Parents of older kids, we’ve never felt so fortunate, have we? For years we’ve relished the freedom from sleep deprivation, dealing with meltdowns, home chef duties, endless hours of mind-numbing play, and having to help with homework (and having to listen to your kids INSIST you are doing it wrong). Now that we’re in the midst of the COVID-19 quarantine, having grown kids suddenly feels like an entirely new kind of freedom.
We’ve all seen the color-coded charts and daily agendas our friends with small children are sharing: dreams of order disguised in an impressive, detailed calendar that all of us seasoned parents know will last until maybe next Tuesday before all hell breaks loose. We can’t help but be both full of admiration for these younger parents and damn glad we never had to go through the seemingly endless days they’re currently living.
Sure, our teens and young adult kids are stuck at home, too, but aren’t we lucky they’re self-sufficient and don’t need us to direct their every moment? Aren’t we glad we get to read our own books, sleep in if we can, and play games like What Do You Meme? instead of Pie Face! and watch Tiger King instead of Frozen II (for the 136th time)?
However, our grown kids get bored and restless, too. And even if they swear they’re not going blind from staring at their screens for 20 hours straight or insist that they just want to stay holed up in their room (you know, the one that smells like mildew and feet right about now), they need diversion from all that is going on just like we do. They need to spend time with you and feel connected, just like they did when they were little.
It might not be color-coded, but here’s a list of some fun things to do with your teen or young adult while you’re all quarantined together:
Fun things to do with your grown kids while stuck at home
•Introduce your kids to one of your old favorite things to do back in the pre-screen days (Amazon still delivers needlepoint, latch hook rug kits, paint by number, etc.) but make sure to order one for yourself, too. It’s no fun when someone is hogging the cool latch hook tool.
•Work out at home together via YouTube workouts or utilize one of the many home workout sites that are offering free trials right now. (My favorites are Obé Fitness and The Body Coach (free) on YouTube.) Don’t want your workout to feel like work? Then turn on some classic music and D A N C E! Or bust out your old “Just Dance” game! Which leads me to …
•Get the family band back together, break out your old gaming systems and play the old favorite games you used to when your kids were younger (Band Hero, Mario Kart, Mario Party, Wii Sports, etc.).
•Share in their interests, no matter how mind numbing they are. Spend an hour or so having them show you the TikTok videos they love or the YouTube videos that make them laugh. Even more fun? Make a video with them!
•LEGO architecture sets are all the rage right now. Although more expensive, they’re a fun alternative to puzzles. If you can’t find one online or don’t want to spend the money, why not dig out your kids’ old box of LEGOs and create a masterpiece of your own?
•Watch old home movies (if you can find them). I bet you’ll find footage you haven’t seen in 15 years. Bonus points if you can find footage you’re actually in.
•Go through all the boxes of old photos together and (attempt to) organize. Even if you don’t make any progress, you’ll have a fun afternoon laughing at how adorable they were … and at how many years in a row you wore those corduroy overalls.
•Game nights are always fun, especially now that you can play games you actually enjoy playing. Also fun? Pull out some oldies you used to play when they were little, like Clue, Monopoly, Trouble, Sorry, etc. (Our family just played a rousing game of Mall Madness we’ve had since 2004!)
•Introduce them to one of your old favorite sitcoms. Hulu streams shows like Fasier, Cheers, Will and Grace (the original), and The Golden Girls. Or watch old Disney Channel shows on Disney+ that you remember watching together when they were younger (only the ones that didn’t make you want to put your head in the oven, obviously).
•Twist on movie night: Each family member gets to pick one movie for the whole family to watch, no questions asked. No one gets to opt out of watching and everyone has to watch without distraction (meaning no phones). At the end of the marathon (ours lasted a four days – we watched one movie a day) the family votes on which movie was the best and the winner gets whatever prize you’ve all agreed on. A fun way to watch – or make them watch – movies they’ve resisted but you know they’d like (in our case I made them watch Singin’ in The Rain, which they all loved, my husband busted out Good Will Hunting, and my older daughter made us watch a documentary on climate change which prompted more than one nap … but some great discussion).
•Try new recipes together. We’re making these Monster Cookie Whoopie Pies later this week … and saying goodbye to our jeans forever.
•This one might seem obvious, but take walks outside together. Sometimes all it takes is fresh air and a change of scenery to prompt some great conversations.
Whatever you do with your older children, just do something.
Respect their space during this difficult time but make sure they know you’re available – and willing – to get through this together!