7 Tips for Parenting Teens Through the Covid-19 Pandemic
One area where families are particularly suffering the effects of the pandemic is in their relationships with their teens. Many families are currently struggling with economic hardships, trying to pay their monthly bills, ensuring family safety when in public, and trying to get along with the whole family. In addition, parents fall short of finding the balance in their relationship with their teens who have become bored, irritable, and isolated to their rooms. Does this sound like you?
This is a tough terrain to navigate for not only are you worried that your kids are anxious and unmotivated, but you are also overexerted and stressed about what the future will hold for your family.
As the saying goes, “when in flight, you need to place your oxygen mask firmly onto your face before you assist your child with his mask”. This simply means that in order to prepare the way ahead for your kids, it is important that you too practice the fundamental actions and behaviors that will help you endure the transition of these times.
As an essential mental health care worker, a teen’s mom, and a wife, I can tell you that the 7 below tips were fundamental for our family to shift our expectations of each other and fortify our relationships. This helped us bear the negative energies shared in the media and be able to find meaning in our daily lives.
Grow Their Self Esteem:
Even though teens rely on their peers for their acceptance and self-esteem, most of their values and ideas of self-worth come from you, their parent. During this time of little contact with peers, you can really step in and use the private time you have with your teen to raise their self-esteem.
You know what they like to do, and if you don’t, it’s a good time to ask. They have talents and interests that can be encouraged by simply buying art supplies, a microphone, or even coins for educational computer games. My daughter showed me this amazing amusement park she built on ROBLOX. I was genuinely impressed by her ingenuity and skills and now I always ask to see how her enterprise is evolving. I praise her and tell her that her skills can be easily used when she starts her own career.
Ensure Open Communication:
Teens need to have outside contact for their normal development, but now they are limited to facetime, phone, text, and social media. It is important that they keep in contact with their best friends and positive peers while minimizing exposure to negative social media.
We as parents need to find the right balance between reading every text they get and not putting any boundaries at all on their phone usage. Every teen is different, but they all need boundaries. Be open about why boundaries are set. Once they realize that it is not because they are “bad kids”, but because you care for them and want their happiness, they will accept your limits.
Set a Weekly Routine:
Giving your teen a weekly list of things to be responsible for in the household can be invaluable for giving them a sense of accomplishment and an opportunity for them to be praised. If you have more than one child, you can give the younger child a smaller task and still make them feel responsible for a well operating home.
Parents can be creative and use negotiating skills for who will do what in the home. Give them choices so they are in control. Maybe the teen doesn’t want to make their bed and clean their room so instead, offer them to clean their bathroom. My daughter decided she rather clean her room than the bathroom.
Set times for sleeping and waking up and make them have at least one meal jointly with you and your family every day. This will regulate their sleep, create healthy eating habits, and decrease irritability.
Prepare Yourself and Your Teen for Safety without Instilling Fear:
Many parents don’t realize that their own fears and anxieties associated with this pandemic are being transmitted to their children. Teens in particular worry about their parents even if they don’t show it. This worry can create a sense of instability in their own life and even lead to phobias and fears.
To make matters worse, teens don’t typically share their own anxieties with their parents because they either don’t want to be a burden to them or feel that they will not be heard. It is important for parents to have honest communication with their teens while being mindful that teens don’t feel as powerful to control their lives as their parents. A clear course of action with laid out preventative measures is helpful in reassuring your teen that there can be safety during these times.
Have Your Teen Exercise in Some Way Every Week:
Although many camps are shut for the summer and sports teams are a risk at this time, it is important for your teen to spend some time exercising. Moving the body releases endorphins which help combat boredom, negative thoughts, and anxiety. Riding a bicycle, walking the dog around the block, jogging, or playing tennis are great ways to increase circulation and get the mind set off the present problems.
Meditation and time for self:
Just like we need to carve some time for ourselves every week to find our balance in the midst of this unrest, so do our teens. The problem is that they don’t know how to do that. They sit in their rooms following thought patterns that turn negative and lead them to feeling anxious, sad and fearful.
We must encourage them to take time to slow down and find a calm happy pastime to occupy their day. Some like to journal, some like to draw or sing, and some like to pamper themselves experimenting with makeup and manicures. What is your teen’s interest? Our home is full of canvases of all sizes and my teen has experimented with all kinds of paint media. She even convinced me to try my hand at it with her and said “…there is no right or wrong mom.”
Set Aside Family Time for Games and Activities:
Companionship and quality time are probably the most important of all the things we can do for our kids as parents. Sure, they would never admit that they want to spend time with you, but setting time for a family game, a car trip somewhere, or just even watching a movie that they want to watch, shows them that they are not alone and that they are loved and accepted. It can be very difficult to interact with out kid’s moods but invite them to a game and all of a sudden, they can relate to you in a whole different way.
As we continue to observe how families adapt to this pandemic, it will be interesting to dive further into the topic of how to best connect with your teen. If you would like to learn more about bridging relationships with your teens during this difficult time, contact me (Alexa von Oertzen, LMFT) today at 954.391.5305. We will collaborate on how to best strengthen your relationship with your teens and help them obtain the security and confidence to take on the future.