You love your children, but you do not always get along. If lately it seems like slammed doors and sighs fill your crowded house, you are not alone. JCFS Response for Teens recognizes that having everyone at home may be a challenge for caregivers of tweens, teens, and college-age young people. How do you support your young person and manage your own stress?
Answers might be found in some key Jewish values.
Respect can be a tricky word. It is often used when adults do not like the attitude of their children. As parents, it is important to remember that we need to respect our young people as full individuals. If the phrase, "you just don't understand," were true before, it is even more so now. While we feel the stress, as parents, employees, and as people, we cannot compare anything we have experienced in our past to what young people are going through now.
We need to listen to understand. Listen even if you don't agree.
When decisions need to be made, bring them into the discussion. We all have different risk tolerances around COVID. When there are situations that concern you, involve your young person in problem-solving.
- acting with love and kindness
Being understanding and acting with love and compassion needs to extend to both ourselves and our children. We are often much harder on ourselves and have amazing advice for others. Remember to ask yourself and your children, "What would you tell a friend?"
As parents, we need to find ways to manage our own discomfort and worry.
- Check your emotions before you respond to your young person. Often, we project our anxiety onto our children. Press pause before responding to the attitude.
- Have compassion for their situation.
- Middle and high schoolers have had their way of functioning disrupted. Their after-school activities have been canceled and they miss their friends.
- If they were on campus and had to come home due to COVID, they are dealing with the loss of autonomy, privacy, and (let's be honest) parties. Even if they have been remote since the fall, their desired independence and chance to start anew has been stymied.
- Let them grieve their losses. Do not tell them how lucky they are; they know that deep down. However, help them figure out how to make new memories--they are the only people who will have experienced this moment in time.
- modeling behavior you value
Young people will call us out whenever we talk the talk, but do not walk the walk. We cannot encourage them to engage in self-care, making new memories, or creatively approaching ways to connect if we don't do it ourselves.
- Take a break -- from work, from social media, from the news.
- Create boundaries. Carve out space for sleep, family time, alone time, and physical activity.
- Normalize talking about feelings out of the hot zone.
- Identify what you can control. When we are worried or scared, our minds go into problem-solving mode. Ruminating on what might happen can amp up our anxiety. By focusing on the problems that you can control, you can stop the worry cycle in its tracks.
Parenting comes with new experiences around every corner. Supporting our children while we live through a global pandemic is just another corner--a big corner, but a corner. With compassion, creativity, and communication, we can focus on
(healing the soul) and
(healing the body) for ourselves and our children.
Lisa Ehrlich is the Manager of Outreach and Community Education for JCFS Chicago's Response for Teens.