What I’ve Learned from My Teen

This past year has been one that none of us ever could have anticipated or imagined. Words that weren’t part of our regular vocabulary, like masks, social distancing, toilet paper shortage, remote learning and Zoom gatherings became number-one topics of conversation.

We came into our homes and families gathered around the table for dinners, maybe for the first time in weeks. Games were taken off shelves, instruments were dusted off, and parents mulled over the difficult decision of whether to send their children to school online or in-person.

All the while, we wondered how this was affecting our children. How would they deal with this abrupt change in life? And for parents of tweens and teens, we suddenly found ourselves in situations where we were spending more time with them then we maybe have in years.

That has definitely been the case for my family.

We made the decision to have our four children learn remotely, which means I have spent more time with my children than I usually would in this phase of life. And while this year has had its challenges, it has also been one of the greatest years for growth in our family. Our relationships have been stretched and they have grown. And in all of our time spent together at home, I have learned a lot about my tween and teens that I’m not sure I would have learned otherwise. And I believe they have learned a lot about themselves.

I’ve seen how they faced obstacles head on. I’ve seen how they have dealt with challenges as they have arisen. I’ve seen how they have grieved unexpected losses and closed chapters without goodbyes. And I have seen how they have risen to the occasion and tackled things they have never dealt with before, like online schooling and visiting with friends outdoors in socially distanced circles.

They have missed things we never imagined them missing. But they have gained things we never anticipated, too. Our 15 and 13 year old daughters have had to navigate online schooling without Zoom classes or regular schedules. They are self-paced and attendance isn’t taken. They are learning skills that many don’t learn until college. Has it been easy? No. But they also get to sleep in and are incredibly proud of themselves when they get the grades they worked so hard for.

My children will be returning to school in the fall. And while they are ready to go back, they do talk about the things they will miss. The relaxed schedule. The extra sleep. The snacks throughout the day. The ability to go on a family walk mid-day, or watch a show together.

Our lives have slowed down tremendously this year. And as more people are being vaccinated and the world is slowly beginning to open back up, this is something I hope we take with us. I hope we choose the things we will participate in wisely. I hope my daughter will continue to keep her eyes up, and not begin to spend so much time looking down at her phone again. I hope to still hear the piano being played and that family dinners will continue to be prioritized. I also look forward to hearing my girls’ laughter carry down the stairs as they giggle in their rooms with friends sleeping over.

I hope they carry what they have learned in this past year with them, and that they know they can face hard and unexpected obstacles, and rise to whatever challenges come their way. And I always hope they know how proud of them I am.

So very proud.

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