Life as a Teenager During COVID-19
Social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19 can be especially hard for teens, who may feel cut off from social life. Many also face big letdowns as graduations, sports seasons, school visits and other long-planned events are cancelled or postponed.
A generation of teenagers is facing a real trauma: a pandemic that’s already racked up a devastating body count and completely upended people’s lives is now leading to an increase in anxiety among young people and adding more fuel to the fire.
Until a few days ago, it was self-evident to run outside or take your dog for a walk. Now, you need to send a text message before you do so. These days, you should know how to negotiate, settle differences, avoid tension and compromise adults’ anxiety as a response to the current situation with teenagers’ underestimation of danger and carelessness.
Here are a few ways you can help your child through this difficult time.
Be open and listen
Allow your children to talk freely. Ask them open questions and find out how much they already know. Always answer their questions truthfully. Teenagers are old enough to understand and estimate the seriousness of coronavirus disease. They may be scared or confused. Give them space to share how they are feeling and let them know you are there for them.
Adults can be scared, too
Parents also experience anxiety due to COVID-19 restrictions. We should assure children that it is normal to be afraid as fear protects us from been infected. Consequently, by protecting ourselves we protect society as a whole. They should take this seriously while structuring their social profile.
Plan the daily routine together
Make a schedule for you and your child that has time for scheduled activity as well as free time. This can help teenagers feel more secure and better behaved. Teenagers can help plan the routine of the day. They will follow this better if they help to make it. Make sure you include daily exercise, book reading, listening to music, watching a TV series or communicating online with friends as all these help with stress.
Set aside time to spend with your child
It can be for just 20 minutes, or longer – it’s up to you. It can be at the same time each day, so teenagers can look forward to it. Talk about something they like: sports, music, celebrities, friends. Cook a meal or exercise together to their favorite music.
It is OK not to know the answers
It is fine to say, “We don’t know, but we are working on it; or we don’t know, ‘but we think’.” Use this as a chance to learn something new with your child!
Your child may be scared or confused. Give it space to share how he/she is feeling and let him/her know you are there for him/her.
Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate…
Discussion with our children does not always go smoothly. Disagreement may arise, but we should try not to clash with them as tension has never been effective.
It’s becoming apparent that facing a public crisis requiring social separation can make us feel powerless and isolated. There are, however, things we can do to support our families during this time and reduce the impact of such feelings. We should all take the opportunity to rebuild our relationships and restructure our family frame to help us get along and function successfully.
In the meantime, we can dream for the days to come, and when they do, the slogan “Stay home, Stay Safe” may change to ‘Return Home, sweet home’!
After first acknowledging and accepting our own difficulty we must stand to the adolescent responding either verbally or with our behavior with love, so that coexistence with him brings gifts and not to strengthen our relationships:
- Correct information. Developmentally they are able to realize the importance of the situation we are experiencing. We talk to them with details and urge them to be informed by valid websites. The more honestly we answer their questions, the more suitable we make the ground for later communication.
- And adults can be scared. We also communicate our own pressure due to limitation. We assure them that it is very normal for them to be anxious as this protects them. By protecting ourselves we also protect society as a whole. And they take this very seriously, as it is now the age at which they process their social profile.
- Team effort. Discuss, agree and split the day togetherin activities, the hours they will read, communicate online with their friends, watch TV or a series. You give them the opportunity to think and decide how to spend this time. They will feel important, which will boost their self-confidence. But you all respect this program. Adherence to the program works as a relief, like a safety cushion in unsafe times.
- Joint activities. Dress up the day with common family activities that teens choose such as cooking, games, exercise, DIY, music, gardening, etc.
- Tell me your opinion. You can ask their opinion on a topic that concerns the family, they will feel very useful and important and you in turn will probably discover the skills and fresh ideas of your children.
- The discussion does not always go smoothly. Disagreements will arise, but we try not to clash as the tension has never brought good results.
- I stand by you. We try to stay close to them, as much as they want to show that they are no longer small children. They deeply need us, they want to know that we are by their side.
It is true that crisis situations like today, at first glance, seem to mentally disorganize the family. However, each family, at its own pace, helps to reorganize and redefine its potential. It may sound paradoxical but after this adventure it is almost certain that the message "we stay home" will turn into "we return home" and the warmth of relationships, love and security, in the actual time with our loved ones.
Ms. Katerina Hotzoglou is a Clinical Psychologist MA - Child Psychologist MSc - Psychotherapist and Psychologist of Kessaris School