The Coronavirus is turning our world upside down, both on a broad, global level as well as our daily life. From worrying about health and finances to people hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitiser. Something like this brings out the good in people, but it can also bring out the not-so-good parts of us.
The widespread school closures have sent a ripple effect into families as we scramble to smoothly transition kids into at-home life. It's no easy task and we are all a bit on edge and cranky. Not because we don't all love and worry about eachother, but because we are stuck in our houses leading to way too much togetherness! Whether you have a large house or a tiny apartment it is hard to get away from eachother. It's also harder to see friends and get exercise--both of which affects our moods. While raising and entertaining wee ones is all encompassing, being with tweens and teens all day, every day can seem like a battle.
The whirlwind combination of puberty, hormones, high school years, and the growing need for independence can be a challenge for any parent. The eye rolling, the sarcasm, the moody silence or sudden anger all can take their toll, leaving you vacillating between yelling and wanting to tear your hair out.
Take a deep breath and remind yourself this won't last forever and that they are pushing for their independence even as they are forced to remain in the house and interact with us. See if you can find ways to hold space and offer them a bit more autonomy. What often helps me is to think of our conversation as a negotiation; we are both trying to get something from the other–can I find a place to meet in the middle? These 6 tips will help you have a more peaceful and healthy relationship with your teen.
1. No Nagging. I admit it, I am a bit of a nagger. It’s not pretty, but hey, I’m not perfect. So If you’re getting attitude, take a quick look in the mirror and see what you’re doing. Could you be nagging; can you sound kinder? Instead of saying to my kids, “why aren’t you studying; you have a test tomorrow!” I have learned my daughter needs quiet time after school--even virtual school. It’s better all around when I say, “Hey, i know you need some downtime–what time do you want to switch gears and study for your test?” By speaking gently I get more of an answer than a grunt or mini explosion. Sometimes just the tone of voice can lower the stress in the room.
2. Feed The Beast. Never underestimate the power of hangry! Just like when you had to carry snacks and emergency Cheerios for your toddler, your teen may still need the same. For my kids, food is a necessity when they are cranky. Now, if i ask if they want a snack I may get the snide comments, grunt or eye rolling like “I’m not a baby.” But if i simply hand them some food or toss a plate of food in their direction, it gets devoured and I generally get a much happier teenager! Now, that is a win-win.
3. Rules Rule. Negotiating rules and boundaries is one of the most effective ways to reduce both conflict. But you still need to stick to them, to enforce them--even if they are newly-negotiated rules for these new circumstances. It’s tempting as you try to give teens some freedom and independence to let them slack a bit. There's nothing wrong with that–it’s great to encourage independence. But it’s a fine line and if your kid is crossing it on a consistent basis, it’s time to toughen up and remind them the difference between rights and privilege. Privileges can be rescinded if certain rules aren’t met, and sometimes these privileges will be so important to a teen that going without them will provide a wake-up call.
4. Avoid the Power Struggle. One of the best strategies for avoiding power struggles is to give choices within those limits we just mentioned. Choose your battles--not everything is worth the pain. Avoid ultimatums which a teen will just see as a challenge. It’s all about sharing control and being clear. Instead of nagging and reminding them they have to watch the online class and do the homework, try giving them two options, each of which are ok with you. But try to think ahead and give choices before your teen is resisting. If you give them afterwards, you reward that resistance and that’s no good for anyone.
5. Be flexible. And reasonable. Avoid setting rules your teen can’t possibly follow. A chronically messy teen might have real trouble immediately maintaining a spotless bedroom. So if that’s not crucial to you, let it go. As your teen demonstrates more responsibility, grant him or her more freedom. Remember, you can always close his door.
6. Set a positive example. Acknowledge that this 24/7 togetherness is hard on all of you. Teens are still learning how to behave and believe it or not are watching us for clues. Sadly, “do as i say, not as I do” is not how it works. Your actions generally speak louder than your words. Show your teen how to cope with this Coronavirus stress in positive ways and be resilient. And if you lose it, own it. Admit it and say you’re sorry.
Be a good model and your teen will likely follow. And when that doesn’t work, just breathe and walk away. Tomorrow is another day.