Staying Calm in Quarantine with Your High School Teen

By Kathryn Howard, LMFT, PPS/CWAHigh School Therapist

It is important to recognize that during high school years the adolescent brain and hormones are in full sprint!  What does that mean for you as a parent? It is a reminder that they feel emotions more deeply and more strongly than at any other time in their life. Being confined in a quarantine may increase mood fluctuations, especially if they stuck at home!  Here are ways you can help your student during this challenging time:

Model the 4 C’s: Calm, Caring, and Compassionate Communication:

  • Please understand that your teen has not had the life experiences to deal with a situation like this. At this age, most are naturally social, and this is going to be extremely difficult for them. Be patient with the possible mood swings – being cooped up is especially hard for teenagers. They may become cranky and argumentative, and it’s important for you to know that this is natural! Try not to let that bother you.
  • No one wins when you argue with a teen. If you find yourself constantly arguing, step away and discuss matters when you are both calm. Don’t forget to listen with your heart during these challenging times.

Start collaborative parenting:

  • Try not to give too much advice.Being on the receiving end of a lot of advice makes your teen feel like they don’t have control. As teens transition into adulthood, parents need to allow them to feel like they have the ability to handle certain situations on their own.
  • If your teen is complaining about something, do your best to listen and empathize/validate. Complaints from your teen doesn’t mean you need to give them advice. Ask if your teen wants your suggestion before you give it. If they say “no” let them know that you believe they can handle what’s bothering them, but willing to help when they need support. Understand your teen may just be letting off steam, which is good for both of you! 
  • While you are home, it might be easy to treat your teen like they are in elementary school again. Waking them up, making their meals and catering to them. Remember that they are emerging into adulthood, and it is best to let them keep their schedule and continue to be independent.

Practice good self-care during stay-at-home orders:

  • Don’t forget to take the time for humor – Laughter is so important for improving mental health. If you are finding it hard to smile or laugh-watch your favorite comedian, funny movie or cute kittens. It is a good distraction from the news.
  • Find time for yourself – Everyone needs a little space right now. Find a quiet space (maybe with earbuds) and let your family know you are not available. Good time to practice prayer, meditation or something you enjoy.
  • Manage your stress – If you feel you are getting annoyed or frustrated, take a break, step away from the situation and breathe deep. You are going to need to negotiate with your teen during this time together.
  • Communicate – If you are worried about your child’s academics, contact their counselor. You can set an appointment to discuss your concerns. They are there for you.