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.
Laura Lee Baker, MA, LPC, NCC
Have you ever found yourself dreading the holidays because you are still trying to recover from last year? Over spending, unmet expectations, exhaustion, and weight gain are just a few repercussions from holiday burn out. I can remember past holiday seasons being over booked, stressed out, always trying to make people happy, that I did not even have a chance to really enjoy friends and family. My focus was on “the task,” not connecting to others and celebrating “The Reason for the Season.”
How can you celebrate what is really important to you this holiday season instead of trying to meet unrealistic expectations? What are you trying to teach your children? How do you enjoy family and friends while setting limits and saying "No" during this time of year? Understanding your boundaries and the why behind the things you do is vital to avoid potential stress overload.
Below are a few things to consider:
1.Know your why and what you really want to be celebrating over the holiday season. What do you want to remember when the holidays are over? Make sure that activities you plan or participate in reflect your “why.” For my family, it's celebrating the birth of Jesus. What does that look like for us and how do we want to do that?
2. Why am I spending this?
Set a budget and make a list of gifts you need to buy so that you are not over spending. Be creative. Draw names. Don’t buy for people out of guilt, or because you “have to.”
Make cookies or spend time with loved ones instead of gift giving. Give gifts to those less fortunate instead of only to each other. These are just a few ideas.
3. Why am I saying yes?
Look ahead at your calendar and don’t over book. Learn to say no to parties or activities that you truly don’t have time for. Don’t say yes to things like volunteering, etc. out of guilt. Make sure it fits in with your “why.” Pause before saying yes to activities. And please remember, it's okay if you don’t win the “best decorated house.”
4.Why do we do this?
In regard to blended and extended families, be creative. You don’t have to schedule Thanksgiving or Christmas gatherings on the same day. Instead of going to 20 family members homes and eating 20 thanksgiving meals, consider alternating holidays every other year. Gather on or before Thanksgiving or Christmas. Consider a progressive dinner. Set a time limit at the homes you visit. These are a few creative examples to prevent burn out.
5. Why am I eating this?
For those of you who don’t want to gain weight from all the sugar cookies and pie overload, plan what you'll be eating ahead of time and stick to it. Just because Granny wants you to try her pecan pie doesn't mean you have to. Stick to your game plan and try not to eat out of guilt or stress. If you are bringing a dish, make one that you know fits your balanced eating plan.
6. Why do I set limits?
Alcohol, sugar, and sleep deprivation can increase stress levels. Tempers flare and conversations can become heated without personal limits. Be intentional with self-care even when traveling or having visitors. It's okay to take some time for yourself to recharge.
7. Last but not least: Enjoy your family and friends. Don’t forget those who are less fortunate or who are alone and missing their loved ones.
Know your WHY and be thankful for all that God has blessed you with this holiday season.
Photo taken from: http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1505537/images/o-HOLIDAY-STRESS-facebook.jpg
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.