How To be Okay When Things Aren’t Alright
For the past year and a half, things haven’t felt okay to many of us. And while some normality has returned, concerns around COVID’s new Delta variant and general global uncertainty have intensified feelings of “all is not well.” As a result, many teens (and adults) are experiencing anxiety, depression, and other negative emotions.
While things may not seem okay, and there is no way to know with certainty that things will go as we would like, there are ways that we can still be and feel okay.
Helping Your Adolescent Be Okay
Like the lives of adults, kids and teens have had their lives turned upside down from the pandemic. For adolescents, over a year of in-person school and connections with peers were lost. While the drastic astray of routines and social events have been hard on everyone, adolescents, perhaps, have been affected the most. Part of this is because societal engagement is an essential contributor to the prefrontal cortex, the section of the brain that is still growing and developing. This part of the brain is responsible for thinking about the consequences of actions, solving problems, and impulse control, which doesn’t fully develop until about 25 years old.
Social-emotional learning may be a phrase that you’ve heard before. It consists of five key components that are integral to an adolescent’s emotional development.
Self-Awareness – Is being able to identify emotions, recognize strengths, and have self-confidence. Adolescents can grow their self-awareness by journaling and writing letters to themselves, as well as chronicling (thinking back to how they got through other challenges in the past).
Self-Management – Is being able to control impulses, manage stress, have self-discipline, set goals, and have organizational skills. Embracing mindfulness and establishing specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound goals can help develop self-management skills.
Responsible Decision Making – Is learning to identify problems, analyze situations, solve problems, reflect, and understand ethical responsibility. One of the best ways to develop responsible decision-making skills is by learning how today’s choices can impact future goals.
Relationship Skills – Is being able to communicate, resist negative pressures, resolve conflicts, and support one another through teamwork. Reflective listening and playing games such as People Bingo or Last Word Response can help develop relationship skills.
Social Awareness – Is understanding others’ perspectives, appreciating differences, and respecting others by having empathy. Learning to ask open-ended questions rather than assume can be a great way to develop relationship skills.
Parents can also help their teen be okay by using The Three E’s: Empathy, Empowerment, and Engagement.
Empathy – While you may not be feeling okay yourself or may have a good idea why your teen is not feeling okay, it’s essential not to assume that you know how your teen is feeling or why they’re feeling that way.The foundation of the Three E’s is empathy, which means understanding your teen’s perspective from their viewpoint. Asking open-ended questions can help your teen open up and help you know what they’re going through.
Empowerment – Once you understand how your child feels, you can empower them to think of ways to ease anxiety and address things bothering them. If your teen has become more reserved since the pandemic, discuss ways to help them reengage with their friends and others in the community. It can be helpful to have them role-play specific worries or concerns that they may have regarding situations that they may encounter.
Engagement– It’s essential to regularly check in with your teen to find out how they’re doing and let them know that you care. Sometimes, teens will act like they don’t want to engage, but it’s important not to give up. It can be helpful to participate in an activity with your teen that they enjoy.
Other Things Parents Can Do to Support Their Teens
It’s essential to keep in mind that the friendships and social connections that teens establish from school also play a significant role in their development. Along with respecting the school’s rules, parents should keep in mind that every family has its own beliefs on issues like masks and vaccines. It is essential to be mindful of the conversations you speak in front of your teens regarding highly divisive topics to help support them and their friendships.
Finally, it’s important to remind your adolescent that regardless of the things that may happen outside of their control, they have the power to respond in a way that gives them hope, generates positivity, and creates personal happiness, which ultimately is what they need to be okay.
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