Helping Teens Cope as Schools Close for the Academic Year

Sign in foreground that says "School Closed Ahead" with an out of focus school bus in the background.

As we collectively adapt to the necessary but challenging social distancing guidelines during the COVID 19 pandemic, our teens are mourning some losses. No spring sports, proms, graduation ceremonies, class trips or senior weeks. Instead of memories of these rites of passage today’s teens will instead look back on hanging with their families and trying to cope with cabin fever. Every challenge presents an opportunity to foster the skills of resilience in our teens. Resilience is the ability to adapt and bounce back from adversity. What better time to practice these skills than now? Here are a few tips:

  1. Mourn their losses with them: Let teens know that it is okay to feel their feelings right now. Even though they will have an unconventional end to their school year, it will certainly be memorable. Brainstorm ways to creatively celebrate the milestones in their lives within the parameters of our current circumstances. Listen with empathy and encourage positive outlets for their frustrations and sadness.
  2. Strengthen your bond: Now is a great time to reconnect with your teen. What music are they into these days? Who are they following on social media? Encourage your teen to watch a show with you, cook dinner with you, go for walks or start a project together. Give them their space when they need it, but also capitalize on these unique circumstances that have put you and your teen in the same place at the same time for months on end.
  3. Model healthy coping skills: Alcohol sales have been up dramatically in past weeks and Facebook posts about drinking our way through the pandemic are rampant. Remember, our kids are looking to us for how to handle uncomfortable feelings like stress, uncertainty and boredom. We are our children’s best teachers. Do an inventory of your own coping skills. We encourage you to cope through talking it out with your support network, practicing self- care, taking a break from the news coverage and maintaining a sense of hope. Your kids will follow your lead.
  4. The power of positive thinking: So much about resilience is our metal mindset. Talking with teens about and modeling an optimistic mindset is key to happiness in life. We can’t always control the circumstances we find ourselves in, but we can control our outlook and reaction to those circumstances. Things will get better and return to normal, and today’s teens will be more resourceful when they come out on the other side.
  5. Educate yourself about how to keep them substance-free: Times of transition and uncertainty can increase risks for experimentation with substances. While it might be harder for teens to obtain substances now, it is certainly not impossible. Check out Caron’s free digital learning courses to learn more about parenting with prevention in mind, current drug trends like vaping and marijuana, and access support for teens trying to quit vaping.

For more information about coping during COVID 19, consider the following resources:
Child Mind Institute Supporting Families During COVID 19
PDE Coronavirus (COVID 19) Guidance and Resources for School Communities

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