Life in lockdown with teens – how to help them, and yourself.
Lockdown has created many stresses, strains and levels of anxiety for all of us, no matter our situation and for families with teenagers, the situation is particularly complex. This blog explores how you can help them to navigate this continuing situation and how you can help yourself too.
There are many things that lockdown doesn’t allow, one of them is the ability to get space from each other. Everyone under one roof, working, schooling – it’s tough! If we don’t know how to request space, or know how to create it – buttons will get pushed.
It is a teenager’s job to begin to differentiate themselves from their parents and in ‘normal life’ one of the ways to do this is to be out with friends. Lockdown has meant this can’t happen so many of you may have seen your teens pushing boundaries at home more. This can create real stress and conflict for everyone – it’s crucial to understand that your parenting style needs to change (this is relevant to ‘normal times’ as well as lockdown.)
Think about changing from a position of ‘I have to protect you and tell you what to do’ to ‘you are becoming an adult and you have a say.’ Parenting becomes a conversation and a negotiation, not an enforced ‘my way or the highway.’
Your teen might want to go out and meet a friend, FaceTime until the small hours or play on their console until midnight and state ‘Well I want to….’
Always start by saying ‘ok – let me think’ – don’t react immediately….give their request or their refusal some thought and don’t be a slave to a knee-jerk reaction. Take a minute to process the fact that this ‘push back’ behaviour is supposed to be happening with your teen, they aren’t doing anything ‘wrong’.
Be honest with your child because being open with them will create trust. Tell them that your fear is their safety and your lack of trust is that you may be influenced by others. Then move onto discuss what you might need to take care of your fear. For example it might be that they keep in touch, check in with you at agreed points of time – this really is about negotiating, remaining calm and giving your teen the sense that they are involved in the decision making process.
Now is a great time to remember and reflect on how your parents treated you as a teenager. One friend said to me that as a teen she just got a flat “no” to so many requests. Thirty years later she understands that her safety was her parent’s priority but at the time there was no discussion – she said she was a good kid, polite, worked hard at school and this lack of communication created real confusion and resentment. She says that she is incredibly open with her teenagers now in a bid to avoid these negative feelings in them.
Neglecting yourself puts you in a negative space – if you are tired, not eating well and not exercising or taking time out for you, you may find yourself reacting by shouting, slamming doors, saying ‘no’ without thinking. Give yourself the space to be ‘ok’ – take care of you and talk to other parents with similar aged teens – it’s really comforting to know we’re all in a similar place!
I offer 1-2-1 sessions that can explore the issues covered in this article further – if you are interested in a confidential, safe session (run via Zoom for the time being) please email firstname.lastname@example.org