By Amanda Lee
As summer 2021 kicked off with the lifting of the state mask mandates and other statewide restrictions, some parents found themselves in the awkward position of playing social coordinator for their teenagers.
“To an adolescent, peer relationships are the most important relationships in their lives,” said San Dimas resident Samar Yassine, who has worked as a credentialed public school counselor for more than 15 years and is the mother of tween and teenage daughters.
Yassine says getting kids back out there is not as simple as it sounds.
“Because school was cut so abruptly, their social connections were also cut abruptly without giving them the opportunity to necessarily prepare,” Yassine said.
San Dimas resident Sarah Jimenez realized her 15-year-old son Wyatt needed meaningful peer interaction after buying a season pass to Raging Waters for him.
“Interacting with your peers can be hard and feel scary, but it’s not something that kids can avoid. And I don’t think it’s something that as parents we should allow them to avoid forever,” Jimenez said.
San Dimas Parks and Recreation activities, sports clubs, theme parks and summer jobs are all opportunities for teens to socialize in person, depending on the family’s comfort level. But some teens may need a little push.
As Bonita Unified School District shifted back to in-person learning in April 2021, teachers and administrators confirmed students’ post-pandemic social behavior at school was noticeably impacted.
“They are much more quiet in and outside the classroom,” Yassine said. “Kids are at a place where they have to relearn how to socialize.”
Jimenez reached out to other parents who had also purchased Raging Waters season passes in local Facebook groups, in hopes of creating peer-aged gatherings. Soon after, the Raging Waters Summer Youth Crew Facebook group was born.
“It creates opportunities for connections with the kids, but it doesn’t force anything. And it also releases responsibility back to them to maintain it throughout their experience at Raging Waters,” Jimenez said.
Yassine emphasized that adjusting back into the real world requires kids be provided with relationship-building opportunities.
“Expecting them to adjust back to the real world and know how to create those connections is a lot to ask of kids who have sat on so much over the last year,” Yassine said.
Wyatt said he prefers not to socialize virtually because it does not feel as authentic and he does not know the person in real life.
“We pick up and internalize different social cues virtually versus actually physically being present with another human,” Jimenez said.
Yassine suggested parents open communication and stay connected with their kids, their kids’ friends and their families.
“Know what the views are of the children that they are hanging out with and how they are approaching the pandemic. How is their family approaching the pandemic? And do those things line up with your family’s, your views and your beliefs?’”
The National Association of School Psychologists also stresses the importance of providing kids with the tools to manage their own anxiety about the pandemic. A current resource posted by the NASP calls for parents to teach kids positive preventative measures and to discuss fears of infection to help reduce anxiety.
While Jimenez laughed about her son not being overly excited about being “forced” to go to Raging Waters with kids he did not know, Yassine equated this reaction to the first-day-of-school jitters.
“The first day of school is always awkward, always uncomfortable, and it may even take a few days before you establish your relationships and get into a routine with your peers. But eventually you get into the swing of things, and kids are resilient. And this is the exact same thing,” Yassine said.
On June 19, Wyatt attended the first Raging Waters Summer Youth Crew event along with two other teenage boys.
“It’s really uncomfortable when you first start, but as the day goes you get less uncomfortable and start having fun,” Wyatt said.