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.

How to Manage Anxiety in Uncertain Times

By Kathryn Howard, LMFT, PPS/CWA, High School Therapist

How a child/teen responds to news of the novel coronavirus may depend on several factors, such as 1) age of the child, 2) language/comprehension abilities and developmental level of the child, 3) presence, severity and type of anxiety disorder(s) or other psychiatric conditions, 4) prior history of trauma or serious illness of loved ones or self, 5) occurrence of other recent stressors or major life events (such as parental divorce, death of loved ones, major move, change of school), etc. Therefore, a parent’s response would need to be tailored to the individual situation and context surrounding their child/teen.

The following are a few general tips for communicating with an anxious/child or teen about coronavirus. These may not apply if your child/teen is suffering from a moderate to severe anxiety disorder. In that case, please consult your child’s mental health professional/psychiatrist/pediatrician at the earliest, to devise or modify your child/teen’s individualized treatment plan so that it weaves in the recommended precautions.

Model Calmness:
The most important and impactful form of communication to your child/teen is your own behavior. Children can sense their parents’ anxiety even when parents are not voicing or expressing their anxiety-related thoughts or fears. Carving a few minutes for yourself for mindful breathing pauses during the day may help you model calm for your child/teen. Making time for conversations that do not involve the virus would be helpful.

Maintain Normalcy:
Significant changes to daily routines or schedules are stressful and convey to the child that you are very concerned, or there is a crisis. Maintaining a routine and structure during the day may help anxiety. Sitting around idle without a plan for the day is likely to escalate anxiety, especially for teens already suffering from anxiety. This may be a time to engage in an activity that they don’t have time for during the week. Also, spend more time as a family-maybe schedule family game night or movie night.

Listen Actively:
Listen to your child/teen’s feelings, worries, fears, and questions about coronavirus. Children may receive their news about coronavirus from school, internet, TV, home, or elsewhere. They may worry that the worst may happen to them and/or their friends and loved ones. Ask questions in a non-judgmental and empathetic manner. Show your child/teen that you are present and interested in hearing their thoughts and feelings.

Validate:
Acknowledge your child’s feelings. Be careful not to dismiss, invalidate, make fun of, or reject their feelings. You may also inform your child that it is common to feel this way; many other people (including children) experience similar feelings. Many people worry that validating their child’s feelings would mean they agree with those and that this may further increase those feelings. Validating someone’s feelings does not mean you agree with the beliefs underlying those feelings, but it means you acknowledge the presence of those feelings and that you understand that such feelings are a part of the human experience. Validating is very powerful as it helps the person feel understood.

Encourage Distraction:
When we fixate on danger, anxiety grows, and when we turn our attention elsewhere, it shrinks. That said, it might be hard for some teenagers not to obsess about Covid-19, given that the topic pervades headlines and social media. Further, the constant availability of fresh information about the coronavirus may spur some teenagers (and adults) to compulsively check for news updates. This, however, may offer little emotional relief. Try turning off media and only checking a few times a day for updates. This will help your child/teen focus on what they need to accomplish for school or connect with friends.

Know the Facts and Direct towards Facts:
Your child/teen is likely hearing about the novel coronavirus outside the home anyway, so do not shy away from approaching or discussing it. Be proactive in talking to your child/teen about facts regarding the coronavirus. For this, you will need to equip yourself with and read about the facts around coronavirus first. Ensure that you are getting your facts from reliable sources, such as the CDC:https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html.

Practice Compassion:
Wide-scale infectious disease outbreaks, such as the current one, are bound to be stressful and can be challenging to maneuver, particularly when they start to affect daily life or activities and, more so, if your child/teen suffers from anxiety. Practice being kind, gentle, and compassionate to yourself and to your child/teen.

Consult, Collaborate with Healthcare Professionals:
If your child/teen is suffering from an anxiety disorder or other psychiatric condition, talk to your pediatrician and arrange for a consultation with a mental health professional, if you haven’t done so already. Most treatments for anxiety in children and teens should involve psychotherapy. If your child/teen already is under the care of a mental health professional, work closely with that professional to help your child navigate this unusual time.

Our community is strong and here to support you during this challenging time.

