Whether you have been thriving or just surviving during this time, one thing is for sure, we are facing a “new normal”. Due to social distancing and COVID, life as we know will likely never look the same. At least for some time. I am not just talking about hand washing, social distancing, and masks. I am talking about a complete societal overhaul: school looking different, work looking different, and home life looking very different.
Many of us have fears about what life will look like and how to keep our homes a safe place for everyone. As the school year begins, teens are starting to find out how school will function, parents are trying to manage their own pressure of taking care of a home, balancing work expectations and parenting stressed teens.
How are parents supposed to help their teens survive during this time?
TIP 1: Talk with your teen about your needs and theirs during this time and create guidelines you all feel good about.
Adolescence is seen as a time of personal development where one is discovering their values, beliefs, and sense of self. They are working to find a balance in their growing need for independence and reliance on family for support. Having clear expectations can act as guidelines for yourself and the household and allows both parties to take responsibility for their physical, emotional, and material well-being and learn to communicate effectively.
- Show respect for your teens needs and feelings – Teens’ ability to use logic and reasoning are growing at this time, emotions and reactivity are a bit more heightened. Treating them more like adult by giving them the opportunity to explain their positions and experiences will make them feel more respected. Lecturing, laughing, and talking down will cause tensions to rise, focus on an open discussion and dialogue. Showing respect for your teen’s needs and feelings will provide them more incentive to be respectful of your needs as well. Be clear with your teen about your needs for cooperation and patience.
- Respect your teen’s privacy – we all need our alone time, especially in a time of close proximity all the time. If you or your teen needs space, time to cool off during an argument, or to go for a walk, make that a priority. Items such as journals and personal belongings should be kept as sacred, unless safety is at risk.
- Be clear and consistent in setting limits – Parents need to be clear with rules and expectations. Having rules creates a safe and secure environment for everyone in the household. Having clear expectations and consequences allow for mutual respect and lessons to be learned. Consistency is key in helping create an environment that feels fair.
TIP 2: Work together to create schedules that work for everyone in the home.
Online school is not easy; it involves a lot of self-teaching, hard deadlines, and pressure. Whether we like it or not, we all need structure. Parents now have a new burden of making sure their teen is participating in class and getting their schoolwork done all from their own home on top of their own work, lives, and upkeep. Teens will likely have more busy work and assignments to do, likely with less leeway than last school year.
- Make a calendar/planner together. Teen’s – this is your time to express what actually works for you, what support you need from your parents. Parents – this is your time to express your expectations around your child and what you can do to support them. No teen wants their parent reminding them to do an assignment 600 times and no parent wants to remind their teen to do their assignment 600 times.
- Include breaks, chores and screen time – Teens get breaks in school. They have opportunities to socialize, catch up with friends, participate in sports and arts, and complain about a test or assignment. Create space for teens to play their video games, tiktok, text friends, ect. Create space for a walk or run, art activities, reading, journaling, mindfulness, etc.
- Get back on a reasonable sleep schedule. Sleep is also a key part in brain functioning, mental health, and overall wellness. Teens need up to 10 hours of sleep a night, their biological sleep pattern has them not being able to sleep till around 11pm, so it is important to consider what is an appropriate schedule. For more resources: (https://www.sleepfoundation.org/)
TIP 3: Put your own oxygen-mask on before you help others (aka: take care of yourself first.)
The classic buzzword we are all a bit tired of hearing is back and I am asking for more than a face mask and candles. I am talking about self-care in terms of deliberate action to take care of our mental and physical wellbeing.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for support. Whether that’s through a trained professional, another parent, a sibling, or other supportive peer. Seek some extra support in whatever way you need.
- Set aside time outside of scrolling on your phone to practice activities that help actually activate your mind and body. These are the activities that actually help refuel our values, sense of self, and allows us the ability to be there for others. Think – meditation, yoga, art, reading, a walk, cooking a healthy meal, etc.
- Say “no”. One thing we all learned during this time is that sometimes having a break from social outings, being at events, and taking on every project is not necessary. Make a list of things you no longer are willing to do – work past a certain hour, engage in that fundraiser, keeping phones away during family time.
Adjust as needed, remember this is our “New Normal”, it is going to take time for everyone to find out what works for them. Make it a discussion and include all parties when deciding on what changes need to be made. As Heraclitus wisely said, “the only constant in life is change”, and frankly we are all exhausted of this constant change. Hopefully our “new normal” allows us the ability to connect with each other on a new level, to find balance in work and home, and to focus more on what truly makes us happy.
This is a trying time for all of us. If families do not take time to make plans for this time, together, parents may experience their own struggles with depression, anxiety, increased alcohol or drug use and other struggles and teens may experience depression and anxiety, increases in eating disordered behavior, increases in teen alcohol use or marijuana use and even thoughts of suicide.
If you or your teen need more support, reach out. We provide teen counseling, parent support, family therapy, counseling for young adults, anxiety counseling, depression counseling, substance abuse counseling, and more.
Article written by Audrey Bristol, LSW