Teenagers today have a new normal to navigate. The everyday struggles of high school, first work experiences, and changing hormones are complicated by the coronavirus. Ongoing lockdowns, scary health issues, and fewer opportunities to interact with their peers can wreak havoc on their emotions and feelings.
The pandemic and its fallout have hurt our teens. The American Psychological Association’s 2020 survey on stress also showed that it has had a significantly higher impact on people aged 18-23 in comparison to previous years. Young people are even finding it hard to consider and plan their future.
It’s more important than ever that we help our kids create positive life experiences amidst this chaos. We must model and share healthy coping habits so that they feel secure in these turbulent times.
Creating Positive Life Experiences During a Lockdown
Creating positive life experiences is easy when high school is in session and extracurricular activities abound. But with periodic lockdowns, social distancing mandates, and postponed events, teens may feel that there is nothing enjoyable left in life. However, there are still ways to create positive experiences for our teens, whether or not school is in session.
Here are three things you can do right now:
- Make them responsible. Instead of asking them to do chores, teach them that pitching in is the adult way to participate in family life. Make them proud to step up and help out in ways that bring joy.
- Have a family meal every day. If evenings are too hectic, breakfast or lunch is also a good time to share a meal. Create a routine where the whole family joins together to catch up on their day or discuss important issues like current events.
- It’s important to get your kids excited for the future. Whatever happens with the pandemic, teenagers can still follow their dreams as they pursue their careers. Help your teen make good decisions about the future while building their excitement with virtual college tours, interviewing people in their aspired profession, and creating vision boards to get excited about the future.
Healthy Coping Habits for Teens
Sometimes no matter how many positive experiences you create for your teen, however, the darkness can still peek through. Without a proper outlet for stress, teens may turn to destructive behaviors to cope. They must understand the long-term consequences of these unhealthy coping mechanisms. For example, binge drinking can lead to a DUI conviction that impacts future college admission, work, and finances.
Instead, teach them healthy coping habits to deal with stress and anxiety. Some parents may be hesitant to make suggestions to avoid hypocrisy. However, you don’t need to be a saint to offer healthy advice to your teen. It may actually be more helpful if you start by modeling these behaviors yourself. Your teens won’t buy into healthy habits that you don’t bother practicing.
If you don’t employ some of these habits, invite your teen to join you in getting started. Together, you can find that there are plenty of ways to manage stress.
Mindfulness, Meditation, and Deep Breathing
Stillness, as easy as it seems, is one of the more complicated ways to manage one’s stress. Often, teenagers feel the need to be busy “doing” something 24 hours a day. For teens and adults alike, finding time every day to be mindful, meditate, or relax the mind can be challenging. However, the sooner you teach this stress-managing skill, the better.
Get Out Into Nature
For teens who don’t thrive in silence or stillness, going out into nature might be a better stress-relieving alternative. Depending on the agreeableness of the weather, going for a walk, biking, or jogging can be good for both their physical and mental health.
As well as giving a much-needed energy release, immersing oneself in nature can actually create a much-needed break from overstimulation— which occurs quite frequently for teens. As often as possible, make sure your child can get to a natural setting like a park or beach as this can have added health benefits for their mind!
Focus on the Positive
One important way that teens can retrain their brains is to focus on positive things. Negativity is part of our everyday experience and should not be completely avoided but we don’t want our kids to wallow in misery over the troubles they experience.
Instead, encouraging positive reflection, like a gratitude journal, can be a better alternative. A variety of studies have shown that gratitude, especially for young adults is incredibly beneficial. According to Psychology Today, “Young adults assigned to keep gratitude journals showed greater increases in determination, attention, enthusiasm, and energy…” Although your teen doesn’t necessarily need to start a gratitude journal to embrace positivity, it can be a step towards becoming a happier and healthier person.
Build a Healthy Body
Overall, becoming a happier and healthier person is easier said than done. As your child matures, they will find independence in making choices. As a consequence, they may choose unhealthy foods and sedentary activities. Teaching them how to cook healthy meals as well as how to participate in fun exercise routines can assist in their lifelong mental and physical health journey.
Additionally, one of the biggest cornerstones of a teen’s health is their sleep. Teens often will skimp on this, but sleep deprivation can harm their mental health. Make sure they are in a quiet, darkened room, and don’t let them bring electronics to bed – the blue light can disturb their sleep cycle!
Even if they don’t say it, your teen needs your help. These are challenging times for everyone, and coping mechanisms are essential. Teach your teens to create positive life experiences in any circumstance along with healthy ways to manage stress. Taking charge of their wellbeing will be a lifelong gift!