Imagine working on a jigsaw puzzle in which the pieces keep changing size and color. Being the parent of a teen is often such a challenge. And in 2020, it’s more like working on that same jigsaw puzzle while running on a treadmill!
Do the events of this year have you stretched to your parental limit?
Your worries may include the adult concerns of healthcare, finances, perhaps even the physical preservation of your home and family. It can be hard to relate when your teen complains about feeling stir-crazy, bored, or restless.
Still, teens need social contact to thrive, learn, and discover their place in the world. And to get through this COVID-19 season, they also need your empathy.
Your Teen and the Pandemic
Sure, at first, it was cool to ditch the school routine and stay in their pajamas all day. But that got old fast as the reality of quarantine set it in.
As a family, you may have played all the family board games and sat through more movies than you ever imagined watching. But, disappointment and social deprivation may have overtaken your teen’s willingness to be distracted. And now, they may be craving and/or needing the following:
- Social contact with peers
- The freedom to come and go without consequences
- Academic support from education specialists
- In-person flirting and dating
Think back to your teen years. All of that face-to-face time at school. Weekend dances, part-time jobs, sporting events, concerts, etc. are where you developed valuable social skills and created indelible memories.
Teens need space to explore as well as the comfort of having a home base to return to. When that home base starts to feel like a restrictive punishment, it’s not unusual to notice that your teen is experiencing mental health challenges. Many young people report feeling anxiety, anger, frustration, and depression as the pandemic wears on.
In such a state, your teen must feel they can turn to you for understanding and compassion.
How to Show Empathy for Your Stir-Crazy, Socially-Deprived Teen
In any circumstance, a person who is struggling will find solace in knowing someone else is attuned to their needs and understands them. As the parent of a teen in 2020, you have the opportunity to share some valuable lessons about empathy.
Leading by example, you can teach your child how important it is to put yourself in another person’s place. As the recipient of your grace and compassion, they may be more likely to show it to others.
Consider several steps toward empathy for your teen:
Don’t Assume You Know What They Feel
This is tricky. You’ve been a teen so you want your kid to know you can relate. But there is a fine line between your experience and actually knowing what they’re going through. Encourage dialogue. Tease out their perspectives. Give them space to share their feelings without being invalidated.
Respect their Curiosity and Their Fears
No one has the skills to navigate a year like this. Your teen is no different. They may fall back on social media to make sense of it all and that can create some unique viewpoints. Respect their desire to learn. actively listen. Hear out their fears without judgment. Encourage a dialogue, and respectfully note that you may have some information of your own to add to the mix.
Take Tech Breaks Together
Your smartphones may feel like your connection to the outside world but they can be very counterproductive after a while. Schedule a routine detox from your devices together. Use that time to rest, laugh, talk, do crafts, get some exercise, play a sport, or make fun post-pandemic plans.
Encourage Them to Safely Connect With Peers
Depending on your circumstances and geographical location, connecting with others may mean something different. Regardless, there are always safe ways to do this. Ranging from very small gatherings to video chats to phone calls, encourage your teen not to withdraw. As time passes, isolation may sound inviting. Let them know you support their connections and urge them to maintain bonds in any way possible.
If the months of stress and lockdown have made it feel impossible to connect with your stir-crazy teen, don’t suffer the distance between you any longer. It’s perfectly okay to reach out for help. Counseling can make pandemic parenting a more productive and fulfilling process. I’m here to help, please read more about parent counseling and contact me soon for a consultation.