Home with a Teen or Tween?
Tips, resources, and programs to support your teen or tween in quarantine!
Hello, Practice families!
Are you at home with a tween or a teen? If so, this one goes out to you.
Let’s face it– typical developmental shifts for kids in these age groups are likely to make this period of sheltering in place more difficult for them… and also for you as parents!
What’s Behind the Behavior?
As kids approach and travel through adolescence, they typically become increasingly peer-oriented.
Kids in these age groups highly value and prioritize connections with friends. Further, as tweens and teens develop their own sense of identity, they are likely to push back against parents’ expectations and efforts toward connection. During the typical trajectory of brain development, critical structures related to impulse control, emotion regulation, and logical decision-making have yet to mature. This leaves teens more likely to be impulsive, reactive, and to act without thinking through the possible consequences of their actions.
Under the best of circumstances, these typical developmental changes– although necessary, and in many ways adaptive— result in increased tension between parents and their tween- or teenaged kids.
What This Means for Parents
Under current shelter-in-place conditions, typical tensions are likely to be magnified because parents and teens/tweens are spending more time together (and because everyone is feeling more stressed!). Typical teen behavior that may previously have occurred outside the home is now more visible under parents’ radar… and is consequently, potentially more upsetting!
So, if your tween or teen is pushing your buttons, keep this in mind: the things that are driving you crazy are probably developmentally typical behaviors. Even if you and your teen/tween are butting heads more frequently and/or more visibly as the result of the current situation. If we can access a mindset that problem behaviors are developmentally normative (maybe even adaptive, in some way), we are more likely to be able to approach tense moments with some degree of equanimity (instead of potentially catastrophizing about the kind of kids we’ve raised!).
A little empathy can go a long ways. Yes, there are bigger problems than not seeing your friends, or missing prom (hello, this is a global pandemic), AND for teens and tweens who are highly peer-identified, the current shelter-in-place and resulting disconnection from friends is a huge and very real stressor. If we can approach our kids with empathy (and with curiosity about their feelings and needs), we are more likely to get a connective or collaborative response.
Check out this New York Times article with more great tips for parents… or this article about how to support particularly anxious teens.
And here are some ideas for teens about how they can help themselves during the COVID-19 crisis, via one of my favorite psychologist authors, Dr. Tamar Chansky.
Psssst…We Can Help!
We are launching two new programs for students in these age groups next week– each of these programs is focused on teaching strategies that teens/tweens they can use to cope with the current crisis (as well as any other stressors they inevitably will encounter down the road!). So if you’re looking for ways to help your teen or tween manage their stress, anxiety, or mood, read on!
Online Mindfulness for Middle Schoolers
If you have a middle schooler, I’ll be running a live stream version of our Mighty Minds program for middle school girls on Thursdays from 4:30-5:30pm. The group will begin next Thursday, April 16 and will run for 5 weeks. We are offering a special online price of $625, reimbursable by PPO health insurance, FSA, or HSA. The Mighty Minds program teaches mindfulness and cognitive-behavioral skills related to:
- emotional awareness
(how to notice that you’re feeling upset, anxious, or stressed)
- the link between thoughts and feelings
(how to change unhelpful thoughts or patterns of thinking)
- and emotion regulation strategies to help shift emotional responses
(what you can do to make yourself feel better at times that you are feeling anxious, upset, or down!)
These are all skills that research supports as being effective strategies in managing and warding off difficulty with anxiety and negative mood– both in childhood/adolescence and life-long!
Creating Healthy Habits at Home
If you have a high schooler, we are also launching a brand new 4-week low-cost program for high schoolers on Tuesdays, 5:30-6:30pm, with Ginna Oates, ASW, from our clinical team: Creating Healthy Habits at Home.
This program aims to create a space for teens to
- connect with peers,
- reflect on their experiences,
- learn skills to reduce stress,
- and build a healthy routine while sheltering at home.
The group will be fun, collaborative, and experiential, with a focus on developing cognitive-behavioral and mindfulness-based skills, and integrating movement, journaling, art, and other additional interests that group members may share. We will be encouraging teens to practice skills taught in group and to notice what works best for them as a way to tap into the things that are within their control in this larger, uncontrollable situation– and to learn skills that hopefully will serve them life-long! Cost for the 4-week program is only $100. (If you or your teen want to know more, watch Ginna’s TikTok about the program here!)
Space in both of these programs is limited, so we hope you’ll sign your teen or tween up to join us!
Sending you and your entire family lots of warm wishes during this stressful time.
P.S. For more on typical teen brain development, we love Dan Siegel‘s work. If you’re interested in learning more, here are a few links
- (article) Dan Siegel, How the Teen Brain Transforms Relationships August 2014, Greater Good Magazine
- (short video) Dan Siegel: The Purpose of the Teenage Brain, July 2014, Greater Good Science Center, Youtube
- (very long video) Dr. Dan Siegel, BRAINSTORM: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, December 2016, YouTube
- (book) Daniel J. Siegel MD, Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, January 2014, TarcherPerigee
We also love Wynn Burkett’s book for parents of teens, The Power of Mindful Parenting. And also the podcast, What Were You Thinking? Inside the Adolescent Brain.
P.P.S. If you’d prefer 1:1 support for yourself or your tween/teen, our clinical team is taking on new individual clients! Email us for more information.