Lara Krawchuk, MSW, LCSW, MPH
Our teens are struggling. A rapidly surging virus, rising death rates, shootings, masks, endless uncertainty, social disruptions. The chaos is taking a toll on our kids’ well-being, dreaming and self-discovery. Summer is not what it should be. Visits with granny are full of worry and careful distancing. Parties are simply not a safe option. Dinner with friends is an exercise in risk management. Carefree days, lumped together on hot sand, with packs of friends, is somehow dangerous or wrong. Anger and worry are everywhere. Answers feel absent. Futures unclear. The grinding anxiety and uncertainty can take a toll.
Late last night my child came to me intensely worried. One of his friends was in trouble. Posting distress signals on the internet. Not answering the phone. The worry was real. Safety unclear. Family and police needed to be contacted. It was terrifying. Thankfully this dangerous situation turned out ok. A cry for help was heard and answered. This child will get the help they need.
We adults need to pay careful attention. I do not share this story to scare you. I do not mean to be pessimistic. I just want you to notice if your kids seem distressed. Endless hours of video games, sleeping away the day, agitation, eating too much or too little, seeming out of sorts or withdrawn; can all be signs of stress. To complicate things further, kids may not want you to know how they really feel, making it difficult to know how to help. Keep trying to connect.
Here are some ideas for supporting your kids in these turbulent times:
1. Show them how much you CARE. Repeat often.
2. Let them know they can talk to you about anything and I mean ANYTHING.
3. If they do want to talk DEEPLY LISTEN.
4. Try to resist the urge to FIX. I call that the F word. It rarely works until kids feel really heard and understood.
5. Encourage your kids to let you know if their friends are struggling. Cries for help are often put onto social media. Make sure kids know they can and should come to you for support in these situations
6. EAT together. This is an invaluable way to reconnect and enjoy one another. Keep talk light. Save the big talks for another time.
7. Have FUN together. Take a long drive, watch a movie, ask about their friends, joke around, throw a football, take a hike, eat ice cream, splash in some waves.
8. Check in regularly. Not to intrude, but to stay connected.
9. Did I mention have FUN together.
10. If your kid is having a hard time consider helping them find a good therapist. Sometimes a safe adult outside the family system can help a teen make sense of all they are feeling. Family sessions can help pave the way towards better communication and connection.
Times are hard right now. The world feels pretty upside down. We will find our way, but in the meantime, stay extra connected to your teens. They may act like you smell or are the most embarrassing person alive, but deep down they really need you. Please remember help is near. If you need support tending to your teens please reach out. We can be reached at www.healingconceptsllc.com or 610-209-3111.