Being a teenager is hard! Between having to deal with the puberty related changes, struggling to gain more independence, trying to fit in with friends, and navigating school, there is a whole lot on their plate. Now, to top it off, there is a pandemic, an experience that has had an effect on everyone’s mental health and way of living.
If you have a teen at home, you have probably wondered at various points during this ongoing period of pandemic about ways in which they have been affected. Moreover, you most likely observed the changes in them and wondered how to help them deal with their struggles while trying to stay afloat yourself. Recently, more than ever, parents have been seeking therapy to learn how to deal with fluctuating moods of their teenagers, how to motivate them to do better in school, how to help them cope with social isolation, how to help them manage anxiety they have developed about “danger” and “germs”, how to motivate them to eat healthy and exercise, how to help them deal with losses…. The list goes on and these are all valid concerns. Parents are also overwhelmed, tired, and stressed. Having to help others while needing help yourself is a difficult task, but there are certain strategies that could help parents handle the situations that arise at home with their teens. So, here are some tips to help you and your teen get through these tough times:
Talk to your teen! Acknowledge their feelings and offer empathy. As parents, we are very quick to jump into trying to fix our children’s problems so we could take away their pain, but we often miss a very important step and that is active listening. Talk to your teen, ask him/her how they feel, and then just listen, validate, and empathize. Reflect back what they are saying to help them feel validated. More often than not, they just want to be heard and feel understood.
One of the main challenges that most families have faced during the pandemic is having to be together all the time; for many it was in tight headquarters. Not only that most family members are not used to being together all the time, they have now been asked to do so while their lives are full of stress and anxiety. Teenagers in general are not fans of spending a lot of time with their parents, especially in those quantities. The best thing to do, is to give them space. It may feel counterintuitive to just let someone be when they are having a hard time, but sometimes that is what they need, to be left alone for a period of time. It is a good idea to let them know that you are going to give them space and that they can come to you at anytime when they want or need to talk.
You are not perfect! No one is. As a parent, you may say things to your teen that come off harsh or insensitive. Revisit this conversation when you cooled off, apologize if you feel that you were in the wrong. Your teen will probably not show it, or may not even know it, but they are learning from you. Don’t forget to forgive yourself as well. You are only human.
Control What you Can:
Help your teen identify things they can control to minimize the sense of helplessness. For example, taking precautions to avoid contracting COVID-19, leading a healthy life-style, staying on top of their school-work, reaching out to their friends and staying connected to the world outside of their small bubble.
As difficult as it is to believe right now, the current situation can benefit your teenager in the long run. It is teaching them how to accept that certain situations are beyond their control, that it is important to appreciate what they have, that they can count on their family and friends, and that “This too shall pass”.
And as for yourself, please don’t hesitate to seek help. Keep in mind that there is help out there and you always have the option to take advantage of it. Connect with other parents, consider virtual support groups, and if need be, seek professional advice. People manage stress best when they rely on the help of others.