If you are a parent of a teen, I know you had a lot of questions about how the stress of this past year is going to affect them going forward. My three teens all adjusted and readjusted back into a more “normal” life” differently. Their different reactions were hard to keep up with and as their mom, I want to do what’s best for them.
During a Facebook Live, Grown and Flown had the chance to sit down with Dr. Ken Ginsburg MD, MSEd, best-selling author, as well as the Founding Director of the Center for Parent and Teen Communication. His insights and advice made me hopeful. He gave me great takeaways that I can start using currently with my teens in order to get them on the right path moving forward.
Parents need to listen to how teens are feeling
First, Ginsburg said it’s imperative that parents listen to their teens about their emotions, fears, and anxieties. If teens are nervous about venturing out into the real world again, it’s important that we listen without saying, “Things will be fine, don’t worry.”
Assuring teens that everything will be fine may “deny their emotions,” says Ginsburg and make your child feel invalidated, which is the opposite of what we want. Then they won’t come to us, or communicate. The very best thing we parents can do is to be a sounding board for our kids right now. Ginsburg says listening to our children is more effective than us talking to them, or simply handing our advice.
It’s important for your teens to know that you struggle also
It’s also important to “be real,” says Ginsburg. Our kids need to see that we are human and we have feelings and emotions too. He advises parents to share with their kids how they get through stressful times so they will realize there’s zero shame in being afraid, anxious, or nervous.
This past year has been so challenging and many things have been taken away from our teens. However, it’s important to remember these are situations that will make our teens more resilient. They are making it through a really difficult time.
Many parents of teens are reporting that going back to school, and getting back into social activities is causing their teens a lot of angst. Ginsburg says the best way to help your child through this is by taking really small steps. Remind them to slow down, be realistic, and not get worried or stressed over problems that don’t exist.
We need to tackle what is in front of us and not dwell on the unknown
This can be really difficult since there is a lot of uncertainty. Uncertainty can be a gateway for us to create made-up scenarios in our head — it’s something we all have to work on —and we can work on tackling only the things that are actually happening in the moment with our children.
Ginsburg advised that teens who are anxious to return to “normal” gather their core group of friends for support. And we need to remind our kids that it’s important to have more than one circle of friends.
When my own daughter started working, it gave her self-confidence. When she started driving lessons, she gained even more. Instead of just doing her school work from her room and talking to a few friends, she now had other outlets that kept her busy and made her feel like she was accomplishing more.
So, while this year has been a scary one for many with lots of setbacks, it has made our teens stronger. They have shown us how resilient they are and how much of their life they are willing to give up in order to keep the ones they love safe.
With wonderful advice from experts like Dr. Ginsburg, we can help our kids (and ourselves) through it all.
About Dr. Ginsberg
Dr. Ken Ginsburg, Co-Founder and Director of Programs at the Center for Parent and Teen Communication is an adolescent medicine specialist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
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