Getting teenagers to respect quarantine.

Getting teenagers to do things they don’t want to do is hard. They want independence, and this tends to mean that they rebel against their parents’ rules and expectations. Here are some strategies for helping your teen do the right thing.

  1. Talk about feelings. Quarantine is tough. Teenagers are missing big things, like seeing their friends, going to prom, and school. Acknowledge what they’re going through.
  2. Give teens their space. If possible, let them rule their rooms.
  3. Ask your teenager, “What’s your quarantine plan?” Have a conversation. Try to work with your teenager’s understanding and motivation to help them do the right thing.
  4. If needed, tell your teenager what your expectations are and why. Make it personal. Say, “I want you to stay in the house to help protect me and grandma. Please do not visit with friends—that puts us at risk, even if they don’t have symptoms.”
  5. If your teenager breaks the rules, play detective first. Try to find out what they did and why, so you can figure out what to do next. Try: “I noticed you visited your friend even though I asked you to stay in. How come?”’
  6. Problem solve. Work with your teenager to reach solutions. “Maybe we can work on this together. Do you have any ideas about how to make quarantine more manageable for you?”
  7. If you think it’s appropriate, negotiate and compromise. Can you trade staying in for a later bedtime? Relaxed rules about phone use? Access to a new social media platform?
  8. Consider rewards. Small, daily rewards for good behavior are totally OK. Maybe staying in earns your teenager more screen time, or the right to choose the show during family TV time. Do not use large, distant rewards—they’re usually expensive and less effective.
  9. Finally, as a last resort, consider consequences. Explain upfront what the consequences will be and why—don’t wait until your teenager goes out. Say, “Your mother is immune compromised and it would be dangerous for her to get sick. You have gone out once already. It’s not OK to put your mom at risk. If you go out again, you’ll have to stay away from the rest of us for 7 days when you come back.” Consequences alone are not usually helpful. Try pairing consequences with problem solving and rewards. 


Last update: May 7, 11:53 am EDT

Reviewed by ERS, ARM