In their own words: Advice to parents from teens under shelter-in-place restrictions on how best to live in peace during the pandemic
Many thanks to Holly Suzanne Greenberg, MA, LMFT, one of our Teen Panel moderators, for sharing suggestions from teens and for her sound advice.
Hello Parents! I reached out to teens to seek advice to share with you all on how best to live in peace during these challenging times. Below are suggestions from the teens I’ve spoken with, and I’ve added a few pieces of my advice as well. As always, reach out to mental-health professionals if you have questions. Good luck and be well! — Holly
- If you trusted your children to do their homework before shelter-in-place, continue to trust them.
- If you gave us space before the epidemic continue to give it to us now.
- Some of us are back from college. We’re used to more freedom. You trusted us there, trust us here.
- During the school year we don’t normally see each other during the day, only at night. We do make sure to spend time together on the weekends. Keep it the same if you’re now working from home.
- Parents need to know is that this is a really weird time for us and they shouldn’t try to push anything on us. Second semester senior year is what we have been working so much for and so we’re really feeling bad because a lot of the big moments (prom, graduation, etc.) we will miss out on. I would suggest parents talk to their kids about what is going on. Try to come to a compromise on a family movie night etc., but don’t force your kid to do that because then no one is happy.
- I have so many friends whose families are really freaking out and transferring their anxieties onto my friends. Possible ideas:
- Designating certain rooms or family space as “safe” spaces, where fun can be had and covid-19/politics/news is not discussed.
- Allow everyone personal space and time (with doors shut) just to give space.
- Sit down with your family and really discuss what’s happening and come at this pandemic from a state of understanding and curiosity instead of emotional reaction. We need you to be calm for us.
- Talk to your kids about your needs and listen to theirs. Tell them that you want to respect their boundaries and that the best way to do that is if they tell you what they need.
- If they need space to calm down and do their work alone, give it to them.
- If they need more social interaction and want to be in the same room as you, make that option available.
- Talk to your teens about the misinformation that is being spread around. Take the time to research what’s going together. DON’T PRETEND TO KNOW IT ALL.
- Create together a good plan moving forward when it comes to structuring your day-day, and ways that all of you can stay mentally and physically healthy. Don’t put down ideas they have.
- Panic helps no one. Make sure to keep your family healthy and safe, but also make sure that you do not spiral about this issue, and start to buy a lot of extra supplies that other people may desperately need.
- Alone time is beneficial but too much can have a bad side effect with mental health. Let your teen be in their room but come up with non-intrusive ways to check on them.
- Help them focus on a project and such. An art project, practice an instrument, learn how to do something new. Consider learning something together.
- Don’t force family meals if you didn’t have them before.
- Help your teen understand why they cannot spend time with their friends, even if their friends parents let them.
- Sometimes our “bad attitude” is us not knowing how to say something, and has nothing to do with you. We’re sad and scared and lonely, even if we seem angry and “fine”. Ask “can I get you anything” or tell them, “I’m here to listen”. They may not take you up on it right away, but hearing it means everything.
- Listen to our music with us without telling us it sucks. Try to see things from our shoes.
- Stay calm about the whole situation and model a positive mindset for kids to emulate. Support your family in trying to put together some semblance of normal/everyday life to help everyone process and get through what’s happening.
Advice from Holly:
- Seek support for yourself. I have been hearing from all of my teens that their parents are having trouble regulating their own frustrations, fears, and anger. Of course you are! And yet, if we are having this much trouble at our age, imagine what not having the access to history, lives-lived, education and an adult mind, must feel like during this pandemic. Teens are not coming from the same perspective as adults. They can’t — they aren’t adults. Please seek support to help you carry the immense emotional load you are holding. I have a list of resources on my website, and you can also go to psychologytoday.com to find a therapist nearby. Or, reach out to your company’s HR department. You may have access to an EAP for short-term therapy – all currently being done remotely.
- I am going to reiterate safe-spaces. There needs to be a room in the home where the news is not discussed and news is not on.. The news has different effects on us all. Most teens are finding it confusing and highly stressful and are harmed and/or do not benefit from being exposed to it throughout the day, and chances are, it’s not helping you either.
- Suggestions for regulating information-overload:
- Have news-times – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. 20 minutes or the time of a press-conference.
- If you’re a news-junky and need it on all day, consider headphones or confining it to one room.
- Limit your own exposure to social media – again, time it. 15-20 minutes in the morning and again in the evening.
- Help your teen understand what they are hearing. Listen to their opinions and questions and see if you can find some answers together.
- Shut media off in the bedroom and let it be a place of rest and connection.
- Continue to go on dates with your spouse/partner/self. Not every walk needs or should be a family-walk, for example. There’s an app called Longwalks that some couples and individuals are finding to be helpful in connecting with each other and with oneself. Consider finding a couple’s counselor to help you through this.
- Your kids have a lifetime to dress for school/work. Let them wear pajamas. It is not going to create laziness. It will create comfort and self-soothing. Pick your battles wisely.