How Parents Can Support Their Teens During Social Distancing
Teenagers thrive on social interaction with their peers and they have a strong desire for independence. The teenage years are a time when parents walk the line between letting their children become their own person and setting limits where it’s necessary for their safety and overall well being. But now that many cities and states have a stay-at-home order, parents are forced to keep their kids at home almost all the time, and some teens really struggle to accept this.
More: How FOMO Impacts Teens
Put yourself in your teen’s shoes and seek to understand their point of view, if you expect them to consider yours.
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One reason we resist having to stay home is that we want our freedom. We want to be able to express our individuality and assert our independence. The best way to get us to accept the stay at home rule is to find ways to give us as many freedoms as possible. When our parents respect who we are and allow us space to grow, we are more than willing to listen when we really should. We listen to you when we feel listened to.
Respect Our Sense of Privacy
We aren’t little kids anymore, and we need our privacy. We are more likely to stay home when we feel like we have a space of our own. Giving us some alone time and knocking on the door of our rooms before you enter makes us feel this way.
Give Us a Basic Routine
We might not admit this, but we need your help structuring our day. If you don’t, we will sleep in or do nothing all day. That will make us depressed, which doesn’t help us deal with these big changes or the loss of our social life. We do need routine, but we won’t necessarily be able to create one for ourselves. Give us a few reasonable and meaningful chores to get done each morning. We won’t realize that we should thank you for this, but it will help a lot.
Appeal to Our Sense of Empathy
We don’t always understand or care about how we are affected by potential dangers because honestly, we feel invincible. It’s not our fault—the frontal lobes in our brain haven’t finished developing and we can’t always understand that things might hurt us.
But what we do have is a strong sense of empathy towards others and a desire to help the weak. Sometimes we care about the plight of others even more than adults do. Tell us how staying home protects others who are vulnerable, and we will listen. We want to feel significant, so this is a way we can feel we are helping humanity.
Ease Up on Screen Time Limits
We miss our friends. Our peers are the most important thing in our lives right now. Yes—they have more of an influence on us than you, our parents, do. This is developmentally normal, and it’s not a bad thing. We need our friends, and the desire for social connection is the strongest pull to get us to break the rules and leave the home.
Understand how much we miss our friends and let us text, tweet, and FaceTime without worrying about daily screen time totals. Let us stay connected, even if you don’t let us physically hang out with our peers.
Homework and Chores First
Leverage our desire for social connection to your advantage too. Tell us that as soon as our school work and housework is done, we have free reign with social media and our phones, at least until dinner time or family time.
Level With Us
When you show us that you understand how we feel, we can more easily accept the things we can’t change. Tell us that you get how hard this is for us. Let us know that you don’t want us to be cooped up and away from our friends, but these rules are necessary for now. Remind us that this is not permanent.
Stuck home with your teen? Here are 10 Gifs That Perfectly Sum Up Life With a Teen.
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Elisa is a well-known parenting writer who is passionate about providing research-based content to help parents make the best decisions for their families.