My teenager needed a break from Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

It’s Friday night and my 18-year-old son, Garret, is next to me on the couch. We are watching The Office and laughing. We are both relaxed and enjoying our evening and not for one second do either of us have FOMO, also known as Fear Of Missing Out. 

If there is any silver lining to this pandemic and the stay-at-home orders, it’s that we are now perfectly okay with being home.

Over the years, I’ve watched how FOMO has affected my kids. FOMO isn’t just about missing a particular event. It’s also ongoing fear of being left out and the feeling that fun and excitement is happening somewhere else—with some of all of your friends but without you. FOMO has caused a lot of anxiety, meltdowns and even some tantrums with my teens. Social media has only made things harder because teens who aren’t invited or choose to stay home see the pictures of what they missed out on.

This pandemic and the need to social distance at home has put exclusion and FOMO on hold and I am thrilled about it.

My son and I are completely relaxed watching television together because there is nothing going on that we are missing out on. As a parent of a teen, I’m enjoying every minute I have with my kids isolated in the house with me.

There are a lot of special events our teenagers have missed out on in the last few months – proms, end-of-year banquets, graduations and recitals. But at the same time, we parents have gained valuable, uninterrupted time with our teenagers we will never get again.

I have seen Instagram photos of parents and teens scrapbooking together. I have seen families in my neighborhood walking or bike riding together. Every time I see parents getting this kind of quality time with their teenagers it makes me smile.

A few days ago, I planted fruit trees with Garret in the backyard. While we were planting them, we talked about how the world might look in three or four years when the trees grow and bear fruit. It was an entire day of spontaneous bonding time that I recognized I would not have had under normal circumstances because inevitably his phone would buzz, a friend would invite him somewhere and he would start bugging me to go. He seemed so relaxed all day without the stress of FOMO.

If this pandemic has brought us all a gift it’s that parents and teens have been able to break free of FOMO – at least for now.

So, as the country begins to open, I’m still at home, enjoying togetherness and appreciating having my son captive. And, while there are plenty of new things to feel anxious about, for now, I’m appreciating that FOMO is not one of them.

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