COVID-19: Encouraging Teens to Protect Themselves and Others – Teacher’s Corner

Teacher’s Corner
All posts this week relate to the COVID-19 crisis.  Other posts to read:  COVID-19: What Your Teen Is or Should Be Thinking – Teacher’s Corner and Convincing Loved Ones to Protect Themselves and Others (coming April 3, 2020). Today’s post is about a process called Healthy Hassling.* You are encouraged to consider how to use this technique with teens as part of your online lessons during the time that schools are closed.
Our teens, like all adults, are confused, scared, and angry about the isolation created by the COVID-19 crisis.  Healthy Hassling can be used to get teens to think about COVID-19 and the importance of protecting themselves and others. The goal of Healthy Hassling is to push a teen’s thinking by taking different viewpoints, asking hard questions, and pointing out problems with how the teem may be thinking. Important: Healthy Hassling should only be used for things that kids actually have choices about – not about established rules. You can hassle about how to follow the health and safety rules related to COVID-19, but whether to follow them or nor follow them is not up for discussion.

How to use Healthy Hassling

  1. Tell the teen you would like to do a thinking exercise with her so she can exercise her thinking muscles and show you how sharp her thinking is on the subject of COVID-19 protection. Tell her the exercise is called Healthy Hassling and explain how it works.
  2. Because COVID-19 is a health and safety issue, you both need to agree to accept the following facts before you try Healthy Hassling on this subject.
    • The virus is very contagious.
    • People get the virus from other people.
    • The virus is spread through droplets on hands and face from sneezing and coughing.
    • Staying six feet apart from each other is necessary to avoid contagious droplets.
    • Some people who do not feel sick may have the virus inside of them and be able to give it to others.
    • All people, young and old, can catch the virus.
    • Some people get very sick from the virus and others only moderately sick.
    • Some people die from complications of the virus.
    • Older persons or persons sick from other things are more likely to be very sick or even die from the virus.
    • Lots of washing of hands with soap and water (or sanitizing with virus-killing sanitizers) is necessary to prevent catching the virus from or giving the virus to others.
  3. Ask the teen if he is willing to hassle about how to protect against the virus. Make sure you both understand the following rules:
    • We both accept the facts (above). If a statement conflicts with the facts, we agree that statement must be revised. For example, “I won’t get the virus,” violates a fact. That statement would have to be revised. A revision could be, “At 16, I am at low risk for getting the virus.”
    • We both agree to say, “I’m done,” if either one of us begins to feel angry or upset about what is being said. The purpose of Healthy Hassling is to stretch our thinking. Neither of us will insist on being right or that the other is wrong.
  4. Don’t put down the teen’s responses no matter how unreasonable they may be. Your job is to matter-of-factly push back with a different way of thinking so the teen can think about whether his responses make sense or whether he needs to adjust his thinking. However, both of you should ask for a change in a statement if it doesn’t sync with the facts.
  5. Example of Healthy Hassling about COVID-19:
    Adult:   What if you are asked to go to a movie with a friend?
    Teen:    Sounds great. I hate beng cooped up all the time.
    Adult:   So, how would you protect yourself from the virus?
    Teen:    It’s just Santos. He’s not sick.
    Adult:   Fact check. People who do not feel sick may have the virus
    inside of them and give it to others. How will you revise your
    answer to be in line with that fact?
    Teen:    That stinks. I can’t go anywhere with anybody.
    Adult:   It does stink. These are hard times to put up with. Are you
    saying you should not have any connection to Santos?
    Teen:    I don’t know. I’m done. This is too hard.
    Adult:   OK. Thanks for thinking about these things with me. They are
    important things. Let me know if later you want to brainstorm some
    ways to get together with Santos that jive with the facts.
    (Some possibilities if teen wants to brainstorm: Show a movie outside on a
    sheet and sit 6 feet apart, FaceTime while both teens watch the same movie in their
    homes, substitute bike riding for a movie)
  6. Some things to say/ask to get the hassle started:
    • What if a friend offers to share his snacks with you?
    • What if you are invited to go to the beach?
    • What if your neighbor can’t get to the grocery store?
    • What if your girlfriend (boyfriend) invites you to her (his) house?

What can be accomplished by hassling a teen about COVID-19

    • Most importantly, you talk about and agree upon COVID-19 facts (See above.). This will encourage realistic thinking and set the stage for compliance with rules about what is allowed and what is not allowed regarding safe behaviors.
    • You agree about how hard the current situation is, which lets teens know that you understand what they are going through.
    • You show respect for the teen’s feelings when you stop the hassle if it becomes emotional and too hard. You agreed to do that before starting the hassle. This shows the teen that you will do what you say you will and helps strengthen your relationship with him.
    • You do not offer your own solutions, but do offer help in thinking of solutions if the teen wants help. This shows teens that you believe in their ability to think of solutions and builds their confidence in their own problem-solving.
    • You avoid making yourself right and the teen wrong which is  good for all relationships.
*Healthy Hassling” is from Self-Esteem: A Family Affair by Jean Illsley Clarke.

Teachers, you can use this blog in classrooms. Here are two ideas about how.

  1. For middle or high school parenting or child development courses:
    • Use the blog for discussion topics
    • Require students to research the topics and agree or disagree with what the blog is suggesting.
  2. For all courses, especially English Language Arts:
  • Use the blog for writing prompts for paragraphs, theme papers, journal entries, class starters, etc. Have students read the blog and respond to:
  • Do you agree with what is being said about kids? Do kids really act, think or feel that way?
  • Do you agree with what is being said about parents, grandparents, teachers and child caregivers? Do or should they act, think or feel that way?
  • What would be your advice on this topic?
  • What was left out of this article?
  • If you were a parent, would you use any of this information? How?
Why can this blog be a useful teaching tool?
  • Students that see connections between their coursework and their lives do better in school.
  • Most students will either be parents one day or have children in their lives that they care about, so the topical information can help them build their knowledge about children and parenting and develop a positive image of the type of parenting they want to do.
  • The new core literacy standards adopted by most states call for frequent writing in all courses.
  • Newly developed end-of-course assessments to be used by many states will require that students demonstrate that they can think critically. These prompts help students practice critical thinking.
  • Newly developed end-of-course assessments to be used by many states will require that students demonstrate that they can analyze what they read. These prompts help students practice analysis.


What do you think?

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.