Anisha Abraham, pediatrician and teen health specialist and author of Raising Global Teens, out this fall, shares how families in the Netherlands, where she is currently living, have been coping with COVID-19. She also offers a great framework for parents to focus on during this time, which we have outlined below.
Raising Teenagers with R.E.S.P.E.C.T.
R – Routines
Setting a routine creates structure and stability for the whole family. Things such as waking up, meals, outdoor and indoor time, and digital free time give a nice flow to the day. Creating routines also helps students break down large assignments and lets them decide when to do school. A schedule provides stability, and letting teens help create it gives them some autonomy over their day.
Now is the time to focus on the well-being of your family and make sure your kids are doing okay. Decrease expectations of your teen’s output and let them take their time to process and adjust. Shift the focus toward identifying what your teens need in order to feel happy and engaged.
S – Strengths
Uphold and encourage what your kids do well and build on it. This “down time” is an opportunity to help them figure out how to grow their strengths while encouraging and assisting them with passion projects they want to complete. Let them focus on what they are passionate about, even if they are not spending as much time on school because of it; doing so will improve their resilience.
P – Positive Behaviors
Teens watch and learn from adults how to handle stress and anxiety, so we need to look at ourselves first. To encourage positive behaviors, think about basic things such as eating well, connecting with family, getting outside, and exercise. It is a wonderful time to model kindness by reaching out and helping others in the community.
E – Engagement
Teens tend to think they are invincible, but we know that teens can get sick, or be asymptomatic and pass the virus onto people who are more vulnerable. Parents need to engage kids so they have a sense of responsibility regarding community health. This can be done by hand washing, minimizing contact with people, and being thoughtful of people who might have chronic illnesses.
C – Cheers
Parents should congratulate kids for things they are doing well, such as completing chores not assigned to them or achieving something they have been working towards, big or small. The more praise a child receives, the better they feel and the better they respond.
T – Technology
Kids are on screens a lot right now, and the question of screen time limits is as present as ever. Parents can use the three C’s: Content, Context, Child. Consider what a teen are doing on the screen, whether a teenager has a hard time logging off. For a teen that has a harder time getting off the computer, have stricter limits; for a teen that is better about getting on and off the computer, more relaxed limits are a possibility. The key is for parents to know what their child needs and create clear rules based on this understanding.