The demands of COVID-19 have been difficult for everyone. For teens and tweens, there has also been a fair amount of loss. Beyond missing out on major rites of passage, this past year has also meant the loss of everyday experiences, connection with friends and independence – at precisely the time in their lives when all of it is so important.
As parents, here are a few ways we can help them through this challenging time.
Connect and show empathy
We are living through a historic period of prolonged stress. Remember to set compassionate expectations (for yourself as well your kids). Show your teens that you’re genuinely interested in their experience and want to understand their thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Acknowledge and validate them. How you manage this experience with them can enrich your relationship long into the future. The empathy that they experience from you now can lead to resilience and healthier relationships in adulthood.
Keep communication open and honest
Share information in a way that is calm and factual, correcting any misinformation along the way. Reinforce public health messaging, make yourself available for conversations and be open about your thoughts and feelings too.
Promote healthy habits
Healthy coping has a lot to do with healthy habits. You can help by role modeling and creating an environment that makes it easier for everyone to follow through.
- Stay connected and maintain social networks
- Follow a routine as much as possible
- Try to eat well, stay active, allow for down time and get good sleep
- Get as much sunlight, fresh air and nature as you can
- Find ways to keep busy and productive (this can include giving to your community or others)
- Keep your mind stimulated
- Do things that tap into your creativity
- Set limits on media consumption
Practising these habits regularly can have a powerful impact, so ask your kids for their ideas about how to build them into their lives. Your teen or tween may also be a great support to you in establishing healthy habits for yourself! Remember to go slow and be kind to yourself and each other.
Give them space and encourage down time
Living in tight quarters makes the need for time alone even more important. Encourage your teen to take time each day to unplug and spend some quiet time unwinding. This can help to rejuvenate, allow for creative expression and do wonders for a relationship!
Find ways to have fun with each other
As important as it is to have time alone, so is the quality of your time together. This pandemic has given families an incredible opportunity to connect with each other like never before. Use this time to find things that you enjoy together. Show that you’re curious and interested in your teen’s life and ask their opinion about things. Enjoy this extra time together!
Help them develop healthy coping strategies
The prolonged stress of this pandemic can lead to negative thought patterns and impact mood dramatically. Check in with your kids regularly to see how they’re doing. Validate their experience and if needed, help them to reframe. Some practices that can be effective in strengthening coping skills include:
- Focusing on the things that are within your control
- Practising gratitude
- Mindfulness, prayer or other spiritual practices
- Becoming aware of and challenging negative thought patterns
- Working toward positive, achievable goals
Get help if needed
If you are concerned about your child, be sure to get help. Here are some excellent resources for teens/tweens:
- ROCK (Reach Out Centre for Kids) – Crisis line, virtual counseling
- Kids Help Phone – Crisis line, support by text, phone, messenger, articles
- Teen mental health learning hub – Guided meditations, resources, information
- COVID-19 wellbeing and mental health resources – Resources on parenting, coping strategies, mental health mobile apps, mindfulness supports
If you find yourself struggling or need resources to support your child, HaltonParents is here for you. We’d also love to hear your thoughts and experience with this topic!
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For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000