My 16-year-old son took off a few weeks ago after I went to the grocery store without permission. He’s been struggling with the fact he can’t see his friends, go to school, or hit the gym. He’s also told me several times how his friends are still allowed to see each other and apparently have been hanging out without him, adding fuel to his fire that I am just a mean mom.
We all know how kids can be manipulative to get what they want. By saying “all” of his friends, he may mean only one of them. And by telling me they get to hang out all the time, it’s possible they hung out once during this pandemic, then their parents thought better of it as the numbers continued to surge.
Regardless, I’ve been seeing the same question pop up on my Facebook feed, and parenting groups, a few times a week for the past month: Are you letting your teens hang out with their friends?
Of course, many people are saying it’s a hard” no” and they aren’t always nice about it. Those are my people.
As parents, we all need to be on the same page about keeping our kids home right now: Zero fucking excuses.
This is not a case of “you do you” when it comes to various parenting styles. That sentiment ends when you are parenting in a way that gives your child room to harm others.
First, teenagers can be selfish. It’s the way their brains are wired, and most of them literally only think about themselves and how they will be affected in certain situations. Also, we all remember the invincible feeling of being a teen ourselves and thinking nothing bad could happen to us, right? Well, this is the time to set our teens straight about how ridiculous that thought is. And I don’t mean in a subtle way either.
This is not the time to let your child figure it out for themselves and learn a hard lesson on their own. This virus is incredibly contagious. You don’t have to be showing any symptoms to pass it on. Young people are dying. So they can sit there and say they aren’t sick, try to convince you they are completely fine to hang out with their friends, and try to wear you down. This is not the time or place to offer them flexibility.
You are the parent. You need to set strong boundaries. Other people’s lives depend on it, literally. This isn’t a joking matter, and while your teens may be suffering because they miss their friends and activities — and yes, it’s hard to watch them be lonely– that isn’t an excuse. Unless they are an essential worker, no one is above these social distancing guidelines, and that includes your bored kids.
It is your job to keep them contained. It is your job to go collect them, if they decide to take their car and sneak out anyway. Believe me, I know it sucks, and you don’t want to deal with it on top of everything else you are navigating — but this isn’t the time to let the safety of your family and others slip through the cracks, regardless of how tired and fed up you are.
When my son decided he’d had enough of this quarantine business and went to see his friends when I left for the grocery store, you better believe his dad went to find him. We told him if he did it again, his car keys would be mine until school resumed again. If our kids can’t follow the rules, they need to have strict consequences, now more than ever.
This is not time for sugarcoating reality. It’s time to get candid.
They need to be educated on the facts and told not only can they catch COVID-19 from hanging out with a friend, they can pass it along without showing any symptoms. That friend they are hanging out with is living with a family — maybe an elderly or immunocompromised family member. Or maybe they will pass it to their mother who has to go to the grocery store to get food and will pass it on to someone there. This spread will ultimately lead to someone losing their loved one.
Do you want that on your shoulders simply because your teenager “needed” to get out and see his friends? I’m confused as to why people are even considering letting their kids hang out with others. Where the hell have they been? It’s infuriating.
It doesn’t matter if these teens say they will stay six feet apart (they won’t). I don’t care if they say they’ll wear a face mask the entire time (they’ll take it off). The only answer you should be telling your teens is no — then be done with it.
Social distancing is the best tool we have right now to stop this nightmare. If you think you and your teens are above this, you are part of the problem. Seeing their friends or boyfriend or girlfriend is not essential; saving other people’s lives is. The longer people selfishly ignore these rules, or claim they have no control over what their teen does (yes you do), the longer we are all be in lockdown.
The more you negotiate, the more you think if they “just see one friend for a few hours” because “they deserve it,” the longer healthcare workers will be waging a war without proper PPE.
And if you think your child seeing a few friends won’t add to the, you are completely wrong and selfish.
This isn’t the time to be thinking about your kid’s social life. It’s a time to teach them they need to think of others and do the right thing. They likely have access to multiple forms of technology and can pick up the damn phone and call their friends. This is the time to be the parent; explain to your kids this is in no way a punishment, and validate their feelings, but you have to keep them home because this pandemic is so much bigger than them and their need to see their friends and “have something to do.” If they don’t understand the full magnitude of this right now, that’s okay, but they still have to stay home.
Parents of teens, think. Please stop letting your kids socialize with their friends. Stop considering it, stop asking if it’s okay. Keep them at home and deal with it. It sucks for everyone, but that’s not enough of a reason to “let them live their life.” You need to get really honest with yourself and realize what you could actually be doing is taking the lives of others in the process. That is unacceptable.
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