[QUARAN-TEEN] Surviving quarantine with a teen

It’s the ultimate of ironies: just as your teen is ready to spread their wings and experience a little independence, those wings have been clipped by a nationwide quarantine.

Now, instead of being able to spend much-needed time with their peers, they (as well as you) are locked down together, with nowhere to run or hide! Here are some common trends families with teens around the world are experiencing:

ANGER: Adolescents are famous the world over for their uncanny ability to swing from one mood to the opposite in record speed, but many are feeling particularly angry at their current situation. Even the mellowest teens are raging against the pandemic quarantine. Learning how to handle grief and fear with grace is one of the ultimate gifts this season might bestow on our teens. And moms and dads, as hard as this might be, now is an excellent time to model this.

GRIEF: As the school year abruptly comes to a halt for teenagers around the world, many may be mourning the loss of missed milestones and social connections. Foregoing certain rites of passage is nothing short of tragic for our teens. “We all remember how important our friends were when we were 14, 15, and 16. Those shared experiences with peers were memorable parts of growing up,” says Terrill Bravender, M.D., M.P.H. chief of adolescent medicine at Michigan Medicine C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. “This is a stage in life when social connections and experiences are a healthy and critical part of development. Not being able to see friends, go to school events, play sports, all of this can cause sadness and major disappointment.”

ISOLATION: Instead of drawing closer to the ones around them, many teens tend to further withdraw when they feel heavy feelings of anger and sadness. Spending almost all of their time alone in their rooms, connected to their devices, has been a common parent concern.

If you find yourself nodding your head to any or all of the above, here are some suggestions to help you and your teen survive this trying time…

  1. Explore alternative celebrations – for now

“Any opportunity to find community in a virtual space is valuable,” Bravender says. “The good news is that young people are already very comfortable in the virtual world through social media, so this won’t feel as foreign to them as it may feel for their families. Also, remind them that this is a temporary situation and there will be opportunities to celebrate and mark these occasions in person later with friends and family,” he adds.

  1. Be empathetic

Parents may be tempted to remind their kids that they are lucky to be healthy during a worldwide pandemic. And that in the big picture, missing a dance isn’t such a big deal. All the experts agree: resist saying those things! “Anything that minimizes what teens are feeling is not helpful,” Bravender says. “I always tell my patients that feelings don’t have to make sense or be right or wrong. They just are. You just don’t want them to overwhelm you.”

  1. Stick to a school schedule

Create boundaries by establishing what the “school day hours” are. Whatever it is, it should be consistent to keep some sense of normalcy and predictability. Depending on your situation, consider building in a break, such as lunchtime, when teens can check in with friends by phone, video chat, social media or other platforms. And don’t forget to maintain decent bedtimes too.

  1. Embrace technology, within limits

This might be a time when it’s okay for teens to spend a little more time on social media and their phones to stay in touch with peers. Still, it’s very important to make sure we all know how to switch off and unplug too. Taking a daily walk or jog, enjoying a family meal together, these are vital moments that your teen needs as much (if not more) than they do screen time.

  1. Watch for signs of depression

It can be hard to tell the difference between sadness and depression – especially for teens who may already experience normal ups and downs. But if your teen doesn’t want to leave their room for weeks on end, it may be time to get outside help. Many therapists and providers are offering virtual visits during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Strength to you dear mums. We’re in this together!

Any other tips you’ve found helpful for you and your teen during the lockdown?

Chat soon x

Written by: Julie Williams – Lifestyle Editor

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