Tips for Parents Coping with Their Teen’s Quarantine Distress and Boredom

Since the beginning of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, families have had to process and accept completely new norms for daily life. Suddenly, you might be feeling the pressure to fulfill the role of full-time parent and teacher, maybe while also working from home. No one could have predicted how much the COVID-19 pandemic would change our lives.

It should not come as a surprise that, given this new home-life paradigm, parents of teens may be wondering how to keep their cool. Raising teenagers can be challenging enough in the best of times — but with the added stress caused by the virus and possible financial consequences, a parents’ capacity to manage stress and frustration can quickly run dry.

And while there are many resources and tips available that focus on parenting teens during the pandemic, less attention is being placed on the emotional wellness of parents themselves.

Here are some helpful tips to help you manage your own mental health while also supporting your teen during the coronavirus crisis:

  1. Establish structure. Most everyone functions better with a daily routine in place. Whereas a lack of structure can elevate stress levels, a daily wake-up time can help your teen remember that they are still expected to complete their daily class assignments. Encouraging a fair lights-out time for your teen can also help to ensure your teen gets enough sleep to feel well-rested, to do their schoolwork well, and to avoid any potential grumpiness from a lack of rest. As a result, your relationship with your teen will likely be less strained.
  2. Take a pause. Emotions might be running high. When teens become frustrated and bored, they can take it out on their parents and siblings. Arguments can exacerbate the stress level in the home. Resist the temptation to engage immediately and take a pause to collect yourself before reacting. Find a quiet space to do some deep breathing, to recognize why your teen is acting out, and to settle yourself down emotionally. When you’re ready, return to your teen and affirm their feelings of frustration, but then change the subject by suggesting something fun to do as a family. Take a minute, understand, and then distract.
  3. Indulge yourself. We should all be kind to ourselves during this time of isolation – including parents. This could mean engaging in a little self-care – whatever that looks like for you. Little indulgences can help you to balance out any frustrations and add variety to the static feeling of being in quarantine. Plus, taking time for yourself can help to remind you that you are more than just a parent.
  4. Get exercise. One of the best things you can do to maintain sanity is exercise. Even in quarantine, there are still many options available to remain physically active. If it is permissible in your area to take a daily walk or run, do it! Explore YouTube for some excellent home workouts or join a Zoom dance class. Dust off those hand weights or fire up that old treadmill in the garage. Stay active to stay sane.
  5. Manage anxiety. Parents have many different stressors. You may be worrying about the financial consequences of prolonged stay-at-home policies. Or you may have been furloughed, laid off, or had your hours dramatically reduced. Practicing mindfulness can help rein in negative thoughts and recenter your focus on the moment at hand. Try a meditation app to help calm the mind and spirit through guided imagery. Online yoga classes can also be very helpful in reducing stress.
  6. Be flexible. As parents, it is not the norm to have daily life completely upended. You are likely accustomed to having some sense of control over your life and the welfare of your teens. But current events prove that we can’t always predict what tomorrow brings. Resolve today to become more flexible and willing to go with the flow while our current situation plays itself out. The virus is unpredictable, so test relaxed standards and expectations as we all navigate this crisis together.

Dr. Arastou Aminzadeh is a triple board-certified physician in psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry, and addiction medicine, and is the co-founder of BNI Treatment Centers in Agoura Hills, California. Dr. Aminzadeh is a fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and also a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. A well-respected leader in the field, he also holds an adjunct faculty position at the University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine, where he completed his residency and fellowship.

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