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Relating to Your Teen in 2020

Parents of teenagers, this one’s for you!

You’ve been stuck at home with your child for years… I mean…months now, and maybe you have noticed a change in your dynamics at home, or in your parent/child relationship. 

Parenting through a pandemic is hard enough, but trying to relate to a teenager feels outright impossible!

Let’s go back in time. Remember your teenage years? Maybe you recall your prom date, your favorite teacher, your sport tournaments, or your group of friends. Maybe you’re cringing at the memories and finding yourself thankful to be on the other side of it, or possible, you’re reflecting back with fond memories and gratitude. Whatever the reaction, parents can recognize that your teenage years were transformative. And now, somehow, you have your own teenager, and despite being that age before- you and your child find it nearly impossible to relate to each other.

Take a moment to breathe, reflect, and challenge yourself to make relating and living in quarantine with your teen a bit easier on both of you.

  1. Communication- if you take anything out of this article, leave with this….

Allow for open, judgement free communication, but don’t force it. Communication with a teenager might feel like pulling teeth. If this is the case, reflect back on when YOU were a teen, probably wanting some privacy or space. How do you wish you were treated? Is there a way to let your child know your curiosity into their life, share how you are able to listen without judgement and be there when THEY choose to talk?

**Granted, if your child is refusing to engage in conversation and you feel there is potential harm from not communicating, make sure to state WHY the conversation must be had and the consequences of holding information.**

   It might feel hard to find a ‘right time’ or ‘right place’ to have some more meaningful, or  uncomfortable conversations. Talking while driving can be an extremely beneficial mechanism. By doing so, it allows for the conversation to be distraction free and additionally, reduces some of the discomfort of eye contact. This tip can help both parents and teens feel more comfortable sharing their views.

  1. Alone time- Teenagers, like many other humans, need their alone time. Sometimes it can feel as if they ALWAYS want their alone time. Rather than invading on this, or becoming frustrated, explore the need with curiosity. When discovering oneself, one sometimes needs to be alone with themselves. Teenagers are put under a lot of stress in today’s society, and on top of it all, living in a pandemic adds another layer of stressors that can feel overwhelming for some. Alone time is needed for individuals to process the world around them, and their place in it.
  1.  School Stress- School is stressful as is. Add on top of it a new method of learning and it makes a lot of sense that  school anxiety is heightened. How can this school semester/quarter/year be BEST? Yes, there is a lot that can NOT be changed, but what is possible to tailor to best fit the situation? Can you validate that ‘this sucks”? Can you imagine this circumstance impacting your schooling? How do you wish your parents would respond if this happened “back in your day”?
  1. Socialization – The teenage years are so crucial for developing a sense of self and belonging. Peer socialization helps with this process. However, these days, this looks extremely different than when you were a kid. Your teen might be sad, mad, frustrated, ‘snippy’ and moody more frequently than pre-covid. This is a typical response to the situation they are going through. Normalize this with them. What are they mourning? What are they needing because of this? How can you best support them at this time?
  1. Dating- It would be foolish to leave this topic out. While not every child wants to talk with their parent(s) about their dating life, it needs to be noted that ‘if there’s a will, there’s a way.’ While this is a normal developmental stage, this is an abnormal time. Dating/social interaction can lead to consequences during COVID. This is not to say that it should be avoided at all costs, but it is to say that this should be acknowledged and discussed. Teenagers ability to make sound decisions is not completely “100%” (blame brain development, not your child). It is a parents responsibility to inform and protect their children from potential danger. How can a parent both acknowledge the social and developmental need to date while still keeping them physically safe? This might and probably will be different for each family, but the key is sharing your WHY and giving your child an open platform to share their view (no one ever said ‘the talk’ was fun, or easy). 

Above all, this is an opportunity to build on your relationship with your child. When you are feeling frustrated, confused, or ready to skip town, ask yourself “if I were my child’s age right now, how would I want my parents to react to this/ understand about this?”

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