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How Parents Can Help Teens Feel Less Alone During Covid-19 Pandemic

Apr 23, 2020

Guest author's article originally published HERE and re-posted below with permission. 

There is no easy way to tell a teen that schools might not even go back to session this academic year as many of them are struggling with dealing with feelings of loneliness and frustration at having to stay home with their families right now. This is so understandable considering that teens are at an age where they are going to crave connection with their peers, not with their families.

I think that there is no easy way to deal with the feelings of loneliness that are going to come up for teens as a result of social/physical distancing. What I mean is that I don’t think teens are magically going to feel better until this situation is over. However, I think there are some things parents can do to support them and help them get through this situation.

Allow honest dialogue and conversation

  • I think one crucial part of any coping response is going to be to engage in a conversation with your teen about how they are doing right now. Letting them share openly how frustrated, sad, and lonely they are will help them to feel connected and heard. During a time when I think it is easy to feel unseen, helping our teens feel seen and connected with us is going to be crucial in helping them get to a place of coping.

Show compassion and understanding

  • While talking with them, please do not be condescending about the things they are sad about. When you are a teen, you just don’t have the same perspective that adults do and it truly can feel like the world is over if you don’t get to have prom, that date you were excited about, play in the key game, etc. These are big events that kids are missing and we need to honor that by showing them compassion and empathy.

Validate how they are feeling and join them in sharing that you may be struggling with feeling isolated as well

  • Go beyond just being understanding and let your teen know that it makes sense that they are struggling with this situation and feeling lonely. You can even note that it is totally a natural reaction particularly at their age and let them know if you are feeling the same way. Please do not share platitudes or criticize them for their reactions. We are all grieving what our lives used to be like and they are allowed to have their feelings too. Let them know however they feel is okay and that they are not alone.

Come up with strategies and ideas together

  • If you follow the above steps during a talk (or over several talks), hopefully your teen will then feel supported enough to be able to engage in a conversation about how to make the best of the situation we are all in. Try not to bypass the above steps and force your teen into strategizing before they feel ready – this will create more defensiveness and reluctance to engage in that part of the conversation and will not get you what you want, which is a teen who is coping better.

From there, your goal is to elicit ideas from your teen as to how they can get through this situation. You can offer ideas, but try not to make them one big to do list of things they need to accomplish. I think one byproduct of having a slower pace in our lives is that our teens can get some much needed down time right now. Let’s encourage that and allow them to figure out new things they might want to try or new ways to connect with friends.

About the author, Dr. Erica Wollerman from Thrive Therapy Studio:

I am a licensed clinical psychologist (PSY 25614) and have held a passion towards helping people since beginning my career in psychology in 2006. It is that drive and passion that led me into my work with families, children, teens, and adults. What has kept me in this area of work is the joy that comes with helping people accomplish their goals and work through the areas of challenge that led them into my office. Witnessing growth, transformation, empowerment, and genuine change on a daily basis is such a blessing and honor for me. While we work together, you will know that you are not alone in your struggles and you will feel supported by me in an authentic and genuine way.