The COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on just about everybody. It has affected people in all areas of life from wellness, to financial concerns, to mental health, to leisure, and everywhere in-between.

With the upcoming school year approaching (no matter how that looks for individual families), there is one area that we can all improve in: communication. Youth have a great deal on their plates these days, and during these trying times, we adults in the community, have had to focus on other concerns and may have looked past the needs of our young people.

As the upcoming school year approaches, please reach out to the young people in your life and ask them how they are doing. Remember, they’re navigating these choppy waters too. Really listen to youth when they are talking about the things that matter to them. Take them seriously, and understand that their worries and concerns are just as real just as ours are. Offer information and practical help while being supportive.

It’s important to be honest, and direct. Sugarcoating things can send mixed signals. Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions and encourage openness. Often we have no idea what’s going on with younger folks if we don’t have that open line of communication.

Young people have a lot to teach adults. Let them know when you have learned something from them that you’ve found interesting or helpful. Offer them choices instead of making demands, and be aware of what is going on in their lives.

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We found out that distant learning is extremely challenging. If faced with that in any capacity this fall, ask about specific assignments, things they’ve learned, something that they found interesting. Don’t accept “I don’t know, I don’t have any work, or I’m not sure what to do” as an answer. Ask about their friends. Ask what movies or music they’re into this week. Ask if there’s anything that you can help with. The more we’re engaged with our young people, the better the chances our relationships will grow and communication will continue to improve.

As we continue to grind through the day-to-day challenges of these uncharted times, continue building upon those relationships you have with those close to you, especially our younger generations. Communication is one thing we can all keep developing, all we have to do is practice. Talk with the young people in your life, check on them, and be there for them.