Slammed doors seem to be the new soundtrack for “My COVID Life.” Emotions are high for everyone, even if they are under the surface at times. Teen and tween emotions can change in a flash. The typical breaks we once got are now non-existent. If the phrase, “you just don’t understand,” were true before, it is even more so now. While we feel the stress, as parents, employees, as people, we cannot compare anything we have experienced in our past to what our teens and tweens are going through now and recognize that having everybody at home may be a challenge for the parents of tweens, teens, and college-age people. How do you support your child and manage your own stress?
Here are some tips to maintain your own equilibrium:
- Because of their brain development, young people have a harder time managing their feelings. Try to ignore the eye rolls and attitude – not all of it, but try to let some slide.
- Set clear boundaries for yourself and your young people, your sanity depends on it! Something we do in Response for Teens classrooms is set norms. In these uncertain times, we need them in our homes as well. Use the following questions to get your kids thinking, then develop a family contract or set of family norms.
○ What do you need to feel supported?
○ How can we act toward one another to make our home feel supportive?
○ What do you need from us when you are doing work?
Here is an example of a family contract that you can make at your house:
- One person talks at a time
- Imagine you are in someone else’s shoes
- Keep hands to ourselves unless asked
- Ask for a break or alone time if needed
- Give personal space
- Instead of accusations, use “I statements:” “When you ________, I feel ______”
- Assume good intentions
- Be flexible
- Be mindful of noise during learning/work time
Remember that this is all new territory. You are a person and you need space as well! Try these phrases:
- “I need to cool down and will be back in a minute.”
- “I love you and I also need some space for a bit.”
- “I can see that you are _________ (put emotion here). What do you need from me right now?”
Young people need a combination of structure and autonomy. Remember, their whole way of functioning has been disrupted and they don’t have the critical thinking skills or coping mechanisms to sit with the uncertainty and the change. So, what do you do?
- Give them routine. Each kid is different, some might thrive on detailed schedules and others might struggle. Routine is what is important – create a pattern for the day.
- Give them choices. Within that routine, give them options and let them define what they are doing and when.
- Let them know your schedule. If you have work meetings or need alone time, put it in a schedule so they know. If you were a stay-at-home parent before COVID-19, you will need time to yourself. Schedule it in!
- Set up expectations. What should they be doing when you’re working or taking some well deserved “you” time?
- Prioritize self-care over school if necessary. If your child needs a break, or cannot finish an assignment, let them communicate respectfully with teachers about their need for time. It doesn’t mean that your child is giving up. They need more self-care right now, and screen burnout is real.
- Remember to let young people grieve their losses: 8th grade trips, proms or graduations, summer camp, seeing grandparents. These are not little moments for them. Do not tell them how lucky they are, they know that deep down. It doesn’t make this hurt any less.
- Help them figure out how to make new memories – they are the only people who will have ever experienced this situation. Find ways to mark new moments!
- Cut yourself some slack! Have self-compassion. Remember to ask yourself, “What would I say to a friend or colleague in this situation?”
- Remember to have fun with your kids. Learn a TikTok dance. Go on a bike ride or walk with your teen. Watch some Netflix. Just be with them!