I Have No Idea How To Help My Teens Through This

by Shonne Fegan-Ehrhardt
Teenage girl looking through window with mask
Justin Paget/Getty

Sleepaway camp was just cancelled.

Graduation cancelled.

Dance recital is virtual in your living room.

No Lacrosse season.

Spring semester of freshmen year from your high school bedroom.

Last day of school at the amusement park cancelled.

Spring break cancelled.

No birthday parties. Cancelled.

Beaches and pools closed this summer.

We haven’t seen any members of our immediate family in ten weeks. Family visits cancelled.

“Will I even have a senior year?”

“What is there to look forward to?”

“I don’t want to be here. I hate that I found a school I love so much and I had to come home.”

Me too. All of it.

As parents, we are all processing this in different ways and on different days. The hardest part, realizing it could be much harder, because thankfully we aren’t in a health or financial crisis (yet), is that I can’t do or say anything to make anyone feel better.

That’s what I do. I provide Band-Aids and lemonade and homemade cookies and snuggles and blankets and fix it. When I can’t, I can usually draw upon wisdom from my mother or grandma or fellow moms, offer words that soothe.

This time, I have nothing. My teens aren’t fighting the shelter-at-home guidelines. They are okay with wearing masks and they understand we are in this together.

I’m trying my best to distract them with paint-by-numbers and board games from childhood, Disney+ and Netflix. Family theme dinners occasionally and Zoom calls with grandparents. My husband is doing more TikToks than me, thankfully.

Still, my teens are sad. And so am I. I can’t fix this. We are all in a stage of the grief process, mourning different losses.

In my deepest moments, when I’m alone or talking with my sister, I can be real. This sucks. We are bored. We are grateful. I feel guilty that I see silver linings.

I feel like should be more grateful.

We do enjoy all the family time. But I don’t always enjoy it. I feel badly about that too. I’m lucky to have a house where five of us can online school and work, but why do I feel like I never have any space?

“I hope your senior year will rock and that you’ll make the most of it, whatever it looks like.”

“I hope next year you still are as excited about summer camp as you are this year.”

“I’m so lucky to have you home from college for a bonus few months.”

I can’t fix this. Others are worse off than me. My teens are unhappy. But we will get through this.

We aren’t heroes, we aren’t on the front lines. We are just doing all our part. This will end. And we are all hoping for a better tomorrow.