Tips for parenting teens in the COVID-19 crisis
By Kathaleen Bruce, LMSW
This week in Michigan, school was officially cancelled for the remainder of the year in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. For many students an occasional snow day is a welcomed site, but trading once-in-a-lifetime events like prom and graduation, fun with friends, concerts and performances, sports and end of year class parties for several weeks or months of quarantine is a different story. With the announcement this week, your child, especially teens, may be left feeling a sense of loss. As parents, you want to support your children as they navigate this unprecedented stage of life, but you’re also working through these changes while trying to keep up with working from home, homeschooling and keeping the family healthy. We’ve got you covered! Read on for some quick tips on how to support your teen through quarantine.
It’s OK to feel angry.
High school seniors have lost out on much of what they’ve been working for over the last 12 years, and teens in general are missing out on high school and college rites-of-passage. Understandably, they may be feeling angry, sad, disappointed, and just plain miserable. For parents, expressing empathy for their current situation can go a long way in helping them cope.
Say this: “I’m sorry that you’re missing out on so many things you were looking forward to. This will end and life will get better, but I understand that you feel miserable right now.”
It’s OK to feel happy.
On the flip side, your teen may feel a huge sense of relief with the premature end of the school year. For some, the stress of studies, pressure of performances, or social struggles means quarantine is actually a welcomed change. It’s important to allow your child to feel both disappointment and relief.
Say this: “It’s okay to feel relieved that some of the things you were worried about are now not going to happen.”
Be ready for friction.
For teens, friendships can be as important and their relationships with their family members. Expect that they are not going to enjoy being forced to stay away from their friends for many weeks. Be ready for arguments and anger as you keep them home to keep them well. This will be even more challenging as other parents may not follow the rules and allow their children to interact with friends outside their homes.
Say this: “I’m following the advice of medical experts during this quarantine, and I can’t allow you to go to someone else’s home or have someone over to ours, regardless of the choices your friend’s parents are making.”
Give them a voice.
As you navigate a new family schedule, be respectful of the fact that your teen has their own idea of how they would like to see their day go. Layout your expectations for schoolwork, help with younger siblings and housework. Ask for their input and come to an agreement together.
Say this: “I need some things from you during this quarantine, and I know you have needs too. Let’s look at our weekly schedule together and come up with one that works for both of us.”
When you’re working from home, it can be more difficult than ever to disconnect from work. It’s important to give your family, and especially your children, undivided attention, sans work. Set aside time every day where you can put your devices away and focus on family.
Say this: “At five-o’clock today, let’s head outside and take a walk before dinner. It’s important to get our work done, but we need to make time for time for each other. Spending time with you is one of my favorite things to do!”
Know when your child needs help.
Despite your best efforts, your child’s response to the stress surrounding COVID-19 may require some outside help. The IHA Pediatric Behavioral Health team is here to support you. Call today to learn more.
Say this: “I can see you’re struggling, and I want to do what’s best to help you. I know someone that can help.”