April 2, 2020

Lots has been written about parenting young children in this era of COVID-19. But when we learned that my son’s college classes were going online and he’d be living at home for the foreseeable future, we didn’t quite appreciate how COVID-19 would rock our world. What does parenting a near-adult in the midst of a pandemic look like? Two weeks in, here’s what we’ve learned:

  • This is not a time for ambiguity. Setting clear expectations for staying safe has been critical. For our family, this means yes to taking a walk six feet away from a friend; no to an indoor visit. Yes to sitting around a friend’s fire pit; no to going into a grocery store. I repeat these rules every time my son leaves the house, and he understands why I need to. And should the rules for our community change, so will these expectations.
  • Trust is key. Would I prefer that my son never go out? Probably. Is this realistic? Right now, no. If I enjoy the freedom of walking outdoors, I have to allow him the same freedom. Yes, he’s my child, but he’s also an adult. He confirms daily that he’s being safe. He understands that following the rules helps keep the family safe. I need to trust that he’ll do the right thing.
  • Acknowledge that this is hard. Days are long, without a lot of structure. Online learning is challenging. And uncertainty—about health, summer jobs, and when this will end—is not easy. This is true for all of us, but more so for young adults on the brink of a future that’s difficult to imagine. Talking it out can help put these uncertainties into perspective.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. These are extraordinary times. So when my son is on day 12 of waking up late or spending more time online than I’d like—I’m letting it go. However, when I’m nervous that he’s been spending too much time alone in his room, I don’t hesitate to check in to make sure everything’s ok.
  • Embrace the gift of time together.Over the past two weeks, we’ve spent more time playing cards, watching movies, and listening to music together than we have in years. I’ve been turned on to a range of new rap artists and finally understand TikTok. Our time together has helped us create a small oasis of sanity.

So that’s how we’re getting through. As parents, we’re doing our best to model healthy coping strategies and support our “emerging adult” in navigating this difficult time. As a family, we’re finding ways to keep each other safe and sane.

How about you? How have you been coping? All suggestions welcome.

 Melanie Adler has spent more than 20 years writing about behavioral change for multiple EDC projects. She’s the proud mother of three grown (or nearly grown) boys who teach her something new every day.

6 Replies


Replying to:
Kris Gabrielsen
Great tips! As the mother of two teenage boys, I greatly appreciate your article!

Replying to:
Thanks, Melanie. We're in the same boat and it's both challenging -- and nice -- to have college student back at home. At least he knows how to bake!

Replying to:
Thanks for that information! I am a prevention specialist for a substance abuse recovery center. I too have been doing the majority of those things with my girls. It's nice to hear that others are doing the same. Sometimes, as parents we question ourselves on whether or not we're doing a good job, and usually we are. So, thanks1 I hope that your article helps others. I plan on sharing some of this info with some of the parents that I serve.

Replying to:
Thanks for your comments, Cynthia! It is so hard to know if we're doing the right thing -- especially as the reality of how long we're going to be in this situation sinks in. What seems to be working best for us is talking it out. And thanks so much for the work you're doing with the recovery community.

Replying to:
Thank you Melanie. Your words are affirming and encouraging. Deborah

Replying to:
Heidi LaFleche
Great article Mel! Thanks for sharing your insights and spirit with us. Miss you!

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