'Let's do something crazy': Teens coach parents through TikTok dance challenges during isolation
Videos can be a good creative outlet for families, parenting author Ann Douglas says
Families cooped up together during the COVID-19 pandemic are turning to Netflix, board games and puzzles to get them through — but a few are going renegade and taking on TikTok dance challenges.
Take Pat Tetrault and his three daughters in La Broquerie, Man., who found they had an abundance of time on their hands and decided to use it making TikTok videos together.
"They showed me a few TikToks that I thought were hilarious, so I said, 'What the heck, let's do something crazy. Let's get something done,'" he said.
TikTok is one of the world's most popular social media platforms, with more than 800 million people around the world using the app regularly to create and share short videos. It's mostly popular with teens, who often post videos of themselves taking on dance challenges like the Renegade, but that isn't stopping families from getting in on the fun.
Although Tetrault is still going to work, his daughters are home and isolated from their friends. It can be challenging, he said, but the videos are ways they can have fun together — and his daughters can make fun of their dad.
"It gives us a reason to think of different things to do together and laugh. With everything going on in life right now, it's pretty serious stuff, and a lot of people can get down."
"If you can find something to keep your mind off of it and create some positiveness around you and your friends, then why not?"
Let kids take the lead
Making creative videos is a great outlet, says parenting commentator Ann Douglas.
The parenting book author and columnist for CBC Radio says children and teens are likely feeling very vulnerable and out of control, so parents ceding control of activities allows kids to take a bit more ownership of a challenging situation.
"I think it's great to let kids take the lead on some of the activities because right now, a lot of kids are feeling like they've lost all control over their life," she said.
"They can't go to school and see their friends, so a lot of things are out of their control. But one of the best ways to cope, from a mental health perspective, is to look at all the things you do have in your control. One thing kids can control is coming up with a way to have fun."
Tetrault's daughters control their TikTok videos and, apparently, his dance moves.
"I'll be honest with you. I'm old school. I'm not a big dancer.... The girls are teaching me all sorts of new stuff, so one day we'll have to take it out on the town," he said.
"We're actually getting closer because of it.... It's a different avenue of connecting with them."
'It keeps our family together'
Natalie Bell is also making TikTok videos using her account @pegcitylovely with her children to pass the time.
"We try to do things more now as a family than we ever have before because, of course, it used to be just the business of the day. Work, come home, eat, sleep, go back and do it again," she said.
Whether she's singing a Daniel Caesar song with her daughter Cici or doing a dance challenge with her eldest daughter Kiki, she says it's just "feel-good."
WATCH | Who did it best? Natalie Bell and her daughter Kiki do the same dance
"It's just something fun. There's no stress, there's no pressure. It's just if we want to do it, we do it," Bell said.
"We have fun and we don't care who sees it."
TikTok isn't just for teenagers, she said.
"Everybody is on there and it's just a feel-good thing and it's something you can do as a family."
That's certainly ringing true for the Haley-Guimond family in Trois-Rivières, Que.
Nellie Guimond, Alexa Haley and Lily-Jade Haley create daily videos on TikTok featuring their mother, Cindy Guimond, and their dad, Éric Haley — whom they are teaching to dance.
"Showing this to the world, to our family and friends, was really entertaining for everyone, and everyone loved it. I think that's the main reason for our little popularity … his goofy side that people didn't think he would, or could, show," Nellie said in a CBC Quebec AM interview.
Lily-Jade said making the videos keeps them happy and connected.
"Sometimes we laugh about our dad, because he doesn't get the moves right away," she said.
"It keeps our family together."
No dancing? No problem
Douglas said there are many creative ways parents can connect with their children during the pandemic, and they don't need to use social media to do it.
For example, it can be an opportunity to try new things in the kitchen and access a kind of "improvisational inspiration," she says.
"What if you only have these five or six ingredients? And what could you Google and find a recipe for? And how might it really turn out?"
For parents of craft-loving kids, Douglas suggests making signs with community-minded messages to put in the window for others to see.
"Just looking at what you have, looking at where your interests are and following one another's lead."