As uncertain as you feel right now, you aren’t the only one who is struggling. Your older children also have many questions and fears. How will the current pandemic affect their schooling and sports? What will happen with their post-high-school plans?
Even though they may sometimes seem 13-going-on-30, your teens and tweens look to you for guidance during challenging times. The following tips can keep the lines of communication open and help you to navigate the current stormy seas together.
1. Give Them Accurate Information
Older children navigate the internet better than many adults, and as such, they run an increased risk of reading inaccurate information. Even highly educated adult professionals occasionally get fooled by sites that resemble legitimate sources.
Discuss the information your teen or tween finds online. Don’t ridicule their ideas — it’s a sure way to make them dig their resistant heels in fiercely. Instead, help them question the information they see and make educated decisions about what to believe.
2. Help Them Step Away from News
If you have your television tuned into the news 24/7, you could raise the anxiety levels in your household considerably. Yes, you and your family need to stay informed, but too much doom and gloom will impact anyone’s psyche. Limit news viewing to no more than 30 minutes daily, and give your teen activities to keep their minds off their worries.
For example, even if you only have a tiny balcony, you can start a small container garden to make them smile. You can save money on seeds by preserving the ones from your vegetables and fruits. This project doubles as a school science activity — biology homework? Finished.
3. Support Them in Their Schooling
Maybe your tween anxiously awaited their middle-school graduation. Older teens may have legitimate concerns about earning their diploma and making college plans. They may also mourn the loss of their prom or the opportunity to take part in the senior week with their friends.
Provide your children with online learning resources they can use to keep up with their academics. Give them time to vent their frustrations and reassure them that you will support them. Help them work through issues like whether to stay with their intended future career path or switch.
4. Reinforce Social Distancing Rules
Teenagers often mistakenly believe that they are immortal — it’s why they often make poor decisions like trying drugs or alcohol. The frontal lobes of their brains aren’t yet developed enough to recognize the full consequences of their behavior. As such, they can raise dickens about staying inside instead of getting together with their friends.
One technique to try is appealing to their higher nature. Remind them that practices such as wearing masks in public and avoiding gatherings protect those more vulnerable, including people they love. While you don’t want to use threats, especially when no one knows what will happen for sure, you can remind them that making hasty decisions now can lead to more severe consequences later.
5. Model Healthy Behaviors
You know that the “do as I say, not as I do” technique rarely works with younger children, and older teens’ minds ask even more probing questions. If they see you out front chatting with the neighbor with less than six feet separating you, they will question why they have to maintain social distance.
The same goes for other behaviors. Yes, it’s tempting to binge on junk food in front of Netflix when you feel stressed, but you know doing so too often will lead to weight gain and health woes. If your teens see you managing self-quarantine by prepping healthy meals and exercising regularly, they will emulate these habits.
6. Introduce Them to Mindfulness
Even young children can reap significant benefits from yoga and meditation, and older children may feel the effects even more powerfully. Schools that implemented such practices instead of detention find that behavior improves substantially.
Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a dime to get your kids in a more mindful state. You can find free videos for every yoga style, as well as guided meditations on YouTube. Once you get your teen hooked, you know they’ll spend some of their screen time on healing self-care.
7. Validate Their Feelings
You might feel like snapping, “Quit complaining about your cap and gown. I have to figure out how to put food on the table without a job.” While you may think your problems supersede the issues your teens face, that sentiment doesn’t make their feelings any less real or valid.
Acknowledge that you are all under tremendous pressure, and do so often. Let your kiddos know it’s okay to break down and cry sometimes. The crucial factor is getting back up and carrying on once the storm of emotions passes.
Treat Your Teens and Tweens Gently When It Comes to COVID-19 Conversations
It can seem daunting to talk to tweens and teens about the coronavirus pandemic. However, your children will look to you for guidance, so prepare yourself with a few simple tips.