Our world has changed dramatically over the last few weeks. Many of us are quarantining and/or using social distancing to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Students are receiving school instruction from home, parents are working from home, and the whole flow, structure and routine to daily life has completely changed.
Teenagers are likely to be particularly hard hit during this time. They are wired differently. The teen brain is especially primed for social relationships, emotional engagement, creativity, and novelty seeking. Keep this information in mind as you try to support your teen, it will help you understand them better and make it easier to identify their needs. Here are 6 ways to support your teen now.
Take the time to validate what your teen is feeling (and don’t forget your own). Anxiety may be heightened due to the fear of becoming ill or having a family member become ill. They may be anxious about performing academically without their usual support. Spend time helping them process these anxieties and fears, and reassure them your family is doing everything possible to stay healthy and that you will help them find solutions to any problems that may arise.
Disappointment is another emotion likely to play a big role in how your teen is feeling. The disappointment or not being able to play sports, go to the prom, graduation, etc. For this period of time, your teen is losing some independence they have worked so hard to gain. They will grieve these losses and that can look like sadness, anger, irritability, or denial. This first thing to realize is that you can’t fix this situation or change what is happening. Acknowledging and accepting that fact will allow you to be present with the emotions your teen is feeling. Some things you can do are to offer comfort and reassurance, plan for distant future events or trips, and listen when they need to vent.
Ask: How are you feeling? What are your concerns or worries right now? How can I support you?
Give factual information about the virus and it’s transmission. Provide information that empowers them to do what they can to stay healthy, i.e. the things they have control over like social distancing, washing hands, etc. Encourage them to use a trusted source of information for updates and limit those so it is not overwhelming. Explain to them why social distancing is so important and remind them of it’s temporary nature while empathizing with their feelings about missing friends and family.
What education does not involve is keeping the news on 24/7 and having an overload of information, conflicting information, and information that does not help you stay healthy and safe. Unfortunately, many news stations use the psychology of fear to keep you watching and listening, don’t fall victim to it. It can easily set a tone of anxiety, anger, or fear in the home.
We are hard-wired for connection to stay emotionally healthy. Teens are no different. It is very difficult (although necessary) for them not to be able to visit friends. During this time of in their lives, teens are trying to develop self-confidence and a sense of belonging. Being with peers allows for that sense of belonging, helps them feel valued, and lets them develop the sense of security and comfort you get from being with others who are going through similar experiences.
That being said, encourage your teen to connect with friends. We are fortunate enough to live in a technologically advanced time and have many means of connection when we can’t be together physically. Remind them we are really practicing physical distancing and they can continue to be social through technology – whether it’s FaceTime, snapchat, or video games, etc.
Establish Routine and Healthy Habits.
When there is no structure or routine, it is harder to get things accomplished and feel any sense of normalcy. If your teen is remote learning, that will help structure their day. Other ways to help them establish routine is by encouraging them to still get dressed in the morning, keep healthy grooming habits, and continue with chores they have had in the past. Empower them to pick a project they have wanted to complete but haven’t had the time for, this time can now be scheduled in their day. Examples are learning a new language, cleaning out their room or closet, reading a book, or learning to play a musical instrument.
Suggestions for routine and healthy habits include the following: move everyday – whether it’s exercising with or without you, walking the dog, dancing to their fave music – encourage movement every single day; encourage mindfulness about eating habits – teach them to ask themselves are you hungry or just bored; schedule family time such movie nights, game nights, family workouts, cooking meals, etc.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.
Seriously, unless we are essential employees, we are in the home together 24/7. That’s a lot of time. This is a time we can relax the rules about screen time, worry less about how the house looks (who is coming over?), and allow for a more relaxed home environment. We are all in this together and it is easy to feel overwhelmed and/or anxious about everything happening outside of the home. What I don’t want you to lose sight of is the fact that we can control the mood we set inside the home.
Besides if we aren’t sweating the small stuff, we will laugh more, become more playful, and love easily. Aren’t these the things we will want our teens to remember about this unique experience in their lives?
Hope this information is helpful. Stay healthy and safe!
Warm regards, Cindy