Helping teens stay socially-engaged while social distancing

As adults we may lament our limited social connections during the pandemic. However, teens are perhaps hardest hit. High school years are meant to be a time of developing deeper social connections with friends and breaking away from dependence on family. According to educational psychologist, Monica Gupta Mehta, M.Ed., “This is the time when teenagers are meant to rely more heavily on their peers and to develop independence from parents; it is a time for exploring questions of identity…” It’s important that we take time to fully assess the impact of COVID 19 on teens. 

Teen challenges during COVID 19

So much of their social life revolves around school and the many opportunities for meeting new people and exploring new opportunities. Yet, many teens have been unable to pursue interests in clubs and sports, attend dances or sleepovers, and just hang with friends at the beach or park. The pandemic is persisting. This will be the new normal for sometime. As cold weather sets in and cases threaten to rise, we want our community to stay safe and stay engaged. We want to continue to support our teenagers during this pandemic. 

Helping teens cope in a pandemic

Bayhill is finding new ways to socially engage students. Monday mornings start with a first period check-in when students share what they did (or didn’t so) over the weekend. What are they binge watching on Netflix or Hulu? How are they holding up with distance learning? Easing into a Monday by reconnecting with each other is an important part of our community building. We aim to be a resource for our teens during this time.

Wednesdays are minimum days and end with Clubs where students have an opportunity to socialize with each other around like interests. Mrs. Austin hosts Mystery Club where sometimes they listen to mystery podcasts trying to guess “who done it”. Other times the club plays virtual escape room games in teams to see which team can escape the quickest. Mr. Kreider engages the strategist at Bayhill in online chess tournaments.  Ms. Bell and the Comics Clubs create the next Zine parodying the goings on of school and teen life. Yearbook Club is hard at work creating a crowdsourced yearbook all about this crazy pandemic school year. Other clubs include International Cooking, Running, Philosophical Discussion, Girls Group and Open Mic.

The Friday before Halloween brought us the first ever Hallo-Zoom. Student Council polled students to choose which scary movies we would watch. The top choices were Nightmare before Christmas and Poltergeist. For those who wanted a bit more interactive fun,  the student body overwhelmingly agreed to play Among Us. Teams went off into  breakout rooms to play against each other. The event was a huge success and we’re planning more movie and game nights in the future. 

Prior to that event we had a schoolwide, cringe-worthy karaoke contest. Dr. Ras belted out the Pokemon theme song much to the delight of her English students. Mrs. Austin attempted to parody the recent Tik Tok craze, drinking Ocean Spray to Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams. Ms. Bell showed off her abundant energy dancing to ABC, while Mr. Dawson sang Rocky Mountain High in honor of his native Colorado. Several students also participated…

Bayhill rounds out the week with grade level meetings every Friday. These meetings allow time for reflection on the week, discussing topics of interest or just chatting about weekend plans. We encourage students to take time away from the virtual world and connect with nature, friends, and family in safe ways.

Another virtual way we engage our students is with our Instagram account. Whether it’s posting pictures from the day or online polls, students enjoy the online engagement. Of course, it allows our parent community a glimpse into the day to day life of Bayhill. Virtual engagement isn’t the only way we are creating space for social connection. 

Helping teens stay connected with their peers while social distancing.

Every Wednesday Mrs. Austin and Ms. Storey host hikes at local parks and trails. Furry family members join in too as we take time for each other in nature (masked and socially distanced). Whether we are exploring another trail in Tilden, enjoying a view across the bay as we walk along the shore or watching the shimmer of water off Lake Chabot, spending time with each other allows for authentic relationship building. 

Are you looking to create more opportunities for your teen to socialize with friends? Consider creating a small bubble of friends who can meet in a backyard, the beach or a park. Teens can take bike rides with their friends or long meandering walks. The benefits of living in a warm climate, means we have ample opportunity to safely spend time together outdoors. 

Recent low virus numbers, mean small groups can also socialize indoors (with safety precautions). Movie theatres are open, as are outdoor restaurants areas. All of this means more opportunities for teens to engage in safe in-person social activities. Talk to your teen about the importance of maintaining safety, as none of us want a return to more restrictions. 

Bayhill takes the mental health and development of our teens very seriously. Despite the pandemic, we are finding new and innovative ways to engage our community. What ideas do you have for increasing social engagement for teens during this time?

Resources for parents and teens during covid-19.

Teachers and Parents, Socializing Is Still Vital for Normal Adolescent Development, Monica Gupta Mehta