Teenagers are amazing beings. They are full of confidence, energy and an overwhelming sense of innocence about becoming an adult. Their world primarily revolves around themselves and their friends at this age. So, do not be shocked when their first questions are not about the pandemic and statistics, but more about how their life has been interrupted. They are not being selfish or unconcerned. Actually, it is the opposite. Their anxiety may be rising and their way to deal with it all is to seek solace in much what they value; friends, school and family.
Teenagers of course will have questions about the coronavirus, but also may have questions that revolve around their own personal world and how everything that is happening will impact them. With their focus being on friends, school and family; the questions below address each of these in light of the anxiety they may be feeling.
- Question from Teen: How will the changes in school impact me?
One of the biggest interruptions is school. The concern is not just about how they are not attending school physically, but also about their grades and how they are being evaluated. There is a safety in the known and their foundation of the known at school has been shaken. Some schools are going to pass/fail other schools have not yet talked about grades. Teachers and students alike are experiencing school in a way they never had before. The change in their educational routine is monumental and although they may not consciously understand it; these changes provoke anxiety. How can we as parents help? We need to be honest. To let them know that the answers are still unfolding and the way that school is happening today could be changing again in a few weeks. However, even in that uncertainty there is opportunity to ground themselves in their classes and homework. The anxiety load will lessen when there is a focus. When you speak with your teen openly about their fears of how this new way of attending school may be impacting them and show them that they absolutely still have control in their work itself it gives them an anchor to keep themselves grounded.
- Question from Teen: I am concerned about how these changes will affect my college preparation and how will colleges look at taking AP classes online? No spring extracurricular activities? Clubs?
This is also an unknown right now, however what is known is that everyone is going through the similar experience of the pandemic right now. Because this is new and unique, there will have to be new and unique ways to go forward from here for their college prep. Again, be honest that there are no answers but they can rest assured that once colleges understand how they will handle admission guidelines going forward, it will then be communicated to them. One of the best courses of action for them is to document what they are doing, creating or ways they are helping others during their time of isolation. A college admission was never about just academics and/or sports so documenting what they accomplished over the course of the weeks/months isolated could be a game changer on their application. This is not to say kids should stress themselves out right now for the sake of college, but if they could document the creative things they are doing or ways they are contributing to their communities it gives them purpose and goals.
- Question from Teen: I want to go out with friends? When will this be over?
Friends are the foundation of a teenager. And we as parents are going through the same loss of our in person social circles, however, it is so much more impactful for our kids. When they ask questions about seeing their friends and when this is going to be over, see this as an opportunity for conversations. We can ask them to tell us stories about their friends and what they will do once they can go out again with them. It gives them the chance to open up and talk. As you have these conversations more will come through from talking and you may notice some veiled fears surface from your child. This is when you can address the anxiety with some of the symptom reduction tools that are available. They will be more open to hearing about these tools like tapping, meditation and visualization through conversations like these opposed to just telling them what they need to do to help anxiety symptoms.
- Question from Teen: Will you get sick? And what happens if you do get sick, what happens to me?
This is an anxiety provoking question any time. Kids, no matter their age, want reassurance. Heck, we as parents want reassurance. Not having answers for people who anchor themselves in control (which is most, if not all of us) is a breeding ground for anxiety and symptoms. Being honest about it all and letting them know it is okay to have anxiety about this and there are no answers that are certain and that you also have anxiety about this too. When they understand that their parents also have anxiety and that it is okay to experience it, it makes it more acceptable to be uncertain. Explain to them that if you did get sick, there is a plan in place for their safety and well-being. When they know there is a plan in place, they will feel safer with the unknown. Again, this is a good time to introduce some anxiety reduction techniques like meditation, tapping and visualization.
This is a new time for us all. But your teenager is still a teenager and we cannot, as parents, lose sight as to what may be upset about. We have an opportunity to address their concerns and let them know the anxiety they may be feeling is normal and it is okay to feel they way they do. When we validate their feelings and give them comfortable conversation and tools to address their anxiety, they will feel heard and understood.