There has been a great deal of criticism about the behavior of rebellious teen and young adults who haven’t taken the epidemic seriously. Some of their behavior could definitely be a result of disinformation and the need for firm guidance.

So what can parents do to help their children understand the importance of self-distancing practices as a new part of their daily lives?

1. Get the facts. I suppose the first thing parents can do is to get the facts right and from credible sources so their children can make informed decision that keep them and others safe. Presently, we are getting our disinformation about COVID-19 from a lot of different places. Some of this contagious disinformation can lead parents and children to make poor decisions in their daily lives. Take responsibility to check sources and recheck them before you do things that cause confusion. At your family meeting, be sure to go over different types of disinformation sources and how to recognize and avoid them.

2. Provide firm guidance. Parents must provide their children with guidance to make good decision to stay safe. You must also teach them how to be good citizens who protect their communities. Parents should reinforce their teaching with consistent and firm discipline. Sit down and talk with teens about the privileges and freedom they will lose by not following the self-distancing mandates.

3. Reduce information overload. Parents should reduce the number of hours their children spend focusing on social media, which exposes them to more disinformation. Be sure your teens have other things to do with their day. Involve your teen in planning their daily self-distancing routine. Discuss with them how they can earn screen time at home, give back to their community and what they can do to keep their family safe.

4. Discuss what it means to be a U.S. citizen. Finally, during this global and national crisis, we may want to discuss with our children what it means to be a U.S. citizen. Have a family meal and discuss what it means to give back to your country. Perhaps you can read the famous speech by President John F. Kennedy at his 1961 inauguration when he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” There are some great downloads and lesson plans online of this famous speech that you can discuss at your next family dinner.

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Bridget Barnes has more than 30 years of experience as a Health and Human Services professional. Bridget joined Boys Town's Family Services Research and Development department to assist with creating what is now the evidence-based Common Sense Parenting program.

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