This time has brought about so many unanswered questions, both for us as parents and for our teens. Although the summer after high school graduation has typically involved planning and preparation for college, most of us have no idea what the fall will look like. Will classes be held online? Will universities open up at all? Will in-person classes happen before spring 2021? How is my kid supposed to get involved in clubs and social activities to make friends? If you’re struggling with these questions, your teen may be struggling even more so.
In this post, we’ll offer some tips to help your teen prepare for college amidst COVID concerns. But before we dive in, we want to let you know that you are not alone in this, and we are here to serve you. If there is any way we can help your family, offer resources, or simply pray over you, please do not hesitate to comment on this post or reach out to us via firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to help in any way we can.
How to help your teen prep for an uncertain school year
1. Make a plan for the fall with two possibilities: 1) Everything goes back to normal, and 2) everything stays the way it has been. Students may not be welcome back onto campus until spring semester 2021, though nobody really knows for certain. By creating a plan for both possibilities can help open up good conversations about how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking through this process.
2. Encourage your teen to be in regular communication with their school. The Student Life Director will likely have a working plan in development for the fall. You can encourage your teen to check for updates as often as necessary and talk about any changes that may be on the way.
3. Focus on faith during the summer. Your teen’s faith will be challenged in college, no matter where or how they attend. Now is a great time to do a spring or summer Bible study about hope, faith, trust, and God’s sovereignty. No matter what happens next, you can lean into the words of scripture and the hope we find in Jesus Christ.
4. Discuss differences of beliefs in college settings. We understand the fear in parents’ hearts over whether their child’s faith will survive in college. But we can’t expect to keep our kids in a protective Christian bubble for the rest of their lives. Now is a really good time to talk with our teens about the reality of differing beliefs, religions, theologies within Christianity, and more. Because whether or not school starts up online or in-person, these conversations are going to happen at some point. Sooner or later, they’ll have friends who hold contrasting beliefs, start a discussion with a coworker on the meaning of life, or see a protest sign that promotes a different view. The point is this: If Christianity is true, it will stand up to scrutiny, questions, attacks, and mockery. Therefore, it’s good to ask hard questions and think deeply about our faith in pursuit of what is good, true, and real. Then, when we encounter people with different beliefs and values, we won’t be afraid of them; rather, we’ll be able to rest in our faith and have calm, respectful conversations with them. Here are a few great resources we suggest your teen explores:
- Ravi Zacharias International Ministries podcast: Just Thinking. This podcast tackles big questions in Christianity head-on, we highly recommend it.
- Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists, Sean McDowell.
- The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel.
5. Create space and a little more freedom than usual. One of the biggest disappointments for college students who will begin the fall semester online is a lack of freedom. The school year was supposed to mean a taste of independence, a chance to create a new schedule, a time to meet new friends, and to live away from the home for the first time. This isn’t the semester they were hoping for. In fact, it’s pretty much the exact opposite of what they’d expected. Especially for students beginning their first year of college, they’re likely feeling disappointed about missing things like orientation, start-of-the-year activities, club fairs, and the dorm experience. All that to say, try to find a way to give your kid a little space if they’re starting the school year at home. Of course, we don’t mean to let them go wild and have parties, we simply mean to try to give them a semblance of what they’d been promised before. Encourage them to study somewhere outside the home—go sit in a park, hang out in a coffee shop or cafe, if places have started to open up in your area—and meet up with friends to study together or just hang out (in small groups, still in compliance with social distancing).
Though this may not turn out to be the school year your kid hoped for, you can still help them to make the absolute most of it. We hope these five suggestions ease a little bit of your burden today, and we’d love to hear any other suggestions you have for other families navigating this new school year. Let us know in the comments!