Oh man! Dear Parents of Teens,
I know it’s hard but please monitor your teen. Please require them to socially distance themselves.
Hello. Middle School counselor here. And as a school counselor of middle school students, I have seen first hand the effects that the teenage brain has on teenage behavior. I know the teenage brain has many lose wires and immature connections to the prefrontal cortex- which many of us know is key to executive functioning or ability to understand consequences, make plans, control impulsive behavior, and even assess risk. I know how teens can be. And during the time of social distancing during the Coronavirus, I know it is going to be hard for them to control themselves. So, it’s up to the parent to offer guidance. Please monitor your teen.
Ok. Ok. Ok. Some of you had have had a great week. I know this because I called you this week to check in and you said things were good and your teenager told me the same. And your teenager was fine with just staying home. But I am going to predict that this is the honeymoon period. It might feel like spring break or maybe just a few snow days to hunker inside by themselves. I’m predicting it won’t be long until your teen’s amygdala escalates in an emotional response and they demand to see friends or go to a party or have a sleepover. And when you say no, then the bedroom door will slam and you will be told that he or she hates you. But please, don’t give in, do your part and require your teen to socially distance from others.
As I visited different parks this week in the local Seattle area I observed many groups of teens hanging out together. At Discovery Park, a large group of teens were playing badminton. At Whatcom Falls there were mass amounts of teenagers playing volleyball. And I walked past a large group of teenagers hanging on each other as I came out of the grocery store. I know that the original directive was to socialize in groups of 10 or smaller. But science is saying it is too much. And I am worried. Social distancing is all that we have as a nation to save or mitigate coronavirus tragedies.
Lets just be real. I understand it is hard. Teenagers are terrible at staying 6 feet a part from each other. And many of them will be looking for every possible angle to meet up with their friends or buddies. As one parent said “teens want to be together”. They literally rely on their social life to develop a part of their brain. And social interaction is important for their mental health. I get it. But times are different right now. Even small group gatherings cause a risk. Even low-contact activities can mean death. Ask your nursing friends. Or ask a parent of a teen in Italy.
It’s going to be challenging. You might feel like you hit rock bottom in the process.
How about the parent who was told they are the worse parent in the world for preventing their teenager from attending the Spodie vs. Corona party at the local beach on the evening that schools shut down in Seattle. Or the parent who was told that that they were unfair because of course all other parents are letting their teens out.
And we know its going to be hard. Your teen is going to experience boredom, they are going to experience disconnection, and there will most likely be a lot of emotional dis-regulation. This is a difficult time for our world and our teens. You might see defiance, complaining, or even disrespect.
But don’t give in. I plead to you, please keep your teenager home.
For more support please connect with parents in your community. Trust me, you are not alone.