID-19; 27% said a parent had lost a job; 25% experienced food insecurity. That is some serious stuff to be anxious about. Then there is the worry about catching COVID-19 (63%) and the two-thirds who said they were anxious about not seeing their friends.

So why was teen mental health stable, or even better, during the pandemic? Two reasons.

Sleep. The pandemic allowed for more sleep. Simple as that.

The second reason was the increase of family time together. Who would have thunk it? During those teen years when friends feel more important than family. When hanging out with friends became so limited. When every family was stuck together for months. When the overscheduled schedule became unscheduled. When family time was easy to plan.

Do you remember when you used to feel like the time you had with your teen in that taxi drive time between schedules was quality time? Or the only time you had together?

Turns out for your teen’s mental health, they need more family time.

Here are some survey numbers to add to your wisdom: 

With many parents working from home and most outside activities canceled for both parents and teens, the majority of teens reported increased family time. With positive family relationships linked to better mental health, more family time might have mitigated any negative mental-health effects of the pandemic. Fifty-six percent of teens said they were spending more time talking with their parents than they had before the pandemic, and 54 percent said their families now ate dinner together more often. Forty-six percent reported spending more time with their siblings. Perhaps most striking, 68 percent of teens said their families had become closer during the pandemic. Family closeness was associated with mental health: Only 15 percent who said their families had become closer during the pandemic were depressed, compared with 27 percent of those who did not believe their families had become closer.  Source

Who would have thunk it?

So now that this reality happened, what do you do as a parent as the schedule starts to fill up again? I pray that you are reading this before it already has.

We have all discovered something amazing in this weird pandemic time. Your family time together matters to your teen. It matters to your teen’s health. May the drive to be overscheduled never happen again. May the false value of having an overscheduled life never happen again. May family time remain a priority. Even as your teen starts whining and protesting about wanting to do anything else.

Whining and protesting are what teens do to find their identity. The two battles teens will fight on during those developing teen years are increased independence over time and time allowed with peers. Those natural growth battles aren’t going away even as we now know the truth—teens really do like family memory-making times.

Who would have thunk it?

Bonus note from the same source:  Remember all of the worries about excessive screen time and social media before the pandemic became what we worried about?

About half the teens in our survey said they avoided using social media in passive ways such as scrolling through posts endlessly. And most striking, almost 80 percent of teens agreed that social media allowed them to connect with their friends during quarantine, and nearly 60 percent said they used social media to manage their anxiety about the pandemic.

Who would have thunk it?

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