Many of the students recently shared their post-Covid experiences with me during their new term orientation last week. However, the majority of them share a similar phrase, ‘Parents just don’t understand’. Although, this phrase is an old refrain, in present time it has a new definition. I sensed from my students’ reflections that they think their parents should be aware of their challenging moments. As most teenagers are now cut off from schools, their friends, sports, hobbies and everything else that filled their pre-pandemic days, the parent-child relationship is now under more stress than ever.
Jessica Grose, a journalist and novelist at NY Times, writes about parenting adolescents’ challenges in one of her articles ‘ The Hardest Fight to Have With Your Teen.’
‘I have long thought that it might be the hardest for parents of teenagers when it comes to being a parent in the pandemic. Parents of little ones can meet most of our children’s social needs, and our kids still kind of want to be around us. Not so for parents of teens….’
‘So in fairness to teens in 2020-21, this is a tough time to be young. Pandemic conditions are at cross-currents with normal adolescent development, said Lisa Damour, PhD, a clinical psychologist and the author of The New York Times. The most powerful forces driving development for middle and high schoolers are increased independence over time, along with being with one’s peers, and the virus curtails both of those things.’
‘… stress is cumulative, not just for teens, but for everybody. We can’t say that Covid is X amount stressful for teens because it’s entirely contingent on what other factors are at play. If your family is impoverished or on the verge of poverty, Covid-19 lays on top of that. If your family is dealing with systemic racism, Covid-19 lays on top of that.” The universals that the whole country is experiencing, like the impact on teens’ social lives and schooling, can only be seen through the lens of the other stressors in their lives.’
‘what parents can do if they’re fighting with their teens about socializing. Not all kids wanted to spend their time in dank and unsupervised basements with poor ventilation. Many teens are taking the virus incredibly seriously and are more risk-averse than their parents. Say to your teen: ‘Let me try to articulate it from your perspective,’ and really try to express their point of view. You should even stop and ask, what am I missing? What am I not getting here? And then, allow your teen to do the same back to you. ‘It isn’t a solution, but it often paves the way to a solution,’ because parents and kids alike can get stuck in their own perspectives about the pandemic, and this exercise can get them at least a little unstuck. It won’t solve all your problems with your adolescent, though as I recall from being a teenager, only time will do that.’
When it comes to supporting teenagers during the pandemic, schools and families need to work together to coordinate social-emotional and academic support whether learning ends up taking place at home or in the classroom.
Another Resourceful Read | PERSPECTIVES + OPINIONS Supporting Teenagers in a Pandemic