It’s been a hard time for families, including teens, as they’ve “sheltered in place” rather than attend school, play sports, or see their friends. They are missing special events, especially seniors. Prom, graduation, and final good-byes won’t happen. As a parent, you may feel frustrated or helpless. How can you help your students as they respond to the unprecedented circumstances of 2020?
- Validate their feelings and losses. To an adult, a student’s losses might feel insignificant compared to a job loss or loss of life. However, the loss of friends, routines, and things that make life fun and meaningful are significant to your student. Your seniors, especially, need validation for the loss of typical things they are not able to experience, including prom and graduation. These are American rites of passage. Grief over these losses is real.
- Give students grace. Teens are typically surly, irritable, and moody. If their behavior is less than perfect, try to understand why based on current circumstances. Don’t be quick to discipline with typical rules, because almost everything that was “normal” a few months ago is not. Be on a supportive team with them they struggle with emotions and behavior. Rather than making them feel like you’re against them, set boundaries with empathy.
- Give teens space. The last thing most teens or young adults want is to be cooped up with their parents and siblings for extended periods of time. Yet, this is the current reality. If your child is spending more time in their room or doesn’t want to join family activities, give them space to be by themselves. Teens naturally grow towards independence and autonomy and many prefer spending time with friends rather than parents. Don’t take it personally. They may really need space apart from you right now.
- Help them focus on what they can control. Many teens may feel out of control, overwhelmed, anxious, or even hopeless because their immediate future is uncertain. Help them identify and focus on the things over which they have control. While seniors don’t have control over prom and graduation decisions, they do have control over private celebrations like a graduation party. They have control over future plans like a college education or other options ahead of them. They can have online gatherings with friends. Assist your teens to use problem-solving skills to identify what they can and can’t control. Help them build a realistic plan about what they CAN do!
- Focus on positive truth. There are a plethora of variables in the circumstances affecting your kids right now. No one knows the outcomes of these variables, and yet most of the projections are negative. Turn off most of the news and social media that project negative truth or speculation. Instead, focus on positive truth. Positive truth includes things like:
- We will get through this!
- Things won’t be this way forever.
- Let’s find practical solutions.
- Provide a family climate that’s consistent, stable, and predictable. Many parents are trying to create a schedule for the new normal. Schedules can cause more conflict or anxiety for teens. Instead, focus on a family culture that’s emotionally stable, with structures that are consistent rather than rigid. Make the climate in your home predictable, such as “Mom can handle my moods,” “We’ll have supper together,” or “We’ll get through this.”
Finally, crisis situations can bring to the surface unseen struggles your child has not shared with you. If your student is exhibiting harmful behavior to themselves or others, or you are concerned about their mental health, reach out to professional counselors or resources. Most counselors and doctors are using teletherapy to help clients with whom they can’t meet in person. Check with counseling agencies within your state. Teletherapy gives broader options for therapists usually bound by geographical locations.
God knew before your child was born that their 2020 would include sheltering in place. Seek God for wisdom and perspective, knowing He is the stability in an unstable world.