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Living the QuaranTeen Dream

Picture this: It’s early March, second semester of high school. The weather is starting to warm up just in time for spring sports. Preseason has kicked off, opening day for the musical is soon. Spring break is in sight. Prom not too far off.

Then suddenly, the world comes to a screeching halt.

One by one everything you were looking forward to is cancelled. School is now taking place in living rooms with siblings and our friends are miles away. As teenagers, and as parents of teenagers, how do we continue to process all that is going on?

There are a couple of key ideas to keep in mind, many of which revolve around our possibly confused and anxious feelings. These feelings may be difficult to understand from the perspective of both the teenager going through it and their parents trying whatever they can to fix an unfixable situation. There are no one-size fits all solutions, but we can offer at least one tip for dealing with these emotions, and that is to “feel what you feel.”

Easier said than done, so here are some sub-tips for helping you put the above tip into action:

  • Lean in
    • How does one lean in or accept how they feel? Rather than putting pressure on yourself to not feel or think a certain way, accept it. Putting pressure on yourself often creates more stress and anxiety.
    • A lot of the time we are anxious about being anxious or depressed about being depressed, therefore it is so important to acknowledge that you don’t need to change the way you feel. Accepting this gives you a greater opportunity to focus on a practical solution.
    • Parents can sit with their children’s feelings rather than actively trying to change them, similar to how we can sit with our own feelings.
    • As football coach Urban Meyer worded it, “Don’t get furious, get curious”
      • Ask ourselves what is really happening and find a way to ask children questions, which can be tough
      • Some children have a tendency to shut off and hide their feelings, so instead of directly trying to change this and solve the problem, try letting your kids learn how to navigate their own emotions and get to their own resolutions. This builds resilience.
    • It can be very helpful simply for a child to know that their parent hears and sees them
      • There is a balance between letting your children have their own space and also asking questions
  • Modeling is crucial
    • Children look up to their parents, therefore seeing one’s parent say “this is hard, I’m having a tough day” can make a child realize that it is okay to not always be able to verbalize how they feel
  • Thinking process over content
    • Recognize why your children are doing what they are doing rather than just what they are doing
    • EX: If your child is hiding out in their room, think about the reasons why that might be the case. If you’re especially motivated, then maybe you can start a conversation
  • Tone is also very important
    • Often times people do not hear the words someone else is saying, only their tone and their body language.

Overall, quarantine has proven to be a very difficult time to be a teenager and their parents. In addition to the strategies posted above, what are some other ideas for navigating this tricky terrain in the most adaptive way possible?

  • FaceTiming and verbal communication with friends
    • For those who do not have access to forms of social media as such, engage in other form of socialization such as games with your family or talking with neighbors while on a walk
  • Being intentional with your usage on social media and technology
    • It is okay to mindlessly play video games, but be aware of when you are doing that and try to balance it with various forms of virtual socialization such as Netflix Party
  • Write letters to your friends
    • This is an underrated activity that can be both therapeutic and a way to stay connected with friends
  • Focus on being in the present
    • Often times people can get caught up with not feeling productive or worrying about what is to come in the future. The future will happen, but there is not much you can do about it right now. Ruminating on what’s to come will only fuel anxiety. Feel your feelings, but gently redirect your attention to something else. Try to remain in the present and focus on what you can control

As we’ve heard over and over, these are unprecedented times we are living in. Advice is pouring in from everywhere, so if you leave this blog with only a single takeaway, let it be this: whatever you are feeling or experiencing, it is valid. You are valid and it’s okay. Lean on your support system and know you are not alone.

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