Times are strange, and that may be the understatement of the century. (I feel I can safely say that given that 1918 was the last time there was a pandemic similar to this one.) While everything feels odd right now, I find raising a teen in quarantine to generate some of my strongest feelings.
This morning while my teen summoned the dog into the next room to keep her company as she started her online classwork, I read about the silver linings of this time and the resilience they are learning. I got choked up. Then I clicked over to a news site and saw a piece about how teens may be struggling the most and be permanently impacted in not great ways. Again, I got choked up.
I am clearly really emotional this morning, but I think I’m responding to the fact that our teens seem particularly susceptible right now, to both the good and the bad. They are old enough to understand and to not be comforted by what their parents can offer, but not so old that their brains are fully formed or their hormonal levels have stopped fluctuating wildly.
Raising teens on the best of days involves feeling all the feels. That is only heightened when they cannot leave the house, are completely out of their routine, missing their peers and their own identities, and uncertain about their future. Here are some of the pieces I’ve read lately that have offered insight and perspective, as well as actionable advice that seems manageable and not overwhelming.
Why teens may never be the same after the pandemic
by Scottie Andrew on CNN
So, this headline is scary, and I’m sorry about that. But I think this article offers some good insight into why traumatic events impact teens in a unique way while also acknowledging that it is “difficult to generalize what life will be like for an entire cohort” and that they are getting through it. It offers some good advice from experts. My favorite:
“Even if everybody at home gets along, it’s really important for their emotional development to have their own downtime,” said Dr. Katherine Williamson, a California pediatrician and media representative for the American Academy of Pediatrics. Her other recommendations include staying on a schedule to maintain a sense of normalcy, eating healthy and exercising regularly.
Making the ‘New Normal’ Work – How to help kids, teens, and your family through social isolation. by Karen Young on Hey Sigmund
Lots of concrete advice and actionable suggestions in this piece on things parents can do day to day to help their kids during this challenging and lonely time. I appreciate that she covered the importance of mindfulness and nature. Other advice that resonated included this nugget:
There will be so much that will be feeling out of their control during social isolation – assessment uncertainty, the loss of sporting or extra-curricular events, the loss of time with friends. Let them have choices wherever you can, even with the things you might have held onto control of a little tighter before now. If something feels important to them, and if the outcome isn’t terrible, think about handing it over to them.
Quaranteenagers: Strategies for Parenting in Close Quarters by Lisa Damour in The New York Times
Crazy to think this article is a month old, but the advice still applies. That’s particularly true as more and more activities that were important to them are cancelled. My senior had been holding out hope for an event scheduled for May 31st. It was recently cancelled and they said it would not be rescheduled. The finality of it unleashed my girl’s floodgates, and my heart broke for her. Damour’s advice was helpful:
Adults should not hesitate to say, ‘I hate that you have lost so much so fast and I am sorry it has happened. You’ll get through this, but that doesn’t make it any less miserable right now.’
When it comes to navigating painful feelings, the only way out is through, and offering our teenagers the compassion they deserve paves their way toward feeling better.
How to Help Teens Shelter in Place by Christine Carter in Greater Good Magazine
The idea of allowing our kids to step up to this moment and rise to the challenge the world has given them is one that I found heartening. I also was heartened by this suggestion about rising to the challenges at home, too:
Expect them to contribute to our household in meaningful ways. They can help with meal prep and household cleaning. Our kids assist with the cleaning by vacuuming and wiping down the counters. Keeping conflict low amid tight quarters is a meaningful contribution. Planning fun activities for the family to do together might be the most essential contribution of all!
I’m A Child Psychologist And A Mom Of Teens — Here Are 4 Tips For Helping Teens Cope With Confinement by Holly Antal, PhD, on Scary Mommy
One of her tips is about setting up a routine, not a schedule, and that’s a key distinction. Also, she offers advice for knowing when it’s time to seek professional help for a kid who is struggling:
It’s also important to remember that sometimes outside help is needed. While some stress, anxiety, and moodiness should be expected, if your child is having difficulty sleeping, trouble doing their schoolwork, becoming disinterested in their normal activities, or you’re not able to engage them in a conversation, it might be a good time to consider seeking help from a therapist. Virtually, of course!
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