Adults who live with and love teenagers are worried about outside influences. We are curating new learning environments, reimagining after school activities like sports and virtual theater productions, and monitoring social lives. Will our teens wear masks if they are in the car with their friends? The questions we ask teens before they go out can be a long list: where will you be? with who? have they been quarantined?
Adults are still doing the heavy lifting trying to control the environment of our teens. But there is so much that continues to be out of control. Namely national and international events. Our teens are having the tough conversations about COVID, the U.S. Capitol, and political nuances. But they are teens and also having hard conversations about sexual assault, substance abuse, parties and hook ups, and Tinder. And they are doing so unmonitored. So let's be clear... Teens are still dealing with teenager stuff.
The Institute for Family Strategies and the Wheatley Institution asked 1500 teenagers about their COVID experience. Some benefits were evident, such as more sleep for teenagers. But the statistic that I noted was this: 68% of teens reported feeling closer to their families.
Let's leverage this feeling.
To keep your relationship strong with your teen... be present for the following conversations.
*Listen: to the drama of the day. If that is processing current events, let them talk. Even if you find yourself disagreeing, let them talk. You can have the critical thinking conversation later. In the processing stage, teenagers need to get their emotions OUT.
*Protect: You can turn off the TV, limit the technology use, turn off SnapChat for the week. It will be hard short term and worth it long term. Tell your teen that you are trying to protect them by moving them toward themselves and away from outside influences. "Hey, why don't you take tonight to connect with yourself, me, and the family. Tomorrow we can check in with the world."
*Model: This is the hard one. Try to model the responses you hope your teen will use in any given situation. One thing I do in class is talk through the steps to each response. If I did this, then this might happen. I suspect I would feel this way. Is that the way I want to feel?
*Care for yourself: Please, don't forget yourself. If you are whole and ready to go, then you will be present and available to your teen. I wake up 30 minutes before my family. I roll out of bed and stretch. Or I stay in bed. But the forst 30 minutes of everyday is silent. And I can get myself started on the right foot.
In the dark days of winter, the connections you have with your teens are important. Keep up the best, hardest work! Be well and healthy!!