The 2020 Back-to-School List for Teens’ Emotional Well-Being

By Lisa Damour for The New York Times

In a sea of Covid-19 confusion, this seems certain: The pandemic will disrupt school this fall. Attending school part-time, sporadically as viral outbreaks allow, or completely remotely may make excellent medical sense. But learning from home, or being constrained by in-school safety protocols, will reduce students’ exposure to the ordinary magic — the woven-in forces that promote healthy adolescent development — that happens at school.

Can parents help compensate for what will necessarily be lost? Yes. Forget the backpacks and binders. Here are the essential supplies teenagers will need for the strange school year ahead.

The healthy adolescent trajectory toward independence involves loosening emotional ties to parents and strengthening ties to peers. This critical transition almost certainly happens best when teenagers can get together in person. While communication technology has been a welcome asset for many adolescents since the pandemic began, a recent survey found that 61 percent of teenagers reported feeling more lonely as a result of the pandemic.

Given that adolescents cannot, at present, count on hanging out with peers during the school day, we should make sure that they still have ways to see their friends. Unfortunately, teenagers often fail to observe social distancing guidelines, even if they start off with the best of intentions. They may need supervision or specific guidance, such as having them meet outdoors or go on bike rides with friends — wearing masks when appropriate.

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