Surviving the New Normal (Series 3): COVID-19 and Your Teen

Surviving the New Normal (Series 3): COVID-19 and Your Teen

By Tati Hernandez, LPC

Pronouns She/Her

The Wise Family – Virtual & Winchester office

Clinician specializing in work with LGBTQ+ teens

Being a teenager is arguably one of the most difficult parts of human development. Not only are teen bodies changing both physically and cognitively, they are also having to face the day to day stressors of trying to figure out who they are, meet high academic and social expectations, and manage the dialect of being a teen and being asked to start acting like a young adult. Not easy, right?

Now, let’s add a global pandemic that no one on earth today has ever experienced to the mix. Yikes!

COVID-19 has brought a whole new set of challenges. And our team of therapists at The Wise Family has really seen it all. Along with dealing with their own personal dilemmas, teenagers are now having to reorient to a new way of engaging in school. Teens are missing out on social and essential rights of passage. Major milestones are passing by in a parade of vehicles and video celebrations. And that independence that is part of individuation in teen development? It’s become even more difficult to obtain when they’re being introduced to more restrictions.

To further complicate the teen scene is that the restrictions that have been put in place for public health reasons have almost universally led to a loss of structure and sense of stability. We’ve seen these shifts contribute significantly in the past several months to increased feelings of loss, grief, loneliness, and anxiety in teens. We are also surrounded by a lot of overwhelming information which contributes to feeling uncertain and hopeless about the future. This is an unprecedented time, and it sucks.

Maybe this is an opportunity to explore what’s important and how to help your teen continue to build resiliency. Here are 3 strategies for building resilience in a 2020 teen -

1. Recognize that change is a constant

As adults, we have already experienced the difficulties of being a teenager, but things are not the same as they once were. The world is different now because the only constant we can truly count on is change. Parents must be mindful not to generalize the teenage experience both before and during this global pandemic. Your teens thoughts and feelings may be displayed in a very different way from that of their peers. Meaning that your teen might be withdrawing from the family or peers while others might be wondering the neighborhood and sneaking out to see friends. Teens don’t want to be seen through a lens of collectivism and thinking that all teens are the same makes this pivotal developmental and transitional period in their lives even more frustrating. Talk about changes. Talk about different families, communities, states and countries and how each group has handled life differently – some successful and some unsuccessful. The mistakes we make are merely learning opportunities.

2. Assure your teen that you believe in them

It’s important, now more than ever, to find ways of showing teenagers support. We often encourage parents to say, “I believe in you, even when you don’t believe in yourself.” By lending your belief to your teen you give them a sense of self- confidence that they may not always feel. It may also create a space where they feel empowered to collaboratively participate in creating a structure at home that allows them to take ownership of their academic engagement and to work on staying socially connected. Other types of support can also look like modeling healthy coping strategies at home and getting creative with how to provide them with different opportunities to continue to create meaning, as well as to explore their values and beliefs.

3. Really listen to your teen

Listening with the intent to hear what they’re saying, instead of listening to respond or problem solve right away is key to healthy parent/teen relationships. Whenever you are in conversation with your teen, say the following word to yourself – W.A.I.T. – it stands for WHY AM I TALKING? If you don’t have a reason that will move the conversation forward calmly and productively, stay quiet.

Active listening provides a better understanding about how teens are feeling, as well as helps parents gain more insight into their thought process and the different ways that they might be communicating with you non-verbally.

All in all, being a teenager is not easy and 2020 feel nearly impossible on the daily. So, meet your teens where they are, reinforce your belief in them and really practice listening. It's important to also remember that no one has all of the answers, and that’s okay. Allow yourself the space to be gentle with yourself. After all, being a parent or caregiver of a teenager is not easy either, and 2020 has certainly made things tough all around. We’re here in Alexandria, Arlington and Winchester to support your teen and your family.

Text ‘WISEHELP’ to 66866 to connect! Be Wise.

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