Everyone is affected by the world pandemic we have endured for a year now. Daily life has been severely impacted on so many levels some days it can feel like there is nothing to do but sit down and stare at the wall. The bills are due, the job is gone, responsible people have practiced social distancing, wearing a mask, and staying home as much as possible meaning no bars, no social events, no sporting events, extreme stress and high anxiety.
Congratulations if you and your partner have figured out how to be together doing fun activities and chores without sniping or outright arguing. Generally, that requires agreed upon alone time that you use to go into a room where you are alone, and read, paint, meditate, work on crafts, do something on the computer other than work or porn or pretending you’re single and cruising dating sites. You can do anything, research, read all kinds of interesting articles, catch up on social media, send emails to friends or chat with a friend or friends from the privacy of your alone time.
It’s even more important at this time to maintain social and familial connections than before the pandemic began. Most people know how to utilize the computer or phone to connect with others even when you’re feeling so down you don’t even want to talk.
If you have a teenager/s in your family try to understand that no matter how hard this is for you, it’s twice as hard for your teen. Adolescence is the last childhood developmental stage. During this time, they learn how to create and maintain their own social connections, experience themselves as a member of their family but having decidedly different opinions about some things. Technically it is referred to as separation and individuation. It is a time that can be extremely frustrating for parents because during this time it’s your job to hold the parameters or boundaries on your child’s behavior because, contrary to what they believe, they’re not ready to take their own reins yet. So, parents get the wonderful job of learning when to say, “yes,” when to say, “no,” and when to strike a deal.
During this terrible time of COVID-19 teens are literally removed from what their developmental programming tells them they should be doing, looking askance at you and engaging in all of the intrigue and excitement of learning how to be adults. They are becoming adults, not adults yet. They are suffering tremendous loneliness and boredom. The depression, anxiety, and suicide rates are all going up in this age group. What can you do?
Here is a list you might want to print out and refer to during your week. You will understand why it’s so important you have at least one hour a day of alone time if you are more involved with your child. You can split the time up, but the total should average an hour a day.
- Listen to your teen even if you think it’s just more of the same whining, complaining and/or being difficult. Stop what you are doing and listen. If you can’t stop in that exact moment tell your teen why and give them a time you will sit down and listen to them. Assure them you do want to listen. When you do listen do not be critical, argumentative, or cold. Be open, warm, and reflect to the teen what you heard them say so they’re know you’re listening.
- Do not let your teen isolate in their bedroom or any other room. That does not mean they shouldn’t have privacy, just limit that amount to a few hours a day. They need you even though they may be acting like they wish your head would fall off.
- Do not let your teen run the show. Not isolating is especially important to their mental health as are other things like keeping regular structure in the household. There should be a bedtime, lights out, a time to get up every morning even if you allow an extra hour of up time and an extra hour of sleep time on weekends, the rules stay the same. After they are up they need to do basic grooming as if they were going to school, eat breakfast, make their beds, and do what chores they have assigned to them. Every child should have a few basic chores like emptying the dishwasher or folding a load of clothes. Do not give your child chores you hate thinking your child belongs to you so you can make them do whatever you want them to do, not fair. If it is a chore you hate, respect they hate it too if they do and offer to trade off with a lesser undesirable job, like alternating days.
- Do not expect your teenager to know how to connect with others because many of them don’t. Some of the reasons are that they are intimidated by the video platforms available so just don’t use them except for school. They don’t understand how learning to communicate through different vehicles is good for them. Help them by sitting with them while they connect to their friends until they are connected. Ask the relatives to send an email, text, phone call, or any other way it is easy to get in touch.
- Empathize with them about how hard this is and understand that they may be angry or morose. Even more reason to keep the rules and boundaries about behavior, grooming, not isolating, participating with the rest of the family. Consult a therapist if the situation feels too difficult to handle or your teenager will not communicate.
- Lighten up on the amount of time you allow them to play video games or watch TV. Let them have extra during this awful experience. It is one thing to understand and empathize with their anger or pain and another to allow them to behave in unacceptable ways, which is why they can still lose a cell phone for half a day instead of a day or be denied other enjoyable things like a video game, again for a few hours just to make the point that calling you a name or putting you down are not going to fly in your house. The amount of time should be reduced because those items are lifelines for teenagers.
- Do not expect that you can carry on with your life such as it is without spending a lot more time with your teen, that your teen is capable of handling daily life however they figure it out. Talk to them, listen to them, play a board game with them, play a video game together, cook a meal with them in charge of what the meal will be, take walks or car rides, teach them how to drive, go through your cell phones at the same time, cleaning up your old contacts and messages, paint with them, do crafts with them, watch movies together, and do as much as you can do to keep your teen from isolating or feeling lonely. It is likely, because of their developmental stage that you will hear a lot of grousing, that could actually mean they’re happy that someone is in charge and is maintaining a family life in spite of COVID-19.
- Follow COVID-19 charts with them and discuss which states have increases and why and which states have decreases and why and anything else they might want to know about COVID-19.
- It is not easy, but you know they’re worth it. I know. I lost my son last spring, I cannot play a board game with him, nor can I allow him to test my last nerve although I would welcome the challenge.