References:
Anxiety and Depression Society of America
New York Times: 5 Ways to Help Teens Manage Anxiety About the Coronavirus

10 Tips to Help Students Adjust to Online Instruction

By Laura Cuneo, Director of Counseling

Although we are not physically at school right now, the Chaminade counseling team is still here to serve as a resource. Counselors will be available in the coming weeks to answer questions or concerns via email, or if you’d like, via a virtual meeting.  Please feel free to contact your counselor or the school therapist to request a time to meet, and they can help coordinate a confidential online meeting space.  

We understand that, given the global attention that COVID-19 has attracted, students may become anxious about both the virus itself and the new online academic program Chaminade is implementing. Moving to an online environment will have challenges, and it can feel isolating to students used to daily interactions with their peers. It is important to be reminded that countless students around the globe are having a similar experience – including their teachers. We hope that the tips below will help you find success in this new environment.

10 Tips from the Counseling Office to Help in the Adjustment Process as We Move Online Together:

1. Establish a routine.  Your teachers are working hard to keep everyone on a regular schedule. You can help things go smoothly by establishing your own routines for each day.  We suggest keeping a normal wake up and bedtime schedule.  Think of it like you are still “attending’ school even though you are not physically traveling to campus each day. 

2. Remember the importance of sleep for health and emotional well-being.

3. Schedule virtual social interactions.  We’re all in this together. Your classmates are very likely to have many of the same questions and concerns that you have right now.  Lean on one another and share your experiences.

4.  Fight the temptation to allow video games or binge-watching the latest Netflix special to consume hours of each day.  Instead, think about ways you can explore areas of interest (books, arts, new hobbies), delve deeper into your coursework, make time to exercise or spend quality time with loved ones.

5. Be sure to interact with your teacher and classmates even though you’re in a different setting. The key to success as we begin this new way of doing things is to stay informed.  Ask your teacher questions and participate as much as you can. Check your email regularly and remain diligent about updates and course content.

6. Evaluate your study methods now that you’ll be online. Consider getting together with other students in virtual study sessions, or even just in a conversation or chat about the course. The more you feel a part of the online experience, the better you’ll do.  

7. Remember that every unique situation brings with it new opportunities. Change can be good, and it can compel us to challenge ourselves in new ways that, in the end, promote our growth as individuals and as a community.  It is important to remain open, compassionate, and patient. 

8. Self-care and positive mental health are extremely important. Take this opportunity to examine how you currently care for yourself personally and spiritually. Use this time to reflect on ways you can grow in these areas, which, in turn, can make you a stronger and more focused student overall. 

9. Good time management will be crucial to your success as an online student. Take this opportunity to prioritize your work and establish (or re-establish) positive work habits. Distractions abound at home, so take care in recognizing these in advance and making changes as needed. Where will you do your online work?  What is distracting you that can be put away for the time being?  We want to see you set yourself up for success.

10. Reach out if you are in need of support during this time of uncertainty. Counselors, the school therapist, administrators, your teachers, and Campus Ministry are all here to support you!

Sources:   Challenge Success, NBC News

Some additional resources we recommend to support learning at home:
Schools Are Closing for Coronavirus. Now What?  – New York Times https://parenting.nytimes.com/preschooler/coronavirus-schools-lessons

Girls Varsity Soccer Wins CIF Championship

by Abigail Handel ’22, Morgan Walker ’21, Bianca Baguio ’21, Lila Manning ’21
Student Council Public Relations Commissioners

On February 28, 2020, Chaminade’s girls’ soccer team played South Torrence in the CIF Championship. After a long eighty minutes of hard work and passion, Chaminade beat South Torrence 2-1. A championship like this has not occurred for girls’ soccer since 2013. Junior defenders Lilly Pennington and Faith Tillman were responsible for the two goals scored in the first half of the game. Both goals were beautifully netted off corner kicks. Chaminade has played 27 matches this season and has only given up 17 goals. The girl’s team lives by the motto, “defense wins championships.” This is very evident in Chaminade’s defensive backline, where the two center backs have been practically unbeatable. Lilly Pennington, the eleventh-grade captain, and sophomore Sophie Beck are both talented center backs who created immense frustration for other teams. Mike Evans, coach of the girls’ soccer team, stated, “This team is made up of a perfect mix of ingredients that form the perfect recipe.” Chaminade has scored an incredible 75 goals this season with underclassman Abbey Handel and Marissa Hollert scoring most. Sophomore striker, Abbey Handel, and freshman striker, Marissa Hollert, have scored a collective number of 28 goals together. This team has grown tremendously close over the course of the last few months. Junior Emily Barkes perfectly summed up the team’s relationship by saying, “We went from not really knowing each other to being an inseparable family. We are sisters on and off the field, and I know every single girl on this team has my back.” Chaminade girls soccer will hopefully continue to the state championship. Go Eagles!

