Social Distancing at the time of COVID-19 is probably a tough situation for teenagers especially now that we are on Unlock. Keeping them confined at home is a bigger task than the previous lockdowns. Following are some points to help parents of teenagers during this time;
- Explain the importance of social distancing – Teenagers tend to think that they are physically stronger and may even tell you about how this virus is not affecting their age group but older people. Keeping them away from their friends may affect them emotionally, however, it is crucial to explain it to them why social distancing is important. Reiterate the rules of social distancing stressing on correct hand washing, using masks and sanitising.
- Understand that this is hard for them – Teenage lives revolve around friends and not being able to meet them can be very stressful. Hear their frustration, validate their feelings, tell them you know how tough it is for them, and ask them how you both can work together to make this phase bearable. Encourage them to be creative about their interactions with their friends rather than trivialising their concerns is the right way to approach your teen.
- Loosen the grip a bit – Since most of the interaction will be based online, let them be on social media a little longer. HOWEVER, DO ENCOURAGE MEDIA BREAKS to ensure they lead a healthy life.
- Encourage online schooling – Most schools are now working virtually. It is natural for your teen to adapt to defiant behaviour due to unmet needs and anxiety stemming from uncertainty. Make sure to encourage them to take up classes online and be regular with their school work.
- Help them explore new things – Monotony and boredom are lethal. Suggest new activities like online Zumba, downloading a language app, gardening, painting, baking, and board games. It is also a good idea to sometimes join in with your teen.
- Balance family time vs alone time – Have realistic expectations about the time that will be spent as a family. Create a balance between family time and alone time for yourself and your teen. Having healthy boundaries and adequate time to unwind are the surest ways to avoid burnout.
- Do not start helicopter parenting – You will still be around but allow teens their time. Do not micromanage or be over bearing as parents. Understand that being held to unattainable standards, your teen may experience anxiety, and may go on to show anti-social behaviour to retaliate against authority. It is key to trust them.
- Do chores together – Involve them in some chores at home like setting the table, watering the plants, feeding the dog etc. This gives a sense of responsibility to your teen and makes them feel a valuable and a responsible member of the family. Additionally, it also has the benefit of brining you two closer.
- Encourage healthy habits – Set a sleep time, wake up time, meal times, and focus on eating healthy and working out daily to keep your teen healthy. This creates a little structure and will lead to less frictions. Also, having a consistent routine at such uncertain times can bring a sense of normalcy and expectancy to life.
- Understand their disappointment – Teenagers may worry about their future, exams, college applications, scholarships or their current circumstances. They may worry about their whole academic year or life at large. Hear them out, validate their emotions, express your confidence in their ability to bounce back. Never downsize the relevance of their concerns or attempt to compare them. Just listen and acknowledge.
- Practice mindfulness – Help them practice mindfulness techniques to keep them in tune with what they are feeling. Fighting emotions can be exhausting. Acknowledging and letting them flow may help them come to the question of ‘What to do now?’ sooner.
Remember, a NEW NORMAL needs to be created and these changes cannot be possibly enforced on your teen. Rather, sit down with them in a comfortable setup and calmly explain the relevance of adapting to these changes. Talk, encourage, validate, and inculcate awareness, responsibility, resilience, peace, solidarity and empathy in them.
Understand that your teen will learn more through your actions than your words. So, lead by setting an example. They will undeniably learn how to deal with difficult situations in their lives by remembering how you, the adults, behaved at this time.