Teenagers are a mix bag. We love them and want them to go far far away all at the same time. This is usually the case when loving people, because we are a mess. Sheltering-in-place with teenagers creates new joys and challenges.
Create schedules and be flexible.
I know. I know. All the current advice says to create a routine and stick to it. Yes, routines create a sense of order and normalcy. Routines are good. Also give grace and be flexible. Some days you and your teen may need a break from the schedule. This is a time filled with difficult emotions, especially if mental health needs already exist. Today might be the day that your teen is grieving a moment or memory that never happened. Or, maybe today is the day your teen is over it and done with being in the house all day every day. Let them have their moment. Adjust the schedule or throw it out altogether for the day. Do what is best for you and your family.
Establish realistic expectations.
Abnormal times call for re-calibrated expectations. Yes, school lasts eight hours a day in a traditional school setting, but academic learning from home absolutely does not need to be all day. A couple hours in the morning and after lunch is good. If your teen is a late riser, a couple hours after lunch and a couple of hours after dinner. Try to get 3 to 4 hours of academic time in a day. Do not expect your teen to be excited about doing work. If your teen wasn't energetic about school prior to now, it will not be any different. Actually, it may become worse since the educational environment is completely different from what they are used to. Even if you teen loved school, there may be some apprehension and frustration due to all the changes.
Show empathy not just frustration.
We are dealing with everything as full-fledged adults who have fully developed critical thinking abilities. And even we are a struggling or at least not at our best right now. Think of the thoughts and feelings that you don't share with your teen. Now imagine what it is like to experience all of this from their perspective. They are riding the same emotional roller coaster we are, they just may not have the words to adequately express it. Listen behind the words. Hear not only what they are saying, but what they are not saying as well. Look beyond the behavior. What thoughts, feelings, or emotions are the behaviors trying to conceal or reveal? Speak to the heart of the situation.
Admit that you don't know everything.
New information is coming to us at a rapid pace. What was okay yesterday is completely off limits today. This morning's breaking news is this evening's misinformation. It's okay to say you don't know. We don't know when this will end. We don't know when things will get back to normal. What we do know is that eventually this will be over, and until then we must take the proper precautions to flatten the curve and decrease the likelihood of the virus spreading.
Helpful conversation starters
Please tell me what you're thinking and feeling right now.
I want to support you, and the best way for me to do that is to listen to you.
I understand you feel ___(emotion)_.
This makes me feel _(emotion)__ sometimes too.
You have every right to be _(emotion)_.
You don't have the right to _(inappropriate behavior)_.
Instead you can _(appropriate behavior)_ or _(appropriate behavior)_.
When I feel _(emotion)_, I like to _(helpful, healthy, & desirable activity)_.
What's something you like to do when you feel __(emotion)_?
I'm sorry you don't get to _(missed activity)_.
I can't imagine what that must feel like.
To the best of my ability I will help you through all of this.
I don't have the answer to that.
What I do know is I love you and I'm doing my best to make sure you are okay.
(C) 2020 The Hope Pusher, LLC | Dr. TJ Jackson