A SPEAKER FOR OUR TIMES

by Director of Counseling Laura Cuneo and School Therapist/Counselor Kathryn Howard, LMFT

On Tuesday, March 24, Chaminade is blessed to be welcoming New York Times best-selling author and educator Julie Lythcott-Haims to our campus. In the afternoon, she will speak to all our high school students; in the evening, she will direct her focus to you, our parents. Julie comes to us with a wealth of experience. As a former Dean of Freshmen Admissions at Stanford University, she was known for her fierce advocacy for young adults and her critique of the growing trend of parental involvement in the day-to-day lives of college students that proved more detrimental than helpful.

If you’re wondering why we would invite her to speak here, the answer lies in what we have been seeing among our student body in the last few years at Chaminade, consistently on, but not limited to, the high school campus. In our counseling offices, we are seeing as many students about their mental health, depression, and anxiety, as we are about their course selections and college plans. We see students suffering panic attacks during class and students threatening to end it all because they “aren’t good enough” or “just can’t do it anymore.” We see them knee-deep in the rat race, or, as many have come to call it, the ‘race to nowhere,’ struggling through an overscheduled and overwhelmed daily routine. As a Catholic institution, Chaminade strives to educate the whole student, nurturing their spiritual, emotional, psychological, physical, and academic abilities. Leading with this, and driven by our strategic initiative on student wellness, we are called to find alternative methods and messages that will encourage more balance and produce happier individuals on both of our campuses. 

At Chaminade, we see so many students every day who are motivated and diligent. They enroll in honors and advanced placement courses and achieve high grades and test scores. They play sports, participate in theater and music programs, and serve as community volunteers and school leaders. They “do everything and do it well.”  But recent research shows that many of these same outstanding students often feel conflicted between taking care of their health and wellness and spending enough hours studying for the SAT. They worry they will be penalized if they are somehow not sacrificing enough to earn a certain letter grade or get into a certain college. This mindset and quest for supposed perfection lead to an academic culture that demands levels of achievement from students that lead to sleep deprivation, burnout, and depression.  From 2009-2017, depression among 14 to17 year-olds increased by more than 60% and by 47% among 12 to 13 year-olds. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-24.   (Source:  Journal of Abnormal Psychology)

In the last decade, the revolution to encourage a different way of thinking and challenge the way we define student success has been taking place. Julie will address how we can all become instruments of change and better help prepare our students for the real world – its challenges, its twists and turns, and its lessons – all with the same love and care we aspire to provide. While empathizing with the parental hopes and, especially, fears that lead to over helping, Julie inspires audiences to examine their behaviors and join the growing movement to allow students to develop resilience, be true to themselves, and follow Chaminade’s mission – to love, learn, and lead. 

Julie is the recipient of Stanford University’s Lloyd W. Dinkelspiel Award for creating “the” atmosphere that defines the undergraduate experience. Her book, How to Raise an Adult, has been published in over two dozen countries and gave rise to a TED talk that became one of the top TED Talks of 2016 with over four million views, and counting, as well as a sequel which will be out this year. Julie received her Bachelor’s degree at Stanford University, her law degree at Harvard Law School, and her MFA in writing from the California College of the Arts.

Chaminade celebrates Julie Lythcott-Haims and the common sense wisdom she relays in her writing and speaking. She is part of a revolution that we embrace for the well-being of our students and our school community, and we invite you all to be a part of it.  

RSVP for this event by March 17 at bit.ly/WellnessSpeaker2020

Please feel free to bring your copy of Julie’s book(s) to join in the book-signing event that will follow her talk. We will also make a limited amount of books available for purchase that evening.

We look forward to sharing this special presentation with you.