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An Open Letter to Parents of Teens and Young Adults,

As we all know, it is not easy parenting teens and college-aged young adults. Especially those who were recently sent home abruptly from college. Add to this mix all the unknowns of the Coronavirus, and this brand new concept of social distancing.

We know young people treasure their independence – as they should. I fondly remember when I was in this age bracket as a time of unbridled fun and freedom. No one likes to have their privileges taken away from them, especially a teen or young adult.

Right now though, it is the time for parents to corral and supervise like never before. According to all the experts, social distancing is the only strategy that is going to flatten the COVID curve. So, now, and yes, right now, is the time to have some serious chats with your young person about how vulnerable they are to themselves and society-at-large if they continue to go out and gather with their friends in our community.

I understand why they might not think it is a big deal to go out and socialize. There have been myriad mixed messages in the media about the coronavirus being compared to the common cold, and not affecting young people as badly as older people. That point of view is not only misguided and factually incorrect, it is also missing the point.

The data is now showing that millenials are ending up in the hospital in larger numbers than previously thought. Dr. Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and a member of the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force has an important message for young people: “You have a responsibility, a societal responsibility, to protect the vulnerable,” Fauci said, adding, “You do that, interestingly, by not letting yourself get infected.” It has also been reported, that young people are carriers of the virus. Knowing this data, it is crucial that you as parents talk to your son and/or daughter, and explain why they need to stay home now.

Their friends will be there - when this is all over. They can celebrate - when this is all over. They can resume social contact - when this is all over. Bottom line, learn to speak in terms of “when this is all over, you can…” - fill in the blank. It’s also important to let them know how hard you know this is for them. Be compassionate, yet don’t give in to their pleading to socialize.

In the meantime, some safe socializing suggestions include:

· Create a free Zoom video conferencing app to contact your friends

· Houseparty is a social networking service that enables group video chatting through mobile and desktop apps. Users receive a notification when friends are online and available to group video chat. The app is intended for teens who are ready for social media but are not old enough.

· Hike on a local trail with 1-3 friends - just make sure to keep physical space between everyone

Know that you, as their parent, are their trusted authority. Your voice is always in the back of their minds on every topic you discuss with them. You are their main influencer. Please harness this power. It will save lives. Lastly, know that young people have an opportunity to be part of the solution. Will they step up with your encouragement? I know they can.

Carol Johnson is the Community Education Manager of Mountain Youth and the Eat Chat Parent behavioral health series facilitator.

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