For most of us, it has been more than six weeks of practicing social distancing. Six weeks of learning a new normal, of experiencing the missed events and connections, and of coping with drastic, unexpected changes in our lives.
As we have learned to navigate our current reality as adults, we also have the opportunity to walk our teenagers through this quarantine in a healthy way, while teaching them tools and skills that they can utilize throughout their lifetimes.
Help them to manage their uncomfortable emotions
There can be a roller coaster of emotions for most of us on any given day. Practice empathy with your teen, listen well, validate that their feelings are real and significant, and give them space to process out loud when needed.
Learning to process hard emotions is a lifelong process, and as parents we have the privilege of being part of the learning curve for our kids. There is validity in the hard things that we feel, but we also are empowered to work through them. Help your child become comfortable with feeling things that are hard, while at the same time helping them to understand how to process and move through these feelings without getting stuck or utilizing unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Allow them to grieve
There is much that has been changed and lost in these weeks. As your teenager experiences sadness about what might be gone, what might not happen, and the changes in relationships, provide space for them to hurt. I think often as adults we are so used to experiencing and tackling adulting that we forget that while our children’s problems might not feel like they have the magnitude of ours, their problems and struggles are very real to them.
So often our response to hurt is to try to push it under the rug or fix the problems. Let’s take this opportunity to sit in the space with our teens as they grieve.
Help them to prioritize relationships
Relationship connections are so important as we navigate mental health and overall self-care. For some people, it is easy and natural to remain connected to friends and family during this time.
For others, it is difficult to make and nurture connections outside of everyday life. Often it feels more natural to disconnect from relationships until life gets back to normal. Consider how you can support your teen as he or she tries to navigate connections in this time. At our house we have been mindful about thinking about others during this time and reaching out. We try to connect with and encourage one person a day. We have left things on friends’ porches, participated in birthday parades, and even written hand-written cards and letters. It is easy to feel lonely in this time, help your teen by providing options for connecting with others in a new way.
Model healthy behavior
As parents, we hold a significant amount of power in that we can operate as living examples for our kids. While the words that we say in instructing and teaching our teenagers, more important is the way we live out life in front of them.
Model kindness and patience with those you are quarantined with. Model the process you take in working through your own fears and anxieties. Model healthy self-care and attending to your own mental health. Model gratitude. Model generosity and caring for others. Model forgiveness.
It is never too late to make an impact on your children. Consider how you might “walk the walk” more as you think through what you want your teenager to learn from you during this time and beyond.
Everything has changed in relation to how we do every day life. Our rhythms to life are different, our finances have been altered by this pandemic, our relationships outside the home are more disconnected, and our schedules look completely different. While we certainly want to hold children accountable for their actions, practice giving grace as we all navigate this uncertain time. Work on creating a culture of apologizing and forgiveness in your home.
May you and I both give the grace to our teens that we so hope to receive ourselves.
At Amy Wine Counseling we are interested in supporting you and your teenager during this time and all the time! Contact the office to set up an appointment for yourself or your teen.