Our teens are missing the annual rites of passage that make the high school experience so sweet. No prom, no spring play, no yearbook autograph parties, and perhaps saddest of all, no graduation ceremony. Teens are unhappy and who can blame them?
Adolescence is the time when kids start to break away from family and find independence. It’s the season when they’re forming their identity and discovering who they are. They’re trying to set their own boundaries and establish their own values and beliefs apart from those of their parents. Now they’re stuck at home and unable to see anyone except immediate family.
A recent study published in the medical journal, The Lancet, states that teens and young adults are at risk of poor psychological coping during quarantine primarily because of boredom and frustration. University of Texas psychology professor Dr. David Yeager says, “Teens are hard-wired to push back against rules. They value autonomy, the opportunity to make their own decisions. Tell them they can’t do something, they hear, ‘you’re not an adult who can make choices for yourself.’”
Coach teens to understand the importance of staying home through a conversation about principles vs. rules. Rules externally restrain a kid through authority and discipline, but principles have the potential to internally inspire a kid to do the right thing. Then encourage them to reframe the situation.
Right now, it feels like they’re under a dark cloud.That makes the reality of stay-at-home seem even bleaker than it may actually be. To help them cope with the losses they’re experiencing, suggest cognitive reframing—the act of finding a more positive interpretation of a situation to change the way you look at it. Reframing doesn’t deny the challenge of the moment, it shifts the view, and it’s an opportunity to discover a silver lining.
Start with the unvarnished facts
- What’s causing our social distancing?
- What is the impact on you? Your family? Your friends? The widening circle of your world?
Make it personal
- How should you respond and why?
- What are your responsibilities right now?
Acknowledge the sadness, but resist the urge to fix things
Give your teen the time and space to talk through their sad feelings. That doesn’t mean you fix it for them; just listen without distractions to be in tune with them.
There’s a national effort underway that involves building virtual high school and college campuses through Minecraft. The Quaranteen Commencement 2020 is scheduled for May 22nd and there are other virtual events planned across the internet. Are there creative ways your teen can celebrate the events they’re missing?
Teens are expressing deep regret at not being able to say goodbye to school friends as the academic year winds down. Cori Jane, a high school freshman from Massachusetts, tells us, “I miss the social aspect of school, getting to see people I wouldn’t really hang out with outside of school and I am missing my teachers. I’m mostly sad about not seeing my friends. They are really important in my life.”
Teens have options for ways to say goodbye for the summer:
- Write letters. It’s just a longer version of the yearbook autograph.
- Create a digital yearbook and share it with classmates.
- Make a video montage of the year gone by and post to YouTube.
- Create a group chat to share memories.
As teens reframe their view of social distancing, they learn the habit of resilience. They will face disappointing, stressful, and sad circumstances in the future, but can develop the habits and skills to move those experiences from a negative frame to a more hopeful one, filled with opportunities and silver linings.