By Kristina Halmai, Clinical Innovations Consultant, YMCA Youth & Family Services

Somehow the days are going both slowly and quickly in our house as we’ve found new rhythms and patterns since schools closed on March 16. And school closures have confirmed what we suspected all along – school is about so much more than academic learning, there are important social-emotional connections that happen too. Teens are wired to be VERY connected to their peers and physical distancing goes against the nature of this developmental stage, those of us with older kids have a different set of adjustments to make.

I’m trying to cope with missing my social connections just like my teen is. When they were wee-babes, it was up to us, as their caregivers, to meet their needs. We still have to meet their needs, and in this COVID-19 era, that means helping them regulate their worries, feelings of loss, and uncertainty of when they can see their friends again. My biggest lesson learned is that it’s ok to relax our expectations for ourselves and for them.


  1. If you are in a similar situation, consider adopting a few things we’ve been doing as a family to ease the QuaranTEEN:
  2. Let your teen pick the music for dinner time. Surprisingly, our son plays “his” music and “our” music during his DJ sets.
  3. Dust off the X-box and host almost-nightly FIFA tournaments. We all miss weekend futbol matches!
  4. Watching the ridiculous YouTube videos that make them crack up. Some of them are actually pretty funny. Others, not so much.
  5. Have them read a book to a younger relative or family friend through FaceTime. They’re both a little happier and connected afterwards.
  6. Letting them take Snapchats of the family and teach TikTok dances. Good for bonding over a laugh.

Sadly we can’t make this go away tomorrow, but we can make our teens feel safe and loved. Our family feels a little closer on lockdown because we’re leaning into his world and he’s letting us in. These may seem like small fixes, but I know they’re making a big difference in our house.

I also know that sometimes families need more than small ideas to meet the challenges they’re facing, especially when we’re all home together and facing more stress and uncertainty. Our YMCA Oz San Diego program is here for families with children ages 12-17 to help adjust to new routines, process emotions, maintain harmony in the home, and help families address mental health challenges. You don’ t have to figure this out on your own, visit our Oz San Diego page for more information today.

Author: Kristina Halmai, LMFT. YMCA YFS Clinical Innovation Consultant.

Kristina is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and serves as the Clinical Innovation Consultant for YMCA Youth & Family Services in San Diego. Kristina is particularly passionate about giving under-resourced youth the opportunities they deserve so that they can identify their interests, unlock their potential, and ultimately contribute to the greater good. She also supports staff development and believes in a relationally based workplace culture.  Kristina has worked as a clinician for over 15 years in a variety of settings including residential and substance use treatment.