While the COVID19 circumstances continue to be challenging for everyone, teens, in particular, have been impacted by this drastic change of life over the past year. During teen years, adolescent development is important. Teens need school, friendships, romantic relationships, and job opportunities to find some independence. Many teens are missing out on their part in the school play, team sports or their final year in school.
Your teen may seem stressed, sad or irritable. Is your teen frustrated with you that you won't let them see their friends or attend parties? Have you noticed a shift in their attitude and behavior towards you?
Due to Covid vaccines, states are currently loosening restrictions. You may notice people are becoming braver to go out and socialize with one another. Some people are even going to friends houses without masks or attending a dinner party of 15 people or more even if they aren't vaccinated. Others are still taking caution when socializing and going out. It is a personal choice how one responds to the changing guidelines and everyone should respect each others feelings as long as your personal health and safety is not being put at risk.
Anna is a 16 year old girl living with her mother, father, and little brother. Before COVID-19, Anna's days were jam-packed. She would leave her house for school by 7 am and would not get home until 6 pm. Her day was filled with attending high school, tutoring in math, and after-school sports. On the weekends, she would spend time with her friends by going to the mall, movies or hanging at a friend's house. Anna was always busy and social as a teen should be.
This year, Anna attended school on a part-time schedule. Anna would go to school twice a week and attend the other three days online. Although she saw some of her friends in school, it still didn't feel the same and wasn't enough. She didn't feel like she was interacting with her friends the way she used to.
Since the vaccine has come out, she has been aware that more of her friends have been allowed to spend time with each other outside of school. Anna started to feel relieved and thought that she will be able to socialize with her friends again. But, Anna's family still would not allow her to go to friend's houses or go out to the mall. "This isn't fair!!!" Anna screamed at her mom. She felt that her parent's rules were way too restrictive. Anna felt left out seeing her friends post on social media that they were together. She began to feel like she was losing her friendships and missing out on her teenage years.
Some parents are more flexible in allowing their children to socialize with their friends whereas other aren't. Although teens need to respect their parents rules this is causing them to feel lonely and sad in addition to putting a wedge between the parent-child relationship. You feel torn because you want your child to go out and enjoy being a teenager but at the same time you want to keep them healthy and safe. It would be helpful to listen to the guidelines and credible medical sources. Try to make your decisions based on facts and not fear based thoughts or pressure from others.
Here are some suggestions that has worked for teens during the pandemic who are still feeling restricted and isolated:
- Find ways to be creative with technology: Have your teen consider joining an online fitness class or book club. Signing up for a yoga class or Zumba class is a great way to feel connected. This could be a great way for them to have some interaction and also a great workout.
- Inspire your teen to create an online blog or online Etsy account: One way to keep your teen busy could be by having them document their experience as a teen during the pandemic. They could get as creative as creating an Etsy account to make/sell items. This will teach them what it is like to be responsible in a job.
- Move remote learning outside their bedroom: Setting up an office space for your teen outside of their bedroom is one way for them to emotionally survive during this pandemic. This way your teen is not tempted to lay in their bed or be distracted. You want to make sure the bedroom is made for sleeping. Creating boundaries is very important!
- Create a structured schedule: Sit down with your teen to develop a plan. Have your teen create an independent schedule for themselves. Have your teen decide on an appropriate time to wake up, eat breakfast, get exercise, do school work, eat lunch, get outside, and go to sleep. Having a schedule will help keep your teens feeling like they have a purpose.
- Let them find and pick a meal they would like to make for the family: Food brings people together. One exciting thing your teen can do is pick out a meal they would like to make and eat during the week. This will give them something to look forward to weekly and also teaches them independence.
- Have daily check-ins: Find 5-10 minutes each day to talk with your teen about how they are feeling. This is a good way for them to feel supported.
- Have them join therapy: Having a therapist to speak to on a weekly/biweekly basis is a great way for them to feel validated and supported. Your teen will learn some positive coping skills to help them get through this difficult time.
If you and/or your teenager are struggling through this pandemic need additional support we are always here to help.
Risa Simpson-Davis, LCSW