COVID-19 appeared, the world stood still and so did your teen. This global pandemic has everyone; scientists, experts, leaders of government, leaders of industry, parents, teachers, coaches etc. in a state of confusion with more questions than there are answers. We all have a lot of unanswered questions and so do your teenagers. They are just not asking them out loud. You will be surprised by how many likely and/or unlikely scenarios have played out in their minds. You might actually not want to hear all the thoughts that cross their minds (they can be frightening) but you do want to know that your teenager’s emotional health is good. Protecting them from the dangers of this novel virus is just as important as protecting their emotional well being. This is why what they are saying and not saying is vital and needs your attention.
I have read and listened to a lot of parents agonize about the continuation of their teenagers learning. Many are frustrated that their teenagers are not engaged or are spending too much time online etc. A lot of valid questions about the gaps that may exist post COVID-19 and how such gaps can be closed. Parents also have concerns about restrictions on teenagers involvement with extracurricular activities that require more structured and in-person practice and how this may affect their teens’ advancement post COVID-19. And still some more concern with their fridges becoming a revolving door and the kitchen the most visited part of the house. Not only does this put a huge hole in parents pockets, the dangers of weight gain post COVID-19 are real.
While all these shared concerns are valid for the future, what is critical to our mental health particularly that of your teenager is your ability to stay in the present. One of my all time favourite quotes from the Bible says, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own troubles.” We need more than ever to be mindful; feeling our feet on the ground and present-minded. All the post covid concerns will be taken care of and dealt with at that time- post COVID-19, but if your teen breaks down in the moment and loses their sense of self, sense of safety and sense of hope, then you will have a much harder time dealing with the actual post COVID-19 effects. So what are some of the ways you can ensure your teenager keeps it together emotionally until things get back up and running? (and they will get back up and running). I will list a few ways and emphasize here that this list is not in any way exhaustive…
- Routine. Your teenager thrives on routine. While a lot of their routine has been halted due to this pandemic, you can keep some form of routine at home. A set time to do their work. Set time for dinner or if for example Fridays were TGIF eat-out days, they can still have some form of take-out or treat specially for Fridays. With all the uncertainty at the moment, a few certainties are helpful.
- Restrictions. Relax a bit on the rules that are not deal breakers for example usage of gadgets and electronics, bed times, type of diet to name a few. We are in scary and extraordinary times, a little extra comfort will go a long way. Besides teenagers thrive on friend connections. If given a choice, they would rather be quarantined with their friends not their parents, so give them space to connect electronically and be grateful for this option because it would have been a whole lot harder to handle.
- Family time. Create intentional family bonding. Being quarantined in the same house does not necessarily equate to bonding. So be intentional about creating an atmosphere to bond. My personal favorite is dinner time. A lot of interesting and sometimes heated conversations happen over a good meal.This is usually when I make most of my discoveries on what is going on with my kids.
- Encourage your teen to keep a gratitude journal. It could be in the form of a notebook or on their electronic device, whichever works best for them. Be consistent in daily checking-in with them on what they are grateful for for that day. They could be grateful for the same thing every day and it is ok too. The key is to keep them mindful of gratitude and this will prevent despair from creeping in.
- Empathy. Let your teen know that you understand how difficult this period is for them. It is reassuring for them to know the adults in their lives actually care about their feelings.
So what are your tried and tested tips that ensure the emotional health of your teen during this period? Please share in the comments section for the benefit of all readers. Every family has their unique set up and unique set of individuals which makes it impossible to have a one size fits all. Stay safe and stay well.