By: Nicole Ayers Thaxton, PHD, APC, NCC
Teens and students have been significantly impacted by COVID-19 stress. One of the most challenging parts of the current pandemic is the uncertainty of what’s to come. Online school, college transition, SAT/ACT testing, athletics, extracurriculars, and so much more have been altered and impacted. Most universities have shifted their plans as well. Stress and anxiety are likely to proceed and follow life transition; however, with the great deal of uncertainty and multiple kinds of uncertainty at this time, major stress reactions are likely to follow. Stress is to be expected.
With many of my clients, I’m witnessing a reaction to the pandemic similar to that of loss and grief. I have spoken with parents and families about the complex nature of loss and grief during the pandemic. The loss of everyday interactions with peers and teachers as schools move online. The loss of structure with school and extracurriculars. The loss of rites of passage like homecoming, prom, graduation, moving to college, etc. Not being able to experience these things is very painful. It’s important for parents and adults to not downplay the loss of these experiences.
As with other losses, mindfulness and self-care play a large role in stress reduction.
Mindfulness includes staying in the present moment. It’s impossible to know how long the pandemic will be a part of our lives. The best antidote to uncertainty and loss is to shift our focus to what information we have currently. Mindfulness includes:
Self-care is also hugely important to stress reduction. Self-care can include:
Finally, it’s important to note that the COVID-19 pandemic impacts students and teens very differently than adults. Teens will experience fear, sadness, grief, anger, and other difficult emotions during this time, and they will express these feelings in different ways. Helping your teen cope with stress will involve validating their stress rather than minimizing it. It will involve having conversations about loss and self-care. Telling them to “get over it” or “it is the way it is” is unlikely to help them cope with the major stress they are experiencing. A great way to validate your teen’s new normal could include, “I hear how devastated/angry/sad you are about your new normal. Truly I’m so sorry. Is there anything we can do to help?”
Nicole works with teens, young adults, and families experiencing stress and anxiety related to COVID, school, transitions, and more. Contact us to schedule an appointment.
By: M. Diane Pearce, MFT, Legacy Strategy Clinical Director
It appears that we are all in a position to fortify our "shelter in place!" After COVID-19 cases begin to subside in our nation, perhaps we can all move forward with a renewed appreciation for our family. Perhaps, even in spite of the likelihood of COVID-19 intensifying the risks for divorce, abuse and domestic violence reports. We have all broken from our learned ‘normal’ rhythm of living together. The stress of more time with our families, more anticipated responsibilities and financial tension can cause the strongest to feel overwhelmed.
How do we survive these unprecedented circumstances with our Families intact?
How do we keep intact the family and what family was created to be in the midst of our uncertainty?
Perhaps the following eight strategies can assist you in protecting the Family safety of your "shelter in place" in the midst of any pandemic.
8 SURVIVAL TIPS ON RELATIONAL STRATEGIES IN A PANDEMIC:
View Part 2 for Tips 5-8.
Nicole Ayers, MA, APC, NCC
Today’s teens are growing up in a technology filled world. Whether we like it or not, this is our culture today. I scanned my brain just now regarding my own technology use, and it’s easy to find me answering emails, watching a TV show, and texting. Technology is all around us. Below I’ve listed five big ideas to help parents partner with your teen and discuss their best friend – technology.
Idea #1 Practice what you preach
“Double standards are confusing to young children and exasperating to teens.”
First, take a good look at your own technology use because your relationship with technology – or lack of relationship – will impact your relationship with your teen. Most adults are either (1) technology addicted themselves or (2) completely skeptical of technology. Recognizing where you fall on the continuum is a great start before discussing technology with your teen. If you are on your phone or answering work emails all night, it will be difficult to get your teenager off the computer games. We have to set the example.
Idea #2 Set Limits
“Excessive media use has been associated with obesity, lack of sleep, school problems, aggression, and other behavior issues.”
As a parent, ask yourself, “What is the comparison between the hours my child is interacting with a screen and interacting with me?” (Tough Question!) Help your teen make healthy choices by replacing their screen time with fun activities with you – like board game night, books, magazines, playing outside, or going for a walk. The kicker – this will require something of your time too! And you may be surprised to find out that your teen wants to spend more time with you.
Idea #3 Discuss a family plan
“As the parental authority in your family, you want to be a servant leader, not a tyrant.”
Sometimes, as adults, we don’t fully allow our teens to brainstorm with us. Plan a family meeting time to discuss technology - its uses, the harms of over-use, the favorite game or app your teen loves. When discussing setting family limits on technology use, remember to replace screen time with something else and collaborate as a family. Allow for flexibility. Remember limits are to benefit your family, not to divide you and your teen.
Idea #4 Guard their hearts
“Build a foundation with your teen so that when something negative happens, they can come to you.”
The majority of teens have Internet access almost all the time. However, there are many negative side affects to constant screen time – including acquired ADD, anxiety, sleep disturbance, aggression, eyestrain, and false intimacy. Be sure that when setting limits you are also aware of safe guards for your devices. Helpful tools like Net Nanny, SafeDNS, Kaspersky Safe Kids, and Covenant Eyes are available to aid you in guarding your child or teen’s media use.
Idea #5 Keep up with technology
“Your child is the first generation to brave this new world.”
If you want to practice what you preach, set limits, and guard your teen's heart, knowing about technology is a must for any parent. Ask your teen to teach you about technology. Keep up with the new games that they are playing. Ask other parents what they are doing to keep up with technology use and updates. Create a SnapChat or Instagram to check it out. Know that parenting a teen is a very, very good and holy work. There is grace when it comes to parenting teenagers, especially when technology is involved!
**Information adapted from Ten Tips for Parenting the Smartphone Generation by Gregory L. Jantz and CDC.gov. If you have comments or questions about any of the above, feel free to contact me.
Nicole Ayers, M.a., LAPC, NCC
Think back on your adolescent years (between the ages of 13-24). Can you think of a time where you look back and say, “What was I thinking?” Of course you can! And I can too! (Hello, hair dying fiasco of 10th grade.) However, sometimes we have a difficult time understanding why the teens we love do what they do and say what they say. Adolescents make some (seemingly) crazy decisions and say some crazy things.
Between the ages of 12-25, the brain undergoes massive reorganization. Like a hardware or software upgrade on your computer, the adolescent brain goes through a season of “remodeling.” The good news is: the remodeled brain is faster, stronger, and smarter!
So yes, parents and teachers, this is a good thing!
During this time in brain development, changes are slow going, and more and more connections (through neural pathways) are made in the brain. The neural wires are firing quicker! This means that over time, teens experience better decision-making, better impulse-control, the ability to set long term goals, and the understanding of rules and ethics. (And we wonder why our teens are so tired! Their brains are working on overdrive!)
Key aspects of the adolescent’s developing brain are (1) sensation seeking, (2) risk taking, and (3) social reward and peer-approval seeking.
1. Sensation seeking
2. Risk taking
3. Social rewards & peer-approval seeking
The decisions your teen’s brain makes are not random! The sensation seeking, the risk taking, and the social, peer-approval seeking - They all serve the purpose of making brain connections that lead to healthy development and relationships later in life.
As a parent, or a mentor to teens, you can help the brain do its job by encouraging your teen’s healthy independence and exploration of the world around them. And, yes, in a few short years, they will look back and most likely say, “What was I thinking??”
References: Baird, 2011; Dobbs & Cahana, 2011; Felix, 2017
Legacy strategy Blog
Legacy Strategy, Inc. is a private counseling practice in Kennesaw, Georgia.