Having teenagers confined to home during the coronavirus crisis definitely has its challenges. While younger children may be thrilled at the prospect of having parental attention 24/7, adolescents are likely to feel differently.
Here are some tips for parenting teenagers during this time.
Emphasize social distancing
The first challenge with teens and young adults may be getting them to comply with the guidelines for social distancing.
Parents are asking what to tell them. “Our answer is that exposure to this virus is an exponential thing, and that it’s not really about them,” says Dr. Anderson. One thing to emphasize, he adds, is: “You just can’t know that your friends are well. And while you may be comfortable taking that risk, you’re also bringing that back in your house.”
Help your teenagers understand that no one really knows yet how the coronavirus affects people of different age groups — contracting the virus might be very dangerous for your teenager, even though the facts are still unclear.
Understand their frustration over not seeing friends
For teenagers and young adults, friends are hugely important, and they are supposed to be — bonding with peers is one of the essential developmental tasks of adolescents.
Acknowledge that you know it’s frustrating for them to be cut off from friends. Listen to what they’re feeling, validate those feelings and then be direct about how you can work together to make this situation bearable.
Loosening rules about time spent on social media, for instance, will help compensate for the socializing time lost with school closings.
Support remote schooling
Parents are reporting feeling pressured and confused about how to help kids with remote learning.
You can help teenagers — and college students who’ve been sent home — create a realistic schedule for getting work done in defined periods, building in breaks and times for socializing, exercising and entertainment. The key principle: do a session of work first, then reward yourself with something relaxing.
Encourage healthy habits
Teenagers and young adults will do better during this stressful time if they get adequate sleep, eat healthy meals and exercise regularly. Keeping a consistent sleep schedule, with predictable times to wake up and go to bed, is especially important to maintaining a positive mood and their ability to fulfill academic expectations.
Validate their disappointment
For many, the most painful part of the coronavirus crisis will be losing important experiences: high school sports seasons, proms, theater productions, high school and college graduations.
Give them room to share their feelings and listen without judgment (or without reassuring them that everything will be fine).
Some will be worried about missing activities expected to help them with college applications and scholarships. Give them room to share how they are feeling and acknowledge the real stress they may be under. Then express confidence in your child’s ability to rebound.
Help them practice mindfulness
Mindfulness techniques can be very helpful in this kind of situation, where our routines are disrupted and we may feel overwhelmed by frustration and disappointment. Mindfulness teaches us to tune into our emotions in any given moment and experience them without judgment.
In what’s called “radical acceptance,” we let ourselves sit with our emotions rather than fighting them. As Joanna Stern, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, explains, “You tell yourself it’s okay to feel anxious right now. It’s okay to feel scared. It’s okay to feel angry. You’re accepting the feelings you have and validating them because we’re all having those feelings. It’s really important that you accept them as they are rather than fighting them.”
Source: Child Mind Institute