Teenagers in a Covid World

   Everyone is feeling disappointment and frustration right now, and it is especially challenging for your teenager. Adolescence is not about hanging out with family all day and night every day with no end in sight. This age group now realizes how much freedom they felt going to school for hours a day, socializing and agonizing over the “normal and appropriate” things that teens get caught up in. Now what?

     Different age children in different households need varying amounts of guidance. What works for a 10 year old is not going to work for 15 year old. Many have come to realize they need plans and plans and plans, and they have to “plan” for more. The relationship within the household has to shift, thoughtfully. This pandemic has our teenagers’ lives disrupted, their education is now more difficult to accomplish, and jobs they thought they would have after school or on weekends are gone.

     What does COVID mean to the development of the teen? It has interrupted their social and emotional development. This is the time of developing personal identity, learning self-regulation through making mistakes, finding a sense of one’s own identity, and solidifying academic strengths and weaknesses. Instead, they are confronting a loss of (global and personal) security, developing higher anxiety due to so much uncertainty, and most of all, seeing and feeling a “disruption” in planning for the future.
     At home, it’s important to find pockets of time to allow access to peer groups and that may mean “unrestricted” screen time through FaceTime, texting and messaging. Maybe it’s encouraging teens to set goals so their day will go by quicker and they will see the beginning, middle and end of what they have set out to accomplish; how about complimenting and praising them as much as possible, giving them jobs to do at home in something that makes them feel that they play a role in the family. Think about how many things there are to do around the home no matter how small, that can go towards developing a sense of “community” and defining what goes into making a house a home. There may be resistance, but if it is something that others at home depend on too, it may be a motivator, especially if what they depend on comes from someone else.
     The challenge we face now is about the unknown changing world as we knew it. Things may not be going back to the “old” normal. This generation is going to have to play a more active role in creating a new world of possibilities rather than seeing darkness ahead. There may be more social activism and yet less in-person gatherings. The question is how to make this “new normal” an opportunity to define life as a new and exciting experience. If you feel your adolescent/teen is experiencing an out of proportion reaction to the current environment, therapeutic supports are available.
During this difficult time, we are here for you, as we always have been, to help consider safe, educational and therapeutic opportunities for your adolescent/young adult.