As a result of Covid-19, we are living in a world where we are having to social distance and stay home to keep ourselves and everyone around us healthy. Staying inside with only digital interaction with friends and family can be hard for adults, so imagine how your tween or teen feels. When interacting and being a part of a group is imperative at this age, social distancing can be more than they bargained for.
Recently, 15-year-old athletically vibrant Jo’Vianni Smith hanged herself in her Stockton, CA home as a result of her mental anguish, struggling to cope with the ongoing lockdown. Danielle Hunt, the young girls mother told Fox40 that, “We can’t think that our kids are OK just because…I felt that I was doing all that I could as a parent to leave the communication open.”
Communication is key. Here are some tips from the experts that can help ease the stress of social distancing for tweens and teens.
1. Talk about it. Teens and tweens need to fully understand that social distancing is important and imperative to helping save lives. There is a lot of misinformation floating around, so talk about it to help dispel any myths that may arise.
“Speak directly and use facts fro the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], CDC,” advised Carl Sheperis, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Education and Human Development at Texas A&M University-San Antonio in an interview with Parenting.com. “You don’t want to create unreasonable fear in children, but you have to make sure that they understand the facts.”
2. Maintain a structure and stick to it. Make sure that you stick to a structure that you have already built. Tweens and teens need regularity. By maintaining an already existing structure, you are giving them the stability that the need in a world of uncertainty.
“Social kids want nothing more than to be in spaces with others. During this time, you have to help them know the rules changed and so we changed, but that it is temporary,” said Donna Sheperis, Ph.D., Associate Professor at Palo Alto University and wife of Dr. Carl Sheperis in the same interview .
3. Spend time together. Binge a show, go for a walk, play games, learn a new hobby, but make sure that you are doing it together. Although they want their independence from the family more than ever right now, letting them know that you will always be there means more than you know.
“Kids may be particularly sensitive to the lack of control in their lives right now, so involve them in family decisions,” said Victor G. Carrion, M.D., Professor and Vice-Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University and Director of the Stanford Early Life Stress and Pediatric Anxiety Program in the same interview with Parenting.com.
4. Change screen-time rules. Encourage your children to hop online and get on their social media. This is not a time to keep those screen-time expectations and restrictions in place. Using social media right now is the only time that kids can connect with each other and feel like they are still a part of their groups. Relax the rules and let them surf. But, of course, make sure to reinforce internet safety because they aren’t the only ones online.
“You don’t have to be the perfect parent right now. Allow your child to have increased screen time, but make sure that the devices have all of the safety protections for their online exploration,” said Dr. Carl Sheperis.
5. Watch for signs of depression. The complex levels of uncertainty that we all are facing at this moment can unquestionably lead to depression. Watch for signs of depression in your tween or teen and make sure that you get them the help that they need asap. Some signs of depression can include being withdrawn, changes in sleeping and eating, decreased levels of energy, among others. While some of these, we all experience at one time or another, just make sure to know your child and reach out if they need.