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This is how the brooding teen of your house is feeling right now: anxious, confused, robbed of the most crucial moments of their childhood- then, as their parents, you're pulled into the situation of trying to figure out how to soothe their restless spirit and energize them with positivity, when you yourself are feeling so unsure.
We know a lot of our BODYCOMPLETERX family (and our lovely readers), are mothers. We also know, that the dedication you show toward your wellness and health goals, is the same dedication and positivity you hope to pass on to your children. So, how frustrating is it to parent through a time in the world where typical parenting rules don’t seem to translate?
Keeping your teen under lock and key and off their phone was impossible before, now it’s just accumulating on top of an already heaping pile of uneasy pent-up-tension. We’ve scoured the 'not-so-deep-web' for you and came up with these solutions.
Create more structure within your home, the right way. Phone-free mealtimes, privacy, and physical activities: these are some of the ways you can create a balance within your home.
Include your teen in the creation of their schedule. Remember everyone’s freshman year of high school, when you got to experience having options for the first time: should I take, Wood Shop or Art Class?
It’s liberating, even though the fact remains you still have to sit in a classroom. Ask your teen, “would you rather do your school work in the morning, afternoon, or evening? How much time on Sunday do you think you need to prepare for this exam?”
With summer fast approaching, give them a couple options for family or sibling time. “We want you guys to stay off your electronic devices for several hours a day, would you like to do this by helping in the garden, preparing dinner, or playing twister with your little sister?”
In this way you can work together to create a functional schedule that feels less oppressive to your teen but still enriches their new stay-at-home lifestyle with variety.
If your teen has to watch their younger siblings because you’re an essential worker, trying offering them a bargaining piece in their schedule. “Since you’ve been watching your little sister all week, would you like to have breakfast alone in your room Saturday and Sunday morning, I’ll bring it up to you.” Or, “how about Monday night you can stay up all night and do your school work Tuesday evening?”
“...allow privacy and time alone...they deserve it.”
Don’t be worried if your teen doesn’t want to spend all day in the family room. Remember, school, spending time at a friends' homes, and after-school programs are all off the table now. Their environment is now just one singular place that seems to be looming over them. Now that they’re home all the time, they are going to feel just as lost as you with the disappearance of their usual routine.
The answer is: You can’t just lay down the law. Teenagerdom is a democracy, not a dictatorship. I would recommend that you compromise. It might be about giving them more freedom and space to do what they want when they are home. Perhaps not getting mad if they miss dinner, or if they spend hours gaming. Rather, use it as a negotiating chip to keep them in the house and safe.” -Psychologytoday.com
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Socializing will be different, there's no way around it, but it’s going to be harder for your teens to understand. Their brains work differently than adults. Teens get bigger, brighter hits of dopamine from socialization than adults do. Psychology Today, says that’s why their willingness to take risks are higher. They aren’t able to place themselves in the grand scheme of things like “flattening the curve.” When they ask why they can’t go see their friends for the uptenth time, keep in mind this is the first global or national crisis this generation has likely experienced first hand. Also keep in mind they’re just angsty teenagers missing out on huge moments in their lives.
The, “everyone’s in it together,” isn’t going to make them feel better. It minimizes their very stressful situation and high hormones without offering a solution.
The New York Times, says invite your teens to be able to place the blame on you. Some parents are ignoring the social distancing rules themselves, so your child's best friend might be hanging out with their other friends, leaving your teen feeling left out. Let your child know if they are asked to hang out and they can’t, they can say it’s your fault. Taking the pressure off them.
If you’d like to organize a park meet-up for your child and a friend or two, just make sure to keep to the CDC health guidelines. Have them lay their blankets six feet apart, and wear their masks even while talking. You can give them privacy and still maintain authority by maybe taking the time to do a couple laps around the park yourself. An occasional 30 minute meet-up with your teen’s best friend might help. Just make sure they understand this privilege will be lost if they don’t follow your social distancing guidelines. If you’d like to organize this meetup make sure you speak with the other child's parent to workout a plan you’re both comfortable with.
If your teen is part of a sports team, you might take this opportunity to organize a team workout on Zoom for all the players. It will give them a much needed sense of togetherness. You can add these workouts into your teens schedule and give them something to look forward to.
When you create a stricter routine with your teen, you’re opening up the space for them to feel in control of their lives. Right now, they are feeling really out of control. Some of your teens don’t want to process their emotions right now, their schedule is meant to help them achieve a sense of self worth and purpose. Without that schedule they are left with a lot of emotions and no outlet, no structure.
You can try this fun idea: for an hour in their daily schedule, have your teen write encouraging notes to hang in your windows encouraging passersby in your neighborhood.
For your teens who are willing to workout their emotions having a daily family meeting away from the dinner table is another option.
Kelly, Founder of PositiviTeens, tells the Washington Post: “parents [can] help their teens generate a list of the parts of life they can’t control and those they can. “You can’t control covid, the weather, not being in school, what homework teachers are dumping on you right now, and if you spend a lot of energy thinking about these things, you’ll feel even more invalidated and disempowered,” she says. “When you focus on what you can control — what you believe about yourself, the words you use, what you spend your time and energy on — you’ll feel more in control of your emotions and your life, which will ultimately make you feel more positive.”
Teens are missing out on crucial developmental stages of their lives. The best tips we can offer: sympathize with them and give them some sort of structure they can rely on.
---BCRX Content Creator, Klarrisa Arafa