What Your Teen and Child Needs From You During Pandemic
Are you concerned about your child or teenager during this time of social distancing? I am sure you are and I want to offer some support. As a child grows there is a need to assert their autonomy, to become independent of their parents. This is a good thing and as their parent it is your job to help them transition into an independent functioning adult. But now, during this time of Covid-19 your family may be challenged by extreme inter-dependence. Families have been thrown together 24/7 and it may not be going well for you. Children no longer can get away, they don’t go to school, they can’t visit friends, they can’t play sports or other extra curricular activities. Instead they are stuck at home with parents who may be stressed, fearful, and challenged in their own ways. Parents face new work demands, financial stresses and a complete change of routine.
How can families manage this challenge and continue to be sensitive to a child’s need for a growing independence? How do we care for young people whose wings have been clipped? I have a few suggestions to consider.
Nurture the relationship.
As the parent it is easy to focus on your role as the one who sets the rules and keeps things running but don’t forget that parenting is not only about the managing aspect but it is about a relationship and you don’t want to loose sight of this. I suggest making time for one-on-one interaction with each of your children. It makes your child feel secure and important. Listen to them, offer empathy, your child has a right to be sad, angry and frustrated about their losses. Make space for the disappointments. Kids are giving up a lot. School is not only about lessons and learning, it is about social interaction, fun and activities. Kids may feel like what is left is the vegetables with none of the dessert.but there also may feel some relief or even joy because they can avoid some challenges that they were facing at school. A hard group project, peer pressure, or awkward and embarrassing social interactions. Don’t shame them for feeling this relief. Recognize that for them there may be an upside of the disruption as well. Whatever it is that they are feeling, you want to give them time and let them know you care and you’re listening.
You may be requiring social distancing while other parents are still allowing their kids to hang out as usual. Talk to your child about this discrepancy, you could say, “I know that other parents are still having kids over, but we can’t support that choice, we want to support what the experts are recommending.” Tell them that when they have to turn down an invite that they are fee to blame you, the parents. When your teenager can’t see their friends in person, it seems only fair to loosen the rules on how much time they spend connecting online. But all bets aren’t off. There still needs to be clear guidelines so that other concerns are considered like school assignments, physical activity, sleep, and face-to-face interactions.
Treat Teenagers as Problem-Solving Partners
Don’t hesitate to recruit teenagers’ help. Instead of presenting them with a suggested daily program, Talk to them about what you see as important and then ask for their input as well. Once you each share your concerns then negotiate with your teen and show them that you are considering their needs as well. When doing this remember to be realistic and keep it positive. Being realistic involves looking at your child as an individual and knowing what they are capable of. If they are not a reader then it would be unrealistic for them to read a book quietly in their room for an hour each day. Think about who they are.
Allow Privacy and Time Alone
Teenagers are going to need some privacy and alone time. Don’t take it personally if your teenager wants to close themselves off in their room for some time. While you are free to request or require your teenager’s presence, think about approaching your teenager with an extra measure of consideration when making requests. For example, saying, “We’re going to need you to supervise your sister for a couple of hours, but we know that you have plans too. How should we do this?” might be a good place to start.
It is a lot to handle right now and these are challenges that none of us could have predicted. Let us know at Save My Family Today if we can help.
Written by Lisa Strong