This article was written on April 9, 2020 by MHYP who gave permission to reprint here.
We are living in an unprecedented time. Our young people are in uncharted waters and may need extra empathy and patience. How we, as parents and caregivers, cope with sheltering in place provides a unique and rare opportunity to teach our youth real life skills about how to handle uncertainty, stress and grief.
We can use this time to be mindful and intentional about what types of coping skills we are modeling – and how we are caring for ourselves and others.
Here are 8 tips:
- Self-care is key. Ask your teen, “How are you feeling? Do you want a glass of water or a cup of tea? Have you eaten any protein today? Do you need to take a break and step outside? Is there anything you need help with.” Teaching self-regulation and helping our teens identify what they need in the moment can be helpful.
- De-emphasize “productivity”. We can support our child’s responsibility to complete their homework and fulfill their responsibilities, but it is not the time to add any additional pressure.
- Focus on safety. Remind your child that it is your number one priority to keep them safe and healthy.
- Be of service and support your community. Discuss ways that you can help others – Whether it’s picking something up for a neighbor on your grocery run, or supporting a local restaurant by ordering take-out. This can give our sons/daughters a feeling of purpose and a chance to think beyond themselves.
- Stay connected. Do you have relatives, grandparents or friends with whom you can schedule a weekly phone call or virtual gathering? It can enhance feelings of security to see that we have a support system and we are all in this together.
- Model healthy ways to deal with stress. You can help make the connection by saying, “I’m feeling (anxious, unsettled, frustrated, etc) – I’m going to (go for a walk/run, meditate, talk to a friend, do a puzzle, bake).
- Avoid connecting stress relief with substances. If you have a drink – avoid using language like, “I need this after my day,” or “I deserve a quarantine cocktail,” or “smoking helps me relax”.
- Discuss the facts. This can also be an opportune time to get real with your teens about the risks of substances including how alcohol can compromise the immune system and the impact of vaping on lung health.
Last week there was an article in the Chronicle titled, Bay Area drinking 42% more alcohol than usual while sheltering in coronavirus pandemic. Adult rates of drinking and binge drinking were high in Marin before the pandemic (which is correlated with the higher than average rates of underage drinking among Marin youth). Programs like Raising the Bar, point to the importance of a community shift away from a culture that promotes drinking and cannabis use. This is not about adult use – except in the way it impacts local youth.
Parents can model a healthy relationship with alcohol by being aware of what that looks like. This article points out that, as long as you’re healthy, it’s OK to have a drink a day for women or two for men – anything beyond that is considered “heavy drinking”. It goes on to suggest that “Even if the cocktail you made is a masterpiece, the real focus of the evening should be on the people who are there with you and the personal connections you’re making.”
In addition to using this time to build resiliency, we can also talk with our kids about planning healthy ways to celebrate when we are all able to come together again. What does that look like? Going to the beach? Having a movie night and sleepover?
How are we talking about our own post-pandemic plans? Taking a hike with friends? Having a potluck dinner? If we focus on “going out for drinks” – that is a signal to our kids that celebrations revolve around alcohol – instead of a drink just being a part of the event which is to connect with one other.
We know this is a challenging time for many and nobody is doing it perfectly. Below are some articles and resources. Please reach out if you have any ideas to share or need support.
Building Your Resilience. American Psychological Association
Helping Children Cope With Changes Resulting From COVID-19. National Association of School Psychologists
Resources to Support Your Mental Health During the COVID-19 Outbreak. UCSF Department of Psychiatry.
Stress and Coping during COVID-19. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Be The Influence blogs:
- Tips for Managing Stress and Anxiety During the Coronavirus Pandemic. This blog is based on notes (with some additions by BTI) taken during a Facebook Live presentation on March 22, 2020 by Lisa Damour, PhD, a clinical psychologist, bestselling author, New York Times columnist and regular contributor to CBS News.
- Coronavirus Silver Linings: Enhancing Your Child’s Protective Factors Against Undesirable Behaviors