Everyone has been lonely during this past year of social distancing—teens in particular. While life is beginning to open up again, many teens are still isolated due to COVID-19. Isolation has impacted everyone’s mental health, but particularly that of adolescents, for whom sharing their life with peers is so important.
Many teens are tired of simply texting or video chatting with friends, and many also want to be outdoors and share experiences with friends. Below are some ideas for ways to expand friend time while helping teens stay healthy, and still safely social distance.
1. Nature Scavenger Hunt
Teens are each given a list simultaneously of items to find outside or in nature. They can post as they go along or post at the end with images of everything on the list. The first person to find everything on the list can win a prize, perhaps a special title made up by friends, or require that everyone else wear something silly as they have a group chat following the hunt.
2. Outdoor Challenge Club
Teens can create a group where there are challenges to get outdoors and move for a certain amount of time each week. Getting a bit more specific, they challenge each other to run, bike, hike, swim, or perform some other activity for a certain amount of time or at a particular difficulty level each week. Members of the club can post their stats and images to the group, encouraging each other to get outside and stay healthy while still connecting.
3. Group Art Project
Teens can distribute fabric, a canvas, or whatever medium they want to use. The art medium can be one piece divided into quadrants that get passed around, or each person may have a section to create something. Friends can connect online during the process, but the big reveal will be when the project is complete, and each teen’s contribution is combined with everyone else’s to create a group art project. Teens could also do a group art project with writing, music, dance, etc.
4. Volunteer Together…Apart
A group of friends can decide to volunteer for the same organization or event, such as delivering meals or groceries to senior citizens, assisting with vaccinations, etc. While they may not get to actually work together, they can share experiences and connect surrounding their service online. This can be a powerful experience for teens and increase their friendships while building self-esteem in teens and a sense of community.
5.Mirror Your Friends Night
Teens could plan to do the same activities simultaneously from their home or other location and video chat throughout the experience. Examples could be cooking together, making music together, listening to music together, dressing up together, going on a hike, having a bonfire and making s’mores, etc. All activities would be socially distanced, but teens can connect via technology.
6. Work Out Together
Athletic teens could call one or more buddies as they go through the same workout together. This is great for teens who play sports and want to stay connected to their teammates while being safe. They could compare workout experiences or share whatever is on their minds as they cool down with an energy bar or sports drink.
7. Service Relay Race
Teens coordinate a type of service, such as picking up newspapers and putting them on porches or helping with yard work. Like a relay, each teen does their part. Once each service is complete, each teen posts pics or videos, then everyone joins in a group video chat to share, play games, etc.
8. Speed Connections
Using Zoom’s breakout rooms, pairs of teens are randomly paired up and given a set of questions to ask each other in three to five minutes. Then they switch until everyone has met everyone else. Participants can all join together on Zoom and continue to socialize, each teen bringing their own treats, playing games, etc. This activity is good preparation for when social distancing lifts and in-person get-togethers can begin again.
9. Where in the World Is…?
Thanks to social media networking, teens can find friends all over the world. Have them coordinate a video call with a few friends and let them introduce their friends around the world. Find out what life is like in other countries, the types of food they eat, the music they listen to, etc. Teens can connect with new friends and learn culture and geography while doing an activity they probably wouldn’t have done prior to social distancing.
Remember this trend? People would leave little treasures at specific coordinates, leaving clues, like a treasure hunt with GPS devices. This is a great way for friends to connect and get outdoors while still social distancing because they can leave each other small mementos and then share clues about how and where to find their cache. This activity is done individually, but the items connect them to their friends, and the searching provides fun opportunities for them to connect while still being apart.
Being apart is one of the most difficult things about this pandemic. However, if this time has shown us one thing, it is that human beings can adapt to almost any situation. Teens now are being forced to show creativity and resilience in the face of great stress and many limitations. Soon enough, social distancing will be a thing of the past, but the connections teens make now, even at a distance, can last a lifetime.