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Connecting – not with tech – with your teen

Teens in particular need real-time talk right now

Teens in particular need real-time talk right now

The pandemic has been a difficult time for all of us, but particularly for teenagers, the so-called Generation Z. A distressed Gen Z kid recently posted on social media, “Are we called Gen Z BECAUSE WE’RE THE LAST GENERATION?” He was only half-kidding.

In a comprehensive New York Times article, Jessica Grose points out the distinctive struggles of teens, who are in significant developmental stages. She presents and offers parents helpful how-to’s to connect about what’s troubling them.

As she puts it: “I have long thought that when it comes to being a parent in the pandemic, it might be the hardest for parents of teenagers. Parents of little ones can meet most of our children’s social needs, and our kids still kind of want to be around us. Not so for parents of teens.”

Lisa Damour, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and the author of The New York Times’ Adolescence column, concurs: “Pandemic conditions are at cross currents with normal adolescent development.” The driving forces of development for middle and high schoolers are both curtailed by the virus: increased independence over time, and being with one’s peers.

READ MORE: Mental health tips for COVID-era teens

Interestingly, teens surveyed in the early days of the pandemic seemed remarkably OK. Researchers say this suggests it’s because they were getting more sleep in quarantine. But of late, not so much. This is especially true if a family is having trouble getting healthy food. Depression rates are ticking up significantly, as are worries about eating disorders. As with adults, stress in teens can be cumulative.

How can parents meet these challenges head-on? Whatever the situation, whether it’s arguments over screen time, over safety protocols, or house cleanup issues, Dr. Damour advises role playing, even if it feels corny.

“Say to your teen: ‘Let me try to articulate it from your perspective,’ and really try to express their point of view. You should even stop and ask, ‘What am I missing? What am I not getting here?’ And then, allow your teen to do the same back to you.

Dr. Damour says this exercise can “pave the way to a solution.” It can get everyone at least a little unstuck in their perspectives, and more important than anything, offer a chance to connect in real time, something that is now scientifically proven to help alleviate pandemic stress: talking in real time.

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