A Whole New World
By: Jonathan Levin
Synergy eTherapy Therapist
The teens and adolescents I work with in therapy are expressing that they are living in a “whole new world.” I know that as adults, we say this and understand how different life is, but I wonder what that means for kids. Every day is a whole new world for them already, given the rapid pace of development during the pre-teen and teenage years, and in the past that “whole new world” often brought excitement, surprise or challenge in a way that fosters growth.
But now this “whole new world” has a completely different meaning.
With the combination of Covid-19 and #blacklivesmatter protests/riots, it means:
Facing life and death every day for many, especially BIPOC teens.
Will I see my friends indoors again?
Will my grandma survive this virus?
Will I go to college now, or be able to go to the movie theatre again?
Will sports ever come back?
Will my parents have a job?
With all these questions and more, it is important to understand that our kids may behave differently than ever before. On top of their typical teenage ups and downs, they may be even more moody, more lethargic, more negative. As parents, teachers, and therapists, we must support them and let them know that these are real questions, and we are here for them to listen to their concerns.
It is not our job to say, “don’t worry about it.”
Teens need to express their worries and deserve to discuss realities, no matter how hard and confusing times might be. Clearly, we need to be mindful of a teens’ developmental and emotional abilities during
conversations, but keep the channel of communication open, ask questions often, and listen.
Modeling healthy ways to cope with stress and uncertainty is one of the best ways to teach our kids how to deal with life’s ups and downs. We can help our kids practice good habits every day to combat the reality of today’s world.
Some of these things include:
1.A good diet and regular exercise.
The connection between mind and body has never been as important as it is today.
2. Reaching out to friends and family as much as possible.
Allow for our kids to use screens to do this, if needed.
3. Let kids express their feelings.
Be a listener, not a fixer. Kids do not need solutions, they just need to know people are listening to them.
4. Allow for the discussion of what a “whole new world may look like.
Have open conversations with your kids. Allow for “what ifs.” Think of possible “Plan Bs.”
5. Model resiliency.
Pay attention to your own stress levels and how you are coping with uncertainty.
6. Get support.
When you need support and you feel your teen is struggling with the new normal, contact a therapist who specializes in adolescent mental